Jeremy Deller at the Turner Contemporary

The Tour of a 2013 Venice Biennale exhibition ‘English Magic’

At the Turner Contemporary in Margate as the wind violently blew over the chairs on the seafront, inside was a chance to interact with the varied collection of work making up Deller’s 2013 Biennale.

For the first time since it’s beginnings in 1895 the British exhibition at the Venice Biennale has toured the UK. It was a rare opportunity for the public to see part of an international art showcase – a move representative in itself of the style of the Artist, Jeremy Deller.

The art on show was not just Deller’s own but many artist’s works juxtaposed against one another. A huge brightly coloured mural ‘we sit starving amidst our gold’, depicting a Russian Oligarch’s 377ft yacht thrown into the sea by an enraged William Morris – a cartoon of a mural by Deller himself – sat alongside stoically beautiful watercolours from Turner.

Brilliantly drawn contributions from prisoners and soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan hung in a corridor, even remnants of Soviet Era relics showed the part we’ve played in other nation’s histories, whilst enchanting slow-motion footage of protected British wildlife played in another room.

It was a marriage of ideas, many of which weren’t originally Deller’s own, leading the viewer to conjure winding narratives between them. But the exhibition also presented jarring reminders of clashes in identity. The face from a campaign banner at a protest in St Helier where the town was burnt to the ground is just one example of haunting social unrest that England has seen.

Accessibility is one theme that always surrounds Turner Prize Winner Jeremy Deller’s works, making him amongst other assets, such an appealing artist. He’s staged social parades of local community members in Donostia-San Sebastian and in Manchester, and his inflatable Stonehenge had people of all ages bounce around the replica of an ancient, rarely touched monument.

The tour itself is an unexpected sharing of art from somewhere usually inaccessible to the masses and much like other aspects of Deller’s work, leads to a cacophony of responses not too dissimilar to the crashes of chairs blown over outside.

For me, I think it identifies that Englishness is collected from a colourful past not always the one you expected, and that there is so much to remember and identify with.

At the end you could even take away a free poster and share a photo of his from the Wiltshire countryside. True Deller style.


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