Artist and activist champions right to protest at Shoreditch gallery
- Credit: Egle Vasi
Artist and activist Hugo Farmer's solo show at Hoxton Gallery is a call to action for people 'to give a s**t'.
Inspired by the opening line of Orwell's 1984, The Thirteenth Stroke features bronze and resin sculptures and multi-media pictures scraped, screened and painted across the grain of plywood, themed around freedom of expression, human rights and protest.
Farmer's bronze sculptures with megaphone heads - including 'Ohm Boy' on his knees pleading to end his suppression - speak directly to the right to protest, and legislation such as the Police Crime Sentencing and Courts bill.
"The exhibition is about the new bills being passed quickly at the moment without much time for challenge," says Farmer, who is based between Bristol and Stoke Newington.
"The sculpture of The Queen is empowering the Knight to go out and keep shouting for change."
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As manager of The Dragon Bar for 2 years, Farmer was a key figure in Shoreditch's street art scene and recalls a time when it was "quieter and full of artists". He has taken part in numerous protests, and cites JFK's quote: "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."
"I'm not advocating violence but look at history and what he says is true. If you push people over and over again and they don't feel anything is changing, you get the Poll Tax riots or miner's strike. The exhibition is saying 'come on people, you have a voice, use it.' It's a call to action or a call to give a sh**t.
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"It didn't appear that the Millennials gave a c**p about protest apart from clicking on an online petition. There was never any urgency. Things are changing with people sitting down in the road to reclaim the streets, but since the pandemic there's a social anxiety over protesting for fear of spreading germs."
Farmer fears growing Police powers will curtail the right to protest.
"I'm against anything that takes the power away of people or freedom of speech - one of my pieces was about the power of the written word. If you see words on a page people believe it."
The father of two has helped to run festivals, worked for set builders and event managers, and used his training as a boat builder - including mould making and fibreglass - in his art works.
"I have no training, art is not a chosen path. I don't take it so seriously. It's about trying to encourage people to be better and hopefully stop and think. Art for me is a form of therapy, somewhere to put my inner anxiety and anger."
The Thirteenth Stroke runs at Hoxton Gallery in Arnold Circus, E2 until May 16.