Art: Population in pictures


A fascinating article in the Guardian talks about depopulation and how in around 50 years’ time planet earth will have reached “Peak Human” (9.7bn) and the population will then slip into decline. The article illustrates this trend with a picture showing a mass of human beings in density and dispersal.

The image reminded me of an outing we had around this time last year to an early look at The Other Art Fair, a gathering of stalls and displays in Granary Square, Kings Cross, London. I was especially taken by one painting, by Merab Surviladze, that used irregular squirts of coloured oils, straight from the tube, which then dry hard into tiny jagged pillars and thus cast shadows across the rest of the canvas. The painting suggested to me issues around the subject of migration.

I asked an official-looking woman at the stand if it was OK to take photographs. She told me she was French, could not speak English, but managed somehow to tell me she was the artist’s wife. I waved my hands in gesture and said something like, “Les photographiques, oui?” to which she laughed and replied, “Mais oui”. I thought later that I should have tried a “permité?” or something, but it was too late by then.

The two images are strikingly similar and yet very different. One is a painting, the other a manipulated stock photograph. Both have their own artistic merits, and they tell us two versions of the same story – population – from different perspectives.

Read more of my Arts & Crafts stories.

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