Martyn Lacey:
british artist and patriot

Hi, my name is Martyn Lacey, I am an artist from the "Great" little island of Great Britain, the "Great" just means big, as in stolen! Donít get me wrong, I do not hate or despise my own country, I have just learned to look at it minus the frills of blind patriotism, dishonest history and, with a wry smile and a shake of the head. I suppose that is the way I also look at the world and, in turn this affects the art that I produce. Personally I think this is not a bad way to be in a world that tries to tell you who you are and what you should be thinking, doing or wearing and even seeing. I have to make a conscious effort not to be a toy of the Corporate engineers, spin doctored politicians and vested interest "news" conglomerates. Firstly, before I go any further, for my US audience, NO! I am not a Commie, I just try to have a few social values that donít f**k up other people or the planet. (not that lots Americans do not have these same values)

Most of my work revolves around a political or social nature, if not directly then indirectly. For this I am mostly indebted to George Glenny a "left wing" art tutor at the Berkshire College of Art & Design, who helped to open my eyes. In the 1980s Britain of Margaret Thatcher, George was holding on to his job by his finger tips. My first lecture with George on "Understanding art and design" in a media sense was to be about the European Bader Mienhoff "terrorist" group. He just felt, as I do, that people working in the media should have a broader understanding of what is usually presented as black and white truth.

I suppose, in a small way I like to see myself in competition with the Corporate and government crap mongers of this world. I also know that I and a few other people will eventually be fenced off and restricted to a small dark corner of their Corporate playground but, it will not stop me fighting back with images and words that start to look at the shades of grey in between the black and white.

When I started to see inside the commercial art and media world at college, I liked the idea less and less of going into advertising or graphic design. I did not even know what graphic design was when I went for my interview at the college, I had wanted to do a two year pre-qualifying course where I got to do just about everything on the art menu. After which, you could choose an area of expertise. The college principal would only offer me a graphic design course, so I accepted. George informed me years later, after I had left the college, that the college principal was just juggling his course figures, he did not give a monkeyís for what would be best for me.

I also donít care for the elitist art world or markets. In England the system is mainly run by middle class gallery owners and, if they donít like your accent or your work you donít get to exhibit. Plus, a lot of my work, tends to make people think and, doesnít give off a happy feeling. I gave up trying to compete with vases of flowers and pretty landscapes years ago.

I suppose I could upset a few people here but, hey itís a free world ainít it ? For instance, I find some things very hard to deal with, it really upsets me and makes me angry. Then again I am at a disadvantage because I have been out into the world, the other world, that 90% of westerners will never see. I can report back that it is not a pretty sight, guilt should be felt.

OK, lets talk about amoral insanity (greed) as opposed to just nuts or odd. When I log on to a certain art data base where I have some paintings for sale, I see someoneís work alongside mine, with a price of $10,000 !!! Jesus F !! Now if anyone out there could give me a rational cohesive explanation of why some guy should even ask that sort of sick money for what would be a couple of days work, I am waiting to hear from you. Or come to that an explanation of why some "more money than sense" as my old dad used to say, individual would want to spend that amount, and insanely more, again I am waiting to hear. Bare in mind the very large proportion of the human race that die for want of a $10 vaccination and the people who cling to life on a $1 or two a day.

eg.  On the African Sudan Ugandan border, while eating the only thing on the menu at an African bush "Hostel" I left some food on the side of my plate. The Sudanese refugee I was travelling with asked if he could have it. He had a certain look on his face and instantly, I felt like sh!t. Members of his family had starved to death in the Sudan. I tried to explain that we in the west had a bad habit for wastefulness and greed. He didnít really comprehend. When I started to tell him some people paid thousands of pounds to have "medical" surgery, that the stomach is stapled up, and the jaw wired to prevent gluttony, he laughed out loud, very loud. He might have had nothing much left in this world, but at least he hadnít gone mad!! This critique does not include the people who do have genuine physiological life threatening weight problems.

In the 80s I worked voluntarily for the Nicaraguan Solidarity Campaign against organised US terror in that tiny country. I had made some sort of decision to start using my art skills for something other than pure visual pleasure. For me this experience really opened my eyes to the world view I had been spoon fed since childhood. I also learned exactly who the CIA was, itís history and about the hypocrisy of the US government having the copyright on the words, terrorist, freedom and democracy. As an artist I must admit that I struggle with some of the shades of grey I encounter, and how they shift to merge into different shades, given the expediency of a given situation.

I have found this out on so many occasions in the past. While working as an art technician at an Oxford college I took two months out in 1992 to go and work in a refugee camp in war torn Yugoslavia, taking art activities with kids in Croatia. When I arrived at UNHCR in Zagreb the Croatians told me to bugger off! The Croatians were trying to give the impression that everything was back to normal to try and get the tourist trade back. Sh!t, the Croatian town of Slavonski Brod where I had to go, had had 12,000 artillery, mortar and rocket shells fired into it in four months! The twin Bosnian town over the river had almost been flattened by the Serbs. So I ended up working in a Bosnian refugee camp where nationalist politicians did not set the agenda. After weeks of listening to horror stories and seeing for myself what was going on I started to put my foot firmly in the Bosnian camp. I was supposed to write an article and take photos for the college back in England, who had set conditions for some meagre support. It was then that I started to live more and more at the frontlines with a fighting unit of the HVO Bosnian-Croat army in and around the almost besieged Bosnian town of Bosanski Brod. My painting "Sarajevo surrounded" is actually more about Bosanski Brod but, I got fed up with people asking "Bosanski where?" At the end of the day an artillery shell is an artillery shell, and a bullet a bullet and death is death. Because the western media circus concentrated all their efforts on Sarajevo no one ever heard of the many other Bosanski Brods in Bosnia. In Sarajevo the Serbs and Bosnian-Serbs put on a daily performance that would guaranteed the western "news" media a return on their financial outlay. Not many journoís ventured into the backwoods where the Serbs got on with the grisly game of ethnic cleansing virtually unphotographed and unreported.

After Bosnia I gave up my job as art technician in Oxford and travelled to Uganda in Africa. I had some contacts on the Ugandan-Sudan border in the refugee camps and wanted to get something going to enable the kids to do art. Hopefully in the refugee camps. I soon became disenchanted when I found out the western funded education recourses wanted me to teach A-level western standard art. This disturbed me because I wanted the kids to do their own art, African art, not more indoctrination into western standards and ways of doing things. Besides the funds did not exist for such a luxury as art in the camps but, the 10s of thousands of $ spent on one scrap of art work in the west would have kept me going for years. I love African art and firmly believe the Africans should do things in an African way. They were doing pretty well before western capitalists and missionaries came along and f#*#ed them up. It took people like Picasso to realise that African art had something special, and still does.

Disenchanted with western lifestyle and values, a couple of years later I travelled down through Senegal into the Gambia and lived a spartan existence in a neighborhood just outside of a town called Serekunda. The main aim being to continue my book about the causes, results and the hypocrisy of western governments during the Bosnian war. I am not a prolific artist that concentrates on one media. I have switched between mainly pastel and collage work, ceramics, photography, and a little writing. For me personally, art is a state of mind, and more than logos on cereal boxís and paintings to match the drapes, but thatís only me. Art for me is not always about the end result, and it is certainly not about wealth or fame. Itís about one of the only things I have to offer that can make any difference on any level no matter how small. Itís also about the thing that has led me to places where your legs turn to jelly and, your heart to stone. Itís about the people you meet along the way that give you inspiration, vision, a life.

If Van Gogh was supposed to be mad, what is the man who pays $24 million for one of his paintings?

"To think about events realistically, in terms of multiple causationís, is hard and emotionally unrewarding. How much easier, how much more agreeable to trace each effect to a single and, if possible, a personal cause! To the illusion of understanding will be joined, in this case, the pleasure of hero worship, if the circumstances are favourable, and the equal, or even greater pleasure, if they are unfavourable, of persecuting a scapegoat, Aldous Huxley."

Martyn Lacey
He can be reached at: Martyn Lacey's Mailbox
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