• P·P·O·W and Hales are pleased to present Mindful Vandalism, a viewing room of works by Hew Locke that brings together the artist’s painted and embellished photographs of public statues, and dressed Parian Ware sculptures. Since 2002, Locke has investigated the symbolic capital that public monuments carry within the landscape of collective memory. His primary subjects have been statues of historical figures with controversial and complex legacies. Locke's interest lies in transforming these problematic monuments into sites of historical revisionism. Taking the form of painterly and sculptural intervention, Locke’s ‘mindful vandalism’ destabilizes these statues’ dominant narratives and ideologies, exposing the latent histories of oppression and exploitation at their core. Colonial figures and royals including Edward VII and Queen Victoria are weighed down in layers of symbols that reference the atrocities, wars, and ill-won riches of Empire, while American founding fathers are dressed in cowrie shells, brass manillas, trade beads and chains that reference the history and legacy of slavery in America. 

  • Natives & Colonials

    "It started as a proposal to get a statue-dressing project off the ground in London. Nobody was willing to take this project up, so the proposals—i.e. the painted photo- graphs—became the artwork. They became about impossible proposals, things which I would never be allowed to do, and then hence the painting and photograph together." 

    Hew Locke, Photography, Painting and Impossible Sculpture: Hew Locke in Conversation with Jon WoodSculpture Journal volume 15.2, 2006. 



    Installation view, Hew Locke: Here’s the Thing at Ikon Gallery, Birmingham UK, 2019

    courtesy the artist and Ikon Gallery

  • The painted photographs in Locke's series, Natives and Colonials reimagine commemorative statues of historical figures. Layering acrylic in bright colours and ghostly forms, Locke draws our attention to the darker side of these ‘heroes.’ Painterly additions of memento mori, animals, masks and decorative patterns creates an alternative visual narrative. David Livingstone's 33-year exploration of the interior continent contributed to the subsequent colonisation of Africa. He travelled through Zambia trying to find new trade roots for Britain, calling for colonialism as a way of tackling the slave trade. In Locke’s Livingstone (2013) a crowd of men brandish guns behind the statue’s body, as he stands atop a plinth decorated with monkeys. As commander-in-chief of India, Colin Campbell Field Marshal Lord Clyde brought the First War of Independence to an end in 1858. The statue of Lord Clyde is flanked by a statue of a woman sitting on a lion symbolic of Britain, resting her sword and holding an olive branch, a symbol of peace. Winston Churchill has come under scrutiny for his racist views and his role in the 1943 Bengal famine. In Churchill (2008) Locke obscures the statue with bright crosses and heads, and scrawls a line from Churchill’s famous speech, ‘If the British Empire should last a thousand men will say this was their finest hour.’ Recently the statue of Churchill was graffitied with the words ‘was a racist.’ This statue of George Washington sits in Trafalgar square, a gift from the Commonwealth of Virginia after the First World War. A complicated figure, Washington had defeated British rule to become the first President of the United States, he was also a slave owner. Washington (The Special Relationship), 2016, is decorated with red and blue, with the names of some of his slaves painted around his figure.


    "This three-dimensional treatment of the image was also about the idea of vandalizing photography. So you get a photograph, you print it up, you mount it onto aluminium and MDF— you spend a lot of money doing this—and then you take a drill, drill holes into it and drill stuff onto it and just dangle and fix stuff all over it. It’s about attacking the preciousness of the photograph as well as the preciousness of the object that I’m actually proposing to cover." 

    Hew Locke, Photography, Painting and Impossible Sculpture: Hew Locke in Conversation with Jon WoodSculpture Journal volume 15.2, 2006. 


  • Locke’s Restoration series was commissioned by the City of Bristol. The artworks comprise four monumental photographs of statues of men commemorated as heroes at the height of the British Empire – Edmund Burke, Edward Colston, Edward VII and Samuel Morley. Locke’s embellishments of costume jewelry and plastic ornaments recall the riches accumulated from the Empire which, combined with the statues’ location in Bristol, allude to the profits of the slave trade. Edmund Burke distanced himself from slavery and was a critic of Empire, writing the first plan for ending the slave trade in 1780. Despite this, his views were pragmatic, arguing for a gradual end to the the slave trade. When the Slavery Abolition Act was finally realized in 1833 it was the ‘owners’ rather than the slaves who recieved compensation from the British Government. Locke uses Burke as an example of someone who, despite apparent liberalism, embraced and exploited the economic opportunities of Empire. Edward Colston’s reputation as a philanthropost was funded by his involvement in the Slave Trade. Holder of an African Trade monopoly from 1662 to 1698, Colston financed slaving voyages between 1680 and 1691. His statue is embellished not only with coins, shells, and beads – local currencies traded for coins by the Royal Africa Company – but also chains. Since its erection as a testament to Colston’s respect within the community, the statue has found more controversial associations. As part of more official revisions in Britain’s relationship with its Imperial past there have been calls to remove the statue altogether. Most recently, the statue was toppled into the river Avon by BLM protestors. 


    "I think the point here is that statues, such as the one in Bristol to the slaver Edward Colston, which was toppled during the recent BLM protests, went up in the late 19th century. Colston died in 1721, but his statue was created in 1895. There’s a parallel here with the US: we can’t critique confederate statues going up to bolster white supremacy and then let off these 19th-century sculptors. I mean, they were just doing their job, but their views absolutely chimed with the beliefs of the time." 

    Hew Locke, Hew Locke and Indra Khanna on Britain’s Fixation with Its Past, Frieze, August 26, 2020


  • For Patriots,  Locke turned his gaze to a series of contentious sculptures in New York, including those of Christopher Columbus, Peter Stuyvesant, George Washington, J Marion Sims and Alexander Hamilton. Locke interrogates the symbolic capital these monuments embody by dressing enlarged, mounted, photographs of the statues with objects ranging from cowrie shells, Morgan silver dollars, brass Manillas, replica war-medals, to decorative beading, costume jewerly and brass cut outs referencing pre-Columbian artifacts and the Benin Bronzes. Together, the works explore the complexity of opinion and perspective surrounding public statues of these historically venerated figures.

  • Souvenirs

    "I have added not only jewels but also military badges and replica medals. There are some from the Benin campaign and the Ugandan and Zulu Wars, and there’s even a medal from the second Afghan War of the late 19th century. They are weighed down by the literal burden of history and this goes back to my idea of how a nation creates itself, what stories it sells to itself, and how this relates to ideas of Britain and its history that are weighing down the minds of people today."

    Hew Locke, Hew Locke discusses monarchy and model boats in new survey show at Ikon Gallery, The Art Newspaper


    Installation view, Hew Locke: Here’s the Thing at Ikon Gallery, Birmingham UK, 2019

    courtesy the artist and Ikon Gallery

  • Souvenirs grew from Locke's collection and research into Parian busts of Queen Victoria and other worthies. Popularised at the Great Exhibition in 1851, ceramic Parian Ware was an innovative imitation marble produced on a mass scale, allowing middle-class Victorians to proudly display statuary in their homes. They are examples of the 18th and 19th century craze with the purity of whiteness. Locke exquisitely masks the royal busts with opulent crests, crowns, talismans, trade-beads, memento mori and military insignia. Enticingly glittering and gold, on closer inspection the regalia is revealed to be just brass. Elevating low materials to high status, the work also speaks of centuries of colonial exploitation, for which these individuals were figureheads.

  • Hew Locke, Where Lies the Land?, Hales Gallery, London, September 26, 2019 - November 9, 2019. Photo by Anna Arca

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