Project synopsis for MPhil/PhD research by practice at the Royal College of Art, due to start in September 20018


What is the affect of the uk leaving the European union upon our notions of

identity and subjectivity and how can this find a satisfactory expression within the

portrait genre?



That the processes and rhetoric engaged in the referendum as well as the

subsequent result has initiated the need for a new understanding of how identity

can be expressed in the form of the traditional portrait in post Brexit Great Britain




Identity is at the core of every social movement and it informs who we are and how we are. It shapes and forms our understanding of our place in the world and defines the laws we create for ourselves and by which we live. The notion of subjectivity, and its manifestation within the visual arts is a complicated and vexed one. Its role and authenticity in contemporary life and the way in which various strategies and agendas are employed to find a satisfactory expression; points to a specific and highly mediated understanding of what this can be. In the light of the recent decision to leave the EU this has become an almost impossible issue to resolve. Clarity is hard to reach and satisfaction impossible to sustain. Richard V. Reeves wrote that Brexit crated identity politics defined not by who we are but what we are against. That being "British" is defined by not being European. The referendum took away our ability to know who we are and replaced it with the notion of identity of subtraction (we know who we are by knowing what we are not). Focus on this issue appears to be is coming from the radical fringes at the edge of these arguments, where polarized versions of self (radicalized, racist and fascist) are now becoming the accepted norm. The Brexit referendum was a referendum about the identity of the UK and its inhabitants and as Scot Nakagawa states "Facts lose their power when Identity is in play". How are artists going to react to this issue? And what will a visual representation of identity look like in the light of the confusion brought forward as a result of the collapsing social/political framework on which it is hung? The traditional portrait is a highly political image, and in this age of political flux, not to mention gender fluidity, sexual experimentation and the ability to create new virtual representations of the self, can the need for a "likeness" be reconciled with the inability to find a satisfactory visual lexicon with which to do so. Through a series of studio based projects I will explore this issue, and with support of written thesis develop a new way in which the portrait can satisfactory represent "the self".

A New Visual Language for Post Brexit Portraiture




Identify the struggle/problem and prepare for when it erupts.

Transform our social understanding of what constitutes our experience of community/identity/subjectivity and reconfigure a sense of what is possible

Build up support and a common language for these new possibilities

Alter the balance of power (the parameters with which these issues are discussed) in preparation for when this new experience is challenged by the apparent legitimacy of the ruling elites.

Avoid "folk politics".  Look beyond the local to find sustainable solutions to the issue(s) at hand.

Create a long term, expansive strategy.  One that is comfortable with the complexity and abstract nature of the larger problems and aimed at over throwing capitalist universalism.