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Marcus Harvey

THE ISLAND (2017)
It’s been 20 years since Marcus Harvey’s Myra (1995) was twice subject to vandalism at the RA’s 1997 Sensation: Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection exhibition. Windows were broken, eggs thrown, more tellingly red and blue ink bespattered the image of the child murderer staring out at us from a blank white ground. The vandal, by adding red and blue to the stark white of Harvey’s mug shot remade in children’s handprints, hit upon a key concern of the artist’s work. Again and again Harvey has interrogated the spectrum of symbols that inform British cultural consciousness. Theresa May, onboard HMS Ocean, declared ‘I want a red, white and blue Brexit’, using the Union Jack as shorthand for ‘brand UK’. But it is also brandished by the populist, xenophobic, protectionist, right-winger who ‘wants his country back.’ Well, look what’s come to pass. ‘An era of separatism, in which people barricade themselves in fortresses, united only with those who look and speak like them, has unexpectedly dawned.’ (Pankaj Mishra writing in The Guardian 14.01.17). Harvey’s The Island (2017) for the flyinleaps project is a stunning and ominous work by an artist whose stock-in-trade is to reflect on our national psyche.
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