These paintings draw on imagery surrounding the Moscow show trials that took place during the great Stalinist terror of the 1930s.
Source material was obtained both from documentary film grabs of the trials and mug shots of the accused. During this unprecedented extreme of modern history no one, from the top of the Bolshevik hierarchy to the humble factory worker, was safe from denunciation as either saboteur or political deviant. I have attempted in these paintings to tease out the essence of the most fundamental driver of human reaction, usually found at the root of all violence - fear.
In that time of extremes, those who fell foul of the authority could expect a bullet in the back of the head. Whilst these paintings refer to a specific and extraordinarily terrifying moment in modern history, they allude to the universal human emotion of fear, which determines human behaviour in all walks of life whether it relates to community, corporation, religion or state.
Whilst the paintings offer a bleak and sombre reflection on the collective fear which dictates the structures of societies, there is a coda of hope in the contemporary world. Fear Not, 2013 addresses the Pussy Riot performance on February 21, 2012 where five members of the group took stage on the soleas of Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior: this work serves as a tribute to personal courage in our own age. Pussy Riot’s actions were stopped by church security officials. By evening, they had turned it into a music video entitled “Punk Prayer – Mother of God, Chase Putin Away!” The protest at the autocratic alignment of Russian church and state resulted in the demonstrators own show trial and incarceration.
JOHN KEANE WILL BE IN THE GALLERY FOR Q&A
ON SATURDAY 16TH NOVEMBER AT 11.30 AM