Ascent of Man 2
c2007 by Robert Kyle Barrett
Ascent of Man 2 is part of Barrett’s ‘The Death Factory’ exhibition, recently shown at the Vyner Street Gallery, East London. In Barrett’s own words “We live on a planet where everything has to die and it seems that when one looks around at the society and cultures we live in, everyone is caught up on a treadmill like in a factory”. The show is a mixture of mixed-media canvases and while some are stronger than others, those that do stand out are haunting in a very particular way. Ascent of Man 2 already establishes its irony in its title; a show focusing on inevitable death presents the pride of a Union Jack centred with a loaded gun. Painted red, the gun is absorbed into the flag’s central stripe, ominously part of the pattern yet obtrusively sticking out: a statement of a country’s warfare, violence and a deliberate bringer of death. The painted stripes themselves are blurred at the edges; scrapings of colour, they are wiped blood-like on the tainted white. The blue triangles of the flag are made up of tiny toy soldier men, again painted to morph to the Union Jack’s fabric. These are more subtle that the gun, and their actual person from afar is hardly noticeable. They show up rather as a jagged and mottled texture, only visible as their tiny blue army on closer inspection. Pointing their guns at a multitude of angles, they appear scattered, fragmented, as they guard against attack from every which way. They are held together only by the colour that drowns them, the blue that holds each to their country with honour, while above and below the likely cause of premature death prevails in unnatural scale, bright red.