Empire Day, Cliftonville, Margate, people in a postcard, work-in-progress

I haven’t posted a blog here for a while and that’s partly because I’ve been so unsure about the work I’ve been busy working away at lately; sometimes I think I’m on to something and sometimes that faith evaporates.  So be it.  Here is one of the things I’ve been working on.

This drawing is part of ongoing work.  A lot of my work develops very gradually over long periods of time and this particular project  began a few years ago when I bought an old post card at an antique fair near Nottingham.  My friend Jill found it and saw that ‘Margate’ was written on the back of it (it’s also printed very subtly on the front as well) and passed it to me.  Mt first impression was that it looked like a photograph from an ‘Empire Day’ event, and I imagined that the most likely venue for the photograph would have been in one of the large old hotels in Cliftonville (what used to be the ‘posh’ part of Margate and is now becoming ‘regenerated/gentrified’).  The costumes the people are wearing don’t look cheap.  I wonder who they are and why on Earth anyone, even back in the 1930s, would think it was funny to dress up as someone from the Klu Klux Klan!

I’ve been wanting to make artwork about this image for a long time.  I think it’s such an interesting image – so telling.  People are dressed as ‘types’ of people: exotic and funny foreigners and parodies of working class people (for example, there’s a man dressed as a ‘Margate Landlady’ and a woman ‘blacked up’ as a minstrel).  This particular project has been off-and-on for a few years and I’ve probably spent far too long on this one drawing alone (I’m embarrassed to say how long but I started it in June last year!).  It’s been repeated redrawn, abandoned, restarted, almost obliterated and redrawn.  The original image is just the size of a small postcard but my drawing of it is about 21cm x 14.5cm and it is drawn in silver on gesso on hardboard.  I would like to draw each of the people in the picture separately but this might never happen because of the cost of framing.  Most of my artwork doesn’t reach the point of becoming finished works of art hung on gallery walls but we’ll see what happens with this – we’ll see.

The drawing is just one of many works which continue to come out of my ongoing interest in making art about people connected to Margate (and also Thanet and East Kent) but which also bring into play issues and ideas to do with the wider world.  In this image people are dressed in costumes which express attitudes about identity and culture which are of their time.  People dressing in fancy dress nowadays are just as likely to express something about the prevailing attitudes of this moment in time .

The work is on going


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