Tinsel Edwards & Twinkle Troughton
A Mini Retrospective A-side B-side Gallery July 6th - 19th
Introduction Tinsel Edwards and Twinkle Troughton met when they were nine years old, over a pot of poster paints at their primary school. Since that fortuitous meeting they have spent years collaborating and exhibiting their artworks including identical degree shows at their universities, Tinsel was at Goldsmiths and Twinkle at Kingston. They work individually as artists but sharing a history and similar creative concerns, they often join forces to collaborate on projects and exhibit together. ‘A Mini Retrospective’ is an opportunity to see a large cross-section of their work, including previously unseen pieces and a selection from the back catalogue. Twinkle’s methodical research and anthropoligical findings lead to finely detailed and meticulously painted scenarios. Tinsel’s bold statements and questions often challenge authority, the works take the form of playful typographic pieces or oil paintings graffitied with slogans. The two artists have chosen to present their ‘mini’ Retrospective fairly early on in their careers. The works on display offer an insight into their individual artistic concerns. Social and political themes dominate the show, illustrating their quest to highlight, expose and question; bringing contemporary issues to the forefront.
National Grid The National Grid was my first response to a a huge collection of newspaper articles I had been building and was a series of paintings created from a small section of these articles. I had been collecting the newspaper clippings over a few years which were snippets and features all about Britishness. The articles were statistics and facts and stereotypical stories which I found fascinating, as it was the British Medias own portrayal of Britain, telling us how we are and what we are like. When each story was turned into itâ€™s own painting I found it gave more significance to the content of the article rather than being something we would skim over and take for granted. It gave a platform to how our media wants us to be portrayed and think of ourselves, no matter how correct or far from the mark.
National Grid 2009 Acrylic and image maker on canvas Each panel 30 x 30cms
Red White and Blue on the Costa Del Blah Blah Blah This painting was put together as a caricature - esque portrayal of something I not only witnessed when on a holiday in Mallorca one summer, but also get’s commented on and written about in newspapers when the summer months are upon us. Statistics about what Brits consume when abroad (typically not too adventurous, burgers and beer), facts about sunburn, not speaking the native languages and so on fill the papers and depending on where abouts you go, is a stereotype which can be spotted for real. This painting doesn’t challenge the stereotype as I know it does exist, so was painted to recreate a typical scenario, almost as a snapshot to look back on in the future. I’ve included myself in the painting because I know I too can be guilty of being a typical ‘Brit abroad’ in that I always seem to sunburn and while I do make efforts to speak the languages I am a fussy eater!
Red White and Blue on the Costa Del Blah Blah Blah 2008 Acrylic and image maker on canvas 108 x 81cms
The Bank of Tescland The Tesco Series was inspired by how crazy I was finding the amount of Tesco’s cropping up all over the country. I was mostly amazed when I saw Tesco had even taken over the art-deco Hoover building on the A40 just outside London. More people stepped inside a Tesco’s than they did into churches in 2008. Shopping is a religion, shopping centres are the new Mecca’s, and Tesco’s will become our generation’s legacy as they continue to take over our land. This may comes across as neurotic, perhaps things aren’t going to be so bad, but I created a series of paintings called the Tesco Series to voice these fears. Tesco’s could not only become our heritage, but could take over any British heritage that already exists. The Bank of Tescland suggests Tesco’s could have as much sway over the British public with where they shop and with which small businesses are destroyed. Also in 2008 one in five British Pounds was spent in a Tesco illustrating the companies financial dominance within the UK.
The Bank of Tescland 2011 Acrylic and aging varnish in ornate frame 65 x 65cms
The piece is part of a series of 7 paintings in which the Tesco sign is dominating our skyline by occupying many of our landmarks.
The Secret of England’s Greatness The original Secret of England’s Greatness is a Victorian painting by the artist Thomas Jones Barker depicting Queen Victoria handing a bible to an African King. Behind her is her husband Prince Albert and to the right are two previous prime-ministers. The dominant message is that England has a great gift to offer the world which is Christianity. In my version of England’s Greatness I have manipulated the original so that the characters are replaced with modern day alternatives. Politicians kneel down to pop stars; in a time where it feels as though the X factor can gain more votes and national interest than our general elections the power lies with the celebrities. And instead of having a spiritual gift to offer we have the Chanel bag, a status item also treated with idolisation. Celebrities fill our daily lives even if we don’t mean them to, and the idolisation of some can be near religious and material wealth is worshipped.
The Secret of England’s Greatness 2009 Mixed media on canvas in ornate frame 105 x 75cms
I decided to keep this piece as a digital manipulation of a painting instead of painting it myself as I wanted to use available modern day technology as a way to explore my ideas and reactions to both historical paintings and to our social surroundings today.
Suffragette Century “The Queen is most anxious to enlist everyone in checking this mad, wicked folly of women’s rights. It is a subject which makes the queen so furious that she cannot contain herself.” Queen Victoria I created this scenario painting as a response to some reading I had been doing on the Suffragette movement in the early 1900s. At the same time I stumbled across the above quote by Queen Victoria. When I found the Queen Victoria quote I felt this exposed the fact that women are not only against men in the quest for equality, but that women are also against women. Celebrity magazines are a hotbed of women being talked about in dreadful ways for their relationships, figures, clothes, career choices and so on. It seems that women objectify women as much as men are accused of doing so. While the suffragette movement not only changed the lives and rights of British women forever more, it also had huge impact in many other parts of the world. In this scenario I wanted to bring the plight of the suffragettes to the forefront again, it is a fight which has not yet been won. I have also included three pieces of art in the painting. Tracey Emin’s ‘I’ve Got it All’, Sarah Lucas’ ‘Self Portrait’ and George Frederick Watts‘ ‘Hope’. Emin and Lucas’ work has been included as these are two contemporary female artists dealing with female issues in very unapologetic ways and Watts‘ ‘Hope’ has been used as a symbol of hope for the future of women
Suffragette Century 2010 Acrylic and aging varnish in ornate frame 85x 85cms
continuing with this quest and working harmoniously together and with other people. As with a lot of my recent work the colours are muted for reasons of nostalgia and sensitivity. I wanted to use a selected few subtle colours to try and assist the story along rather than be the dominating force.
The UK Map read all about it! The UK map has been made up from a vast collection of newspaper articles on â€˜Britishnessâ€™. The articles are themselves an array of factual, statistical, anecdotal or cultural records of present day life in Britain. I collected these articles to build a picture on how our own media portrays us and to question how much that might actually shape us as a nation, how much of what is said influences how we feel about ourselves as a country? The map has been based on images I found of old maps of the UK. I placed all this information into something with a historical context to suggest this is how we could be creating and recording our history for all the future generations to look back on.
The UK Map read all about it! 2011 Acrylic and newspaper articles on canvas 280 x 280cms
Dying Ducks I normally make paintings, paintings that take me a long time to do so I have to be quite disciplined about working on them to try and make sure they get completed. But I also have ideas that are not canvas or painting based and actually take a lot less time to execute than my canvases. So sometimes it is more fitting to make time to make these works too, as they are very much a part of my working process and are relative to the concepts within my work. This may help me along even more by having slightly more productivity of new works. One of these ideas is new piece I have been working on called ‘Dying Ducks’ although in all honestly i’m not 100% on the title yet so it may be called something else further down the line. I think (but hope not to be too presumptious) that the idea itself is simple and self explanitory, it’s very much a one-liner comment on something which is a very issue and problem we are dealing with on this earth today, which is the destruction of our planet by big oil firms. The image of the Flying Ducks is an iconic, kitsch and nostalgic household object, and I have decided to take these ducks and drench them in oil, destroying the object and making the ducks seem to be gasping to escape rather than soaring into flight.
Dying Ducks 2011 Hand painted ducks and black gloss
Jesus Was Born So Shops Could Make More Profit… The media coverage given each year to how much profit shops make at Christmas time in contrast to the amount of coverage on other aspects of Christmas aside from presents and shopping is where the ideas for this painting has stemmed from. I know the concept of Christmas becoming a commercial event is nothing new, but Christmas means a lot to me and I found myself wanting to turn my thoughts about Christmas as it is in Britain, and mainly within our media nowadays into a piece of work as I was now fascinated by the elusive real spirit of Christmas. My thoughts then took me to Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’. As one of the most famous stories Dickens wrote and one of the most popular Christmas books of all time, importantly it is a secular story which triumphantly captures and invokes the spirit of Christmas. As quoted from Wikipedia: “Dickens’ Carol was one of the greatest influences in rejuvenating the old Christmas traditions of England, but, while it brings to the reader images of light, joy, warmth, and life it also brings strong and unforgettable images of darkness, despair, coldness, sadness and death.” In my painting I have featured three characters each representing contemporary versions of the Christmas spirits who visit scrooge.
The reason I included all three ghosts within one scene was because all are important with regards to what they represent, but also at the end of A Christmas Carol Scrooge says “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all year. I will live in the past, the present and the future”. I wanted to set the scene in a place where a lot of money is spent, so Oxford Circus seemed like the perfect setting for this. I also wanted it to be on Christmas eve so decided to use Father Christmas for this reason as well as because he too originated in our culture as a religious figure, a saint who over time as become one of the western world’s biggest consumer icons. In the sky in the painting the image that Father Christmas is sweeping over (and in some ways I hope cutting across) is a detail from a painting dated 1909 by Evelyn De Morgan titled ‘The Worship of Mammon’ mammon meaning wealth, greed and material possessions.
Jesus Was Born So Shops Could Make More Profit 2011 Acrylic and image maker on canvas in ornate frame 120 x 90cms
The Scarlet Lady I had the fortune to work with a very interesting lady in 2011 and worked with her on making a painting about her life. The subject is Birgit Cunningham, an ex ‘it’ girl now political activist who is fighting a rather complex battle for justice for her eight year old son who’s wealthy father wont pay any interest in him emotionally or financially. Birgit, an intelligent and eloquent woman who I first heard on James O’Brien’s show on LBC Radio, has gained much notoriety in her own right but at the heart of it lies a very serious and heartfelt passionate motive to try and change the injustices of absent parents and their lack of responsibility towards their offspring. Birgit has used many means to tackle MPs (including an incident with an eclair), one of which led to her having a fling with married Tory MP Lord Strathclyde. Whatever your opinions and thoughts are on the fling one thing was very clear to me upon researching her story. Take away the modern day facade and you are left with a story which has repeated itself through centuries and even has a whole room based on ‘Royalty, Celebrity and Scandal’ in the National Portrait Gallery. Whatever becomes of the male (normally the hounding is never as severe as the female is subject to) the women nearly always get tarnished with the ‘Scarlet lady’ brush. Birgit herself referred to ‘feeling like a Dickensian girl, a dirty hooker who had lost self respect after he had ‘taken advantage’ after the Strathclyde event. And the very nature of our culture here in Britain
in which we want to read about other people’s sex lives, mistakes made and the scandal it causes is fed by the media for sure, but it is our hunger they are feeding. However I did want to give a platform to Birgit’s colourful and pro-active life and incredible perseverence she has shown. I believe in Birgit’s cause and so if there is any further exposure I can give to this along the way will be a more than positive outcome from the painting. There is so much more than the media will ever tell you about these people and their stories and there is always so much more than our own judgement will allow us to see. I found through her story I could create a scene which embodies what it is I am so compelled by within my own work. I created a piece on her which combines imagery of her modern day council flat with very strong references to the paintings I had seen from the 1800s on the walls of the National Portrait Gallery. Birgit who is friends with designer Elizabeth Emanuel (designer of Princess Di’s wedding dress) was able to borrow an incredible costume piece for the photo shoot for the painting and son Jack also donned a highway man’s hat which is a nod to his absent biological father and his very present godfather Adam Ant.
The Scarlett Lady 2012 Acrylic and image maker on canvas in ornate frame 120 x 90cms
Dove with a Gnarled Foot My newest work, Dove With a Gnarled Foot and the accompanying studies are slightly too new to be able to talk about in much depth. For me it has been the mark of a new direction, one which has a much more subtle approach. My work is still political and still about social issues, but itâ€™s going to be a little more thoughtful yet possibly more simple. In direct reference to the Dove with a Gnarled Foot, this piece is rather minimalistic in itâ€™s content in that I am depicting a damaged symbol of peace. Pigeons are more commonly associated with having gnarled feet, and usually it is through some kind of human interference that the damage occurs. It is humans who constantly damage the possibility of peace on earth so I wanted to show a dove which was still able to fly, still looked like a beautiful dove and so still exists and can be something we can all strive towards even though we have damaged it in the past. The Westbank Lovebirds is again very simple in content. It is humans who place barriers between each other and create huge gaps where we should be trying to build and create unity. I am using a lot of animal symbolism within my work as I have begun to find our connections and relationships we have with animals really fascinating. I have been influenced by art history very strongly for a the last few years and there is a history of animals in art, both as secular and religious symbolism which often reflects or creates how we feel about them and treat them in everyday life. It is this practice of using animals
as their symbolic reference combined with current social political factors that has laid the foundations of this new exploration of works. I wont be restricting myself to the use of animal imagery but in this initial stage of enquiry and process it is my starting point for new content within my work and I will excitedly work on seeing where that takes me!
Dove with a Gnarled Foot 2012 Acrylic on canvas 50 x 50cms
Dove with a Gnarled Foot in flight, study 2012 Westbank Lovebirds 2012 Acrylic on canvas 30 x 30cms, 40 x 30cms
If I Snogged Nicolas Serota Pre 2007 the subject matter of my work often challenged the establishment of the art world, this piece is representative of that era. On first glance the sentiment of this painting seems lighthearted, (and I was making myself laugh thinking about snogging Nicolas Serota!). But I was also thinking about the idea of the Casting Couch, a phrase originating from 1950’s Hollywood and referring to the trading of sexual favours for film roles, between aspiring actresses and film producers or casting agents. ‘If I snogged Nicolas Serota’ Is an exaggerated reference to Casting Couch syndrome, the idea of the piece was to question the fact that success can often be down to who you know not what you know. I also wanted to make a bold statement and use my voice as a female artist in a still often male dominated art establishment, to raise questions and open up discussion about the hierarchy of the art world.
If I Snogged Nicolas Serota 2007 Acrylic on Canvas size110 x 95cms
Paint Stuff A call to action. A Tinsel motto..... We live in a world dominated by advertising, we are constantly being told what to buy, what to wear, what to eat, what to wash with, what to drive, how to live our lives. We are surrounded by propaganda. This painting commands an alternative, in the form of a ransom note or punk flyer it asks us to take initiative. For a long time I have been inspired by some of the ideas and slogans of the Situationist International, an activist/political group originating from Paris in the late 1960â€™s. They had a strong left wing ideology, suggesting that advanced capitalist societies are prescriptive, they sought to promote an alternative life experience focused on the individual and the pursuit of true desires. This painting takes a direct influence from their philosophy, I wanted to create a message which encouraged creativity, and offered an alternative to the commands to buy that we are given daily by advertising. It has been exhibited in galleries in London, Dublin and Poland, the original painting sold to a private collector in 2011. I released the screenprint with Stella Dore Gallery in 2009.
Paint Stuff 2008 Acrylic on Canvas 121 x 85cms
Shoebox Unfortunately the original ‘Shoebox’ painting is currently being shipped back from LA, after it was exhibited earlier this year at The Orange County Centre for Contemporary Art. I consider this painting as a pivotal moment. By this point I had established a style of painting incorporating both slogans of text and illustrative imagery. Previous works had often focused on challenging the art world but in 2008 I decided I wanted to widen my commentary, by acknowledging and expressing my own political viewpoint and responding to social issues. The phenomenal rent increases in London, combined with lack of social housing, and the fact that our generation are being priced out of the buyers market all suggest that we have a big housing crisis on our hands. It is virtually impossible for a single person to buy in London on a good salary, let alone even rent a property on their own. Can we regulate the rental market to stop it spiralling out of control? The situation is contributing to the increasing wealth divide in the UK... Can we develop more social housing to provide affordable homes for people and families who are not in the top 10% of earners in this country? I painted ‘Shoebox’ in 2008, and in the 4 years since I have seen the situation get worse, I definitely have more art to make in response to the housing crisis!
Shoebox 2008 Acrylic on Canvas 100 x 78cms
Door of Opportunity, Box of Ifs , Ban the Bureaucracy In 2009 I created a series of text pieces in response to found objects. The theme for ‘Box of Ifs’ came from a desire to promote a series of slogans which suggest an alternative reality. ‘If only we were all pacificists’ ‘If only we were all anti-war’, each slogan began with ‘if’, and made an idealistic suggestion. The complex reasons why we go to war feel as though they are beyond our control; decisions are ultimately in the hands of politicians. But despite the fact that world peace seems like an impossibility I believe that it is important to strive for it, and make those beliefs and values known.
Box of Ifs 2010 Acrylic and varnish on wooden box 20 x 15 x 15cms Ban the Bureacracy 2009 Acrylic and varnish on wooden lock 22.5 x 13.5cms Door of Opportunity 2009 Acrylic and varnish on wooden door 30 x 19cms
200 Million This piece was inspired by a story I heard just as the recession started. Someone in a relatively comfortable financial situation, two houses, multiple cars, an executive position with a high salary, and who’s job was still secure, absolutely traumatised by the thought of an impending recession and worried about how he would be affected personally. The story struck me as interesting, and let to thoughts about how much we are governed by money and material wealth. At the time there were also many media reports about bankers bonuses, along with the collapse of financial institutions and loss of wealth. Someone who is inconceivably rich, loses a large amount of money, yet still remains inconceivably rich - to most of us the idea of that being an issue seems unfathomable. Because we can’t even imagine being that rich in the first place. Thoughts surrounding these issues led to the idea for ‘200 Million’.
200 Million 2009 Oil on Canvas 70 x 55cms
The Future is Unwritten The Future is Unwritten builds upon the ideas behind ‘Paint Stuff’. We are constantly being told how to live our lives by the advertising that surrounds us, in response to this I decided to create an artwork made from slogans which would ask us to be individual and creative with our lives. A message which offers an alternative to the commands to buy stuff; continually issued by adverts. Having used more passive commentary and observation previously, I wanted these pieces to be more stronger in tone, exploring the idea of using commands, instruction or action statements. Some of the slogans are my own, others are borrowed from revolutionaries or left-wing activists and artists, the phrase and title of the piece: ‘The Future is Unwritten’ is after Joe Strummer of The Clash. Having a long term obsession with all things typographic, it was at this point that I decided to embrace this, dropping the accompanying imagery I had used in my canvases previously. I use text because it is simple, direct and straight to the point, and dropping the imagery seemed an appropriate decision to further strengthen the messages in this piece of work.
The Future is Unwritten 2009-2010 Acrylic on found wood Assemblage, Varied dimensions
I Wish ‘I Wish’ is a heartfelt statement about all the things I want my work to be, and perhaps the impossibility of that. Personal expression is forefront in my work, alongside my thoughts, anecdotes and stories I often incorporate personal mottos. ‘I Wish’ is an example of this, I like the idea of creating pieces which state in a very direct way, what my mission is as an artist. My practice varies between oil painting on canvas and typographic pieces often on wood, the two elements operate in parallel, supporting and strengthening each other. Embracing my love of typography, I experimented with different typefaces, playfully referencing the meaning of the words.
I Wish 2011 Acrylic on found wood 53 x 124cms
Collecting Fossils in 2058 In 2009 I started working with oil paint instead of acrylic. I have always been fascinated by the materiality of paint, and at this point I realised that the style of working that I had established was quite restrictive. So I abandoned the acrylics and started exploring new ways of working with oils. I want to be more experimental with my use of paint and aim to achieve a looser more gestural painting style. The conceptual side of my work is central to my artistic practice, but I reached a point where I felt that aesthetics and technique had been neglected. I felt as though I had arrived at a visual ‘formula’ for creating work, which was successful but restrictive, I craved experimentation. I find paint quite magical, the medium has endless possibilities; my decision to take on the challenge of using oils after years of acrylic was about bringing back my energy and passion for paint as a medium, and opening up a wealth of different avenues to explore. It was about letting go of the ideas prescribing the way I made my work, and acknowledging and honouring aesthetics, celebrating the paint itself. ‘Collecting Fossils in 2058’ was the first of my oil paintings that has made it to exhibition! Taking a Victorian painting of fossil hunting as a starting point: Pegwell Bay, Kent - A Recollection of October 5th 1858, by William Dyce, this piece draws attention to the throw away nature of our consumer culture. It imagines the Earth’s crust years from now, and offers a projected vision of the effects of the piles of rubbish we throw to landfill every year.
Collecting Fossils in 2058 2010 Oil on Canvas 130 x 115cms (measurement including frame)
At this point I started to use historical references in my work, in order to emphasise the fleeting and transient nature of human life.
9 Years and 89 days, ongoing. Civilian deaths 34, 240, Military deaths 2,208 This painting is inspired by a news image of The London conference about Afghanistan in 2010. A sea of black suited politicians amongst ornate gold and red flock-patterned carpet, the situation struck me as so far removed from the reality and horror of war. The story of this image resonates with a powerful political presence, the piece didnâ€™t warrant description, explanation or text, I used it as a starting point to explore and experiment with new painting processes.
9 Years and 89 days, ongoing. Civilian deaths 34, 240, Military deaths 2,208 2011 Oil on Canvas 135 x 115cms (measurement including frame)
Wealth Divide ‘Wage disparity between the UK’s top earners and the rest of the working population will soon return to levels of the Victorian era’ ‘the pay gap between the corporate elite and the general public is widening beyond control’ The Guardian May 2011 In the last couple of years I have often read reports about the widening pay gap in the UK, combined with reports of bankers bonuses, and the growing wealth of the already super rich. With the government cuts and austerity measures in this country, it seems like the general public are having to pay, whilst the rich are getting richer and tax avoidance by corporations is rife. The growing wealth divide is a concerning element of the current ecomonic crisis and recession. The Occupy movement has brought this to the forefront globally, highlighting the increasing wealth divide as one of the consequences of advanced capitalism. I am an artist, not an economist or politics expert! But what this situation says to me is inequality, and I believe in equality and fairness for all. My piece ‘Wealth Divide’ attempts to highlight the imbalance, I don’t know the answers but I do want to raise the question. Taking a medieval painting called The Triumph of Death by Pieter Breughal as my starting point, the painting includes references to Victorian Poverty paintings, metaphorical symbols of wealth and greed and contemporary references to poverty, imbalance and protest.
Wealth Divide 2012 Oil on Canvas 140 x 110cms (measurement including frame)
The original painting is a panoramic view of all walks of society, rich or poor, peasants, soldiers and kings set within a desolate landscape, armies of skeletons are advancing upon them signifying death. I chose this piece as my starting point because I am interested in portraying the fleeting, transient nature of life, something that is forefront in much of my recent work. I feel that having an almost morbid presence in my work emphasises the pressing nature of the themes and issues I explore, suggesting that time is of the essence.