Merrie Albion & The Brexit Lexicon
The nature of public, communal experience has been an implicit theme of Simon Roberts’s photographic work for the last fifteen years. Since 2007, he has explored events and places across Britain that have drawn people together, all the while compiling evidence that the desire for common presence and participation, for sharing a sense of being ‘in place’, not only endures but might also harbour something distinctive about national character and identity. That these gatherings are also set in specific landscapes and are embedded in unfolding social histories of place has been a distinguishing feature of his investigation.
Roberts’s photographic enquiries have gravitated towards evolving patterns of leisure, the consumption and commodification of history, militarisation, and to lines of demarcation and exclusion in the landscape. But in parallel to this, he has also chosen to document events and places that have a more immediate, topical significance in the turning of Britain’s recent history, and which – summoning the sense of a national survey – collectively offer a form of pictorial chronicle of these times.
The photographs in Merrie Albion offer an overriding sense of uncertainty and anxiety as the work moves slowly towards the Brexit referendum and culminates in the terrible iconic image of social inequality, injustice, and trauma formed by the blackened high-rise tomb of Grenfell Tower.
Alongside his large-format tableaux photographs, the exhibition presents some of Roberts’s installation works, made in direct response to the nationalist triumph of Brexit, and which explore the combination of truths and mistruths, and sense of media noise and political games that surrounded the negotiations.
Listen to the words of the artist