This painting is called ‘Grief’ a 91cm x 71cm (910mum x 710mum) on Canvas Mixed Media. This is the story of how she came to be.
This painting represents a sad immediate awakening to the vastness of inequality and privilege that has come to light more acutely throughout the pandemic.
Mostly if you don’t know if you are privileged or what this means then it might be because you are likely so (in some way or another but not always, there can be other reasons for not knowing like lack of exposure).
Privilege is defined in the dictionary as:
- A special advantage, immunity, permission, right, or benefit granted to or enjoyed by an individual, class, or caste.
- Such an advantage, immunity, or right held as a prerogative of status or rank, and exercised to the exclusion or detriment of others.
The synonym is right. As in having rights, exercising rights and those rights being equally respected regardless your circumstances.
Contextually (usually but not exclusively) the word privilege comes into awareness and becomes a highlighted topic with regard to people of colour, level of personal financial status, the status of your country as defined financially or it’s militarily capacity and/or governmental practices. Also the existence of perceptions around which countries/ communities have large status or not (usually but not exclusively) related to colonisation, legislations for or against LGBQI identities, questions of gender balance and the majority ideas of what gender means, how dis-abled you are by societal norms, expectations and lack of awareness around body/mind and ability. As well as confusion around intersectional identities where being recognised as a whole person rather than for parts of who you are can be dismissed, overlooked or the systems and institutions in which we culturally live don’t embrace a whole picture (for many reasons). These examples highlight commonalities such as cultural bias and usually create an experience or felt sense of power imbalance.
There are many reasons, so, so many, that we have arrived here today as a human race with issues in imbalance that give rise to an experience around privilege.
According to varied accounts world wide, privilege has manifested due to culturally enforced ideas of race and class systems. Division as a result has manifested due to an imbalance of power and constructed ideas of status, among other things. All of which evidently resulted in fractured human experience. For example access to health care and vaccines across the world. This experience inevitably makes some people less visible and less prioritised.
Some will argue this isn’t true and that is okay, each of us, as explored previously in this blog, have our own perceptions born of our own experiencing and hardwiring. It is ok to have differing views. Where it has shown to be harmful though is when those differing views and identifications are held onto so tightly that they hurt (emotionally/physically) other human beings. How far this carries on and the level to which it manifests is what creates imbalance. People end up fighting about their perceptions and identifications with what is right and wrong. This then depending on balance or imbalance can create exclusion and affirming behaviours that enforce exclusion. Exclusion can lead to worse harm. Dangerous behaviours due to enforcement and attachment to an identity of what is right and wrong can become normalised and overlooked if the majority hold these views, eventually this can lead to death or a powerful surge of anger and revenge from those excluded (those that identify with a different perception of what is right and wrong). This imbalance can stay, can swing back and forward throughout but rarely in history has there been resolve. Each fuels the other, people can find themselves at concrete odds with each other based on ideas and perceptions, filtered stories that we tell ourselves. We just need to look at wars that have broken out in the world and in exploring their roots we are likely to understand more deeply the issues of privilege, it’s origins and it’s effect.
This post will only focus on the manifestation of this painting and not the wider or more intricate details regarding privilege and disadvantage as this is a large and sensitive topic that has many arms and legs and I’m sure many differing perspectives. I may touch briefly on some aspects in a noting way and hope, later, to approach this more widely. Exploring it with an openness and curiosity in a different format. For now in this post it is just the context that gave rise to the painting.
How this has become more noticeable on a huge scale was through the onset of Covid-19. This comes down to a multitude of phenomena. For example: public stillness (sitting attention), more online platforms that arose to enable connection allowing more people to speak and express, find their voice about matters such as George Floyd’s death (which brought more widely to light the Black Lives Matter movement), Brexit, President Trump, Right Wing uprising across differing countries, the differing political systems of each country, climate change not long challenged by mass protests by Extinction Rebellion and the emergence of Greta Thurberg (preceded by years of green movements such as Greenpeace and influential leaders speaking more about their concerns), personal political beliefs , government action and/ or inaction. People collectively across the world in unprecedented circumstances with huge effects on their mental health and wellbeing in fear of death with no sense of control or power against an invisible enemy. All of which may (or may not) have given rise to perceptions of visible enemies. All of it deeply intense in a pressurised melting pot of sorts. Actions of governments considered financially ‘rich’ buying up so much of the vaccinations consequently leaving so many countries behind.
The inequality resulting from actions of the privileged (whether they recognise it or not) is becoming more and more noticeably profound worldwide.
Also initially naming variants by their countries origin brought about fear giving rise to racist ostracisation. This was addressed recently by changing the names but media outlets continue to name the countries so it feels like closing the door after the horse has already bolted. Inadvertent influence without awareness of impact affecting equality and acceptance of diversity, fear and a need to blame. Hate crimes are increasing exponentially as a consequence on the back of an already building hot bed. If left unchecked I ask myself where would this lead?
It’s not that privilege and disadvantage haven’t existed as far back as history has managed to record, it has always been there according to varying stories across all cultures and there have always been waves in and out with regard to balance of power. For example cultural appropriation has existed from the moment our ancestors began migrating. It seems that this story of ‘I’ and ‘my’ and ‘self and attachment and identification with ideas of right and wrong are very much at the root. It seems that there are centuries of built up, pent up stories and perceptions that continue to fuel current stories and perceptions leading to extremities such as human degradation, war and genocide. History records so much of this it could almost be considered ‘normal’ human behaviour and I find it heartbreaking. Others may feel differently.
Around and around it seems to go.
This painting captures a profound feeling within my heart for the pain of all of this, for the perpetual cycle of privilege and deprivation, the lack of insight or a consistent sense of our shared humanity, for injustices that result. For a moment in 2020 there was a united feeling between people, nations, countries, humanity world wide but it didn’t seem to last. Just as soon as it came it Sita as quietly seemed to disappear. Each person, community, country, continents into silos once again. That moment though was so utterly profound and I deeply felt the sadness at how quickly it was forgotten.
Certain communities have been disadvantaged through this pandemic itself such as people with disabilities initially left for months without much needed support or access to crucial health care, the Deaf community who lip read rather than use sign language are struggling as a result of face masks and as the economy returns women are recorded statistically as most disadvantaged with regard to access to work and are left behind. People less privileged, less able to exercise an equality of right in their humanity. The virus itself affects each ethnicity disproportionately.
The effect worldwide caught my breath and this painting manifested.
Where do you find yourself within this painting? How does it feel? Where are you or your country in this sense right now?
The experience of privilege matters to those who don’t have it and to some of those who do and wish benefit and equality for all. Humans matter, the balance of equality through diversity matters. Learning throughout history from across the globe is that whatever we turn a blind eye to will one day come knocking on our doors again. Turn of the tide, the cycle will perpetuate. How do we change this? How do we fix it? Do the majority wish to fix it? These are hard questions.
Hopefully the piece has provoked some thought or emotion either in just experiencing the painting itself or hearing the story behind it. I am trying this new way of introducing the artwork so that people can feel more involved. Let me know if you have found this approach helpful. Thank you. Full piece below.
I have produced another piece in different medium on a closely related theme to this topic, however a different story. That piece is currently low key with good reason, when the time is right the piece and it’s contextual story will arrive here in this blog and then into the website also.
The growing awareness of inequality in privilege and somewhere inside holding a sense of hope for change.