In Defence of Migrants
Born in the UK in 1979, Iain is an English artist and portrait painter. He studied Fine Art at the Glasgow School of Art, Scotland; and the University of Central Lancashire, England, where he was awarded a Masters Degree in 2007. With over ten years painting experience, he exhibits regularly, paints to commission, and has work housed in private collections internationally. Iain moved to Toronto in 2007, since which time he has begun and continued to develop what he regards as a long-term project. The undertaking deals with the potential for identities, once frayed, fragmented, complicated and splintered due to emigration, illness and factors beyond personal control, to recover and to evolve. The overarching title of the ongoing work is In Defence of Migrants.
In the preliminary phases of In Defence of Migrants Iain began to examine aspects of traditional and non-traditional English folk art, particularly paintings made in his home region, the North-West. This was an attempt to reconnect with his English heritage by investigating expressions from its cultural (grass) roots, assisting an exploration of appropriate ways and means to communicate his sense of loss and removal from his country and culture.
Although emerging as a painter within the domain of established mainstream artistic practices, Iain appreciates what he sees as the direct honesty, integrity, and freedom of various folk and outsider practices. He has become increasingly interested in notions of otherness, unique experience and individual identities within culturally homogeneous groups. Similar to work made as part of In Defence of Migrants, folk art generally develops into practices that are removed from or tenuously linked to the contemporary cultural mainstream. Iain’s simple handling of paint and composition, the sometimes flattened sense of perspective, and the romantic qualities of his recent paintings suggest folk expression to be a viable way of engaging with a pronounced sense of evolving identity. The combination of his artistic background and the folk art-type influence and references in Iain’s work place the recent paintings in a space somewhere between the “inside” and the “outside” of the artistic realm. He suggests that this has a kind of equalising effect, and would persuade audiences to question the classification of contemporary fine art as high in relation to “lower” modes of folk expression which are often relegated as being of lesser cultural value and significance.
Iain’s working process is an organic one. Some paintings develop rapidly, while others take longer, and require more attention. Regardless of the length of time or the degree of involvement that goes in to each individual work, the uniform scale is a simple attempt to formally equalise their value, so that one cannot be considered of greater worth than another. The resulting body of work (in progress) essentially charts the advancement of a recent immigrant to Toronto, and represents his attempts to find a personal voice in a new and vastly multicultural arena.