INSURGENT / n "one who rises in revolt," 1765, from L. insurgentem (nom. insurgens), prp. of insurgere "rise up, rise against, revolt," from in- "against" + surgere "to rise".
TERRORISM / n (U) the use of violence for political aims or to force a government to act, esp. because of the fear it causes amongst the people: appalling acts of terrorism.
For many years I have been preoccupied with the war that rages on remorselessly across the world. The War of Images. In response I decided to search for an image, the imperial image, the image that would dominate all others, but this only led to a false notion of individuality and freedom.
Painters, like Insurgents, are solitary and obscure agents, occupying unwanted spaces, preparing symbolic provocations to be unleashed on the public with a bang. I find myself surrounded by ideologies that appear contagious, perhaps inescapable, a necessary part of the human condition or a superfluous and life threatening madness: The Society of the Spectacle.
I conclude that painting is now an act of insurgence in the digital age. Due to digital and electronic delivery, imagery is now becoming a kind of cemetery; a repository for the proliferating residue of life and painting is an attempt to find consolation i.e. to provide meaning. Paintings as monuments to mourning; as a lament for loss that painting cannot alleviate. Painting merely reinforces the passing of time and the cathartic effects of canvas and brush on the death dominated making of objects. Many of my works express a compassion for the failure of the illusion that it is possible to change the world. No pictures are forbidden, no subject beyond painting. On the contrary, death and suffering have always been themes of art; it is a natural thing to focus on special events. It would be absurd if the things that affect us the most were taboo.
The pictures are non-partisan, so it is hard to exploit them. Mourning is not bound to a cause or ideology.
No matter how realistic, The Insurgent paintings are also a kind of fiction, a mirror of the world, a design or model for something different, reporting; making sense. They insist that as paintings they should be distinguished from reality. From close up it becomes clear that the referential reality of the paintings is a fiction, an effect of the painterly process that produced them.
With each new terrorist event in Jerusalem, London or New York it became more natural that insurgents and terrorists should emerge as prototypical subject matter in my paintings. They replace the car crash as a means of violent and sudden death (Andy Warhol, J.G Ballard); they replace journalists and religious leaders as spokesmen of authority. Like the still life painters of the past they call attention to the significance of things, whose significance we have missed. If the pictures are to be considered as a kind of post-mortem of recent events then they report an open verdict.
- Darren Coffield, May, 2007