Glenn Ibbitson works from his studio in Wales, having enjoyed a long career as a scenic artist for television, film and theatre. His primary focus is the human figure and his art explores contradictions, using visual trickery to create works of great impact.
This article was originally published on Glenn’s blog: Orwell 103
crypsis /ˈkrip-səs noun: the ability of an organism to conceal itself especially from a predator by having a colour, pattern, and shape that allows it to blend into the surrounding environment.
Though 2020 marks the 71st anniversary of the publication of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four, it’s central concept remains, ominously, as relevant as ever. How is the artist/ dissident to express unpalatable truths and criticisms of contemporary society and the state apparatus whilst still being able to function as one of its citizens; free from official persecution?
When I first read this masterwork as a teenager, it did seem as if western society at least, had insured itself against the risks underlined through its pages. Now it seems that perverse humanity has collectively snatched defeat from the jaws of what was perhaps in retrospect a mirage of victory.
This series of moth paintings is an attempt to find an imagery to incorporate a notion of surreptitious discourse within mechanisms of crypsis. A dissident giving voice to his or her ideas publicly, rather than merely in secret, by appearing to be saying one thing, but smuggling through a different subtext under a surface cover to convey a quite different meaning.
The visual deceptions observed in the structure, patterning and coloration present in British moths provided me with visual material to use as metaphor for operating under the radar; fully functioning in plain view, but hidden from all but the closest scrutiny. An inversion on the idea of sleight of hand; not by distracting the eye away from the real subject, but rather fooling it into a misreading of evidence presented directly.
However, as Winston Smith was to discover to his cost, that repressive state is equally adept at employing the same strategies. The small piece of raised bark on that tree trunk, the lichen on that stone wall, the peeling paint on the window frame; even the bird dropping on that nettle leaf. Watching… Through each day, wherever we are, our movements are being monitored by small pairs of eyes hidden behind sophisticated crypsis. The state too, is hidden in plain sight; monitoring our tracks through actual and cyberspace.
By Glenn Ibbitson
Glenn welcomes artists to share work influenced by George Orwell to be published on his blog. You can contact Glenn at email@example.com
The Royal Birmingham Society of Artists (RBSA) is an artist-led charity which supports artists and promotes engagement with the visual arts through a range of exhibitions, events and workshops.
The RBSA runs an exhibition venue – the RBSA Gallery – in Birmingham’s historic Jewellery Quarter, a short walk from the city centre.
The gallery is currently closed due to Covid-19.
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