Obama among iconic figures in city art show

21 contemporary British figurative artists, established and emerging, cast their gaze over our social, cultural, religious and political icons through their 21st-century looking glasses for the latest exhibition at Chichester's Candida Stevens Fine Art.

Curated by Candida, new works created for the show will be introduced from Stephen Chambers, Eileen Cooper, Nicola Green, Annie Kevans, Irene Lees and Jane McAdam Freud. Pieces are also featured from Tracey Emin, Nicole Farhi, Grayson Perry and Marc Quinn. Visitors will be able to see images ranging from The Queen to Kate Moss, Barack Obama to Anna Wintour, Marx and Engels to Aung San Suu Kyi, the Mother & Child to the Moon.

Providing the Obama is London-based Nicola Green who is delighted to show her work in Chichester, a place full of family associations for her. Her contribution to the show is a one-off work from her series In Seven Days.

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Coming just as President Obama approaches the end of his second term, it represents the sacrifice and personal toll of his presidency as well as being a reflection of the complex nature of the hope that was and still is projected onto him, Nicola explains. The multiple impressions in the work of President Obama echo the different ways in which the press have represented him with lighter or darker skin colour at various points of his presidential career. Nicola explains, the work questions how these representations reflect the mood of the press and public and their responses to the question of identity and race in relation to the first African-American President of the USA.

“I made this piece specifically for the exhibition but part of the wider series which I made in the two years after 2008. I spent a lot of time with President Obama’s first presidential campaign in 2008. Nobody thought he was going to win. My husband was actually the first black Briton to study at Harvard. He was not there at the same time as Obama, but they met some years later. In 2005, he spent some time with Obama, and I was pregnant with my first child. Obama said he was thinking about running for president, and for me, I was thinking about the kind of world that my son might be born into, thinking about the role models and how their experiences are changed by the colour of their skin and how the world view would be different. And I was starting to think about the long-term implications, thinking about the role models in popular culture – or the lack of them. I was rooting for him as president for myself in a personal sense but also as an artist. I started thinking that my children were too young to witness the moment. In 2008, when he was campaigning to get the nomination, my second son was born. My children were very little, and I felt I really wanted to witness these events on their behalf. I felt that as an artist, I had an opportunity to think about the long-term meaning of the story.”

The exhibition runs at Candida Stevens Fine Art, 12 Northgate, Chichester from Sept 10-Oct 22; Tues-Sat, 10am-5pm.

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