The Walker Art Gallery celebrates feel good politics with its latest Obama-inspired exhibition.
Last year was pretty full-on, what with the Diamond Jubilee, all that rain, the tortuous lead up to the Olympics and the end of the world as predicted by the (as it turns out entirely unreliable) Mayans. Yet the thing I will take away most from 2012 is not about looking back or fretting about imminent doom – but change. Or, more specifically, the chants of a nation, heard by the world: “Four more years, four more years!”
Barack Obama secured his second term of presidency in America last year, and you don’t have to be particularly political to see that people are willing the next four years to be positive. It might be a bit of a stretch, but Liverpool’s own history resonates with this American political story, as a place with a progressive, evolving identity and as a city facing challenges ahead. And so it’s somehow fitting that the Walker Art Gallery should celebrate this political move forward with its latest exhibition. In Seven Days is a study of Obama’s original campaign trail in 2008 by the artist Nicola Green. It features seven silk screen prints that combine to make a portrait of the then-president to be as he and his team travelled across America persuading people to vote Obama. “There is a monumental story behind In Seven Days,” says Director of Art Galleries, Sandra Penketh. “Nicola’s work is a wonderful example of how art cannot just record great events, but can so beautifully capture the emotion and spirit of the time.”
Green’s prints distil this sense of hope, radiating not just from Obama but from the public at large
Green’s prints distil this spirit; this sense of hope, radiating not just from Obama but from the public at large, along with the desire for something new. The artist was given unprecedented access to Obama during her six visits to America; alongside her prints, the exhibition includes a display of the photographs, sketches, conversations and ephemera she compiled during and after her trips to the US.
Green’s reductionist approach to producing the final works chimes with Julian Opie or Gary Hume, the images she creates stripped down to the essence of the icon. It’s refreshing to see imagery of a political leader who is not chased by scandal, disgrace or hatred. Here, instead, is a portrait of a man who people associate with pride and celebration. “Her work is a deconstruction of what hope really is,” says Penketh, “a reflection on what future generations can take from this moment in history.” As a British artist and as an outsider to the events she witnessed, Nicola Green’s observations are generous in reflecting the symbol that Obama has become.