Mandy’s Painting of Robin Hood Garden Estate, Currently being shown at Huddersfield Art Gallery (Source: Twitter)
By Dan Antunes
Mainly rooted in Brutalism, an art form derived from modernism which focuses on the powerful imagery of geometric styles, Mandy Payne’s art takes inspiration from austerity and impoverished environments. Looking from dystopian perspectives and highlighting dilapidated cold concrete jungles, her exhibition, ‘Out of Time’, which has been featured in Huddersfield’s Art gallery since the 5th October 2019 and will continue till the 4th January 2020, is an honest reflection of the urban side of places like Huddersfield and Sheffield.
Working with environmentally reflective mediums like spray paint and using concrete as a canvas to add a hyper-realistic graininess to her pieces, the works within this exhibition serve as snapshots of a neglected social period. Pieces like ‘Golden Lane Estate’, where freshly painted red bricks accentuate attempts to create a falsified image of upkeep, reflect obvious government attempts to glitz up what may be seen as eyesores by a middle-class demographic. ‘For the many, not the few’, a piece was done on marble, subtle rusted greens and drenched worn brick highlights building neglect but is built upon further by being positioned next to a wall promising new renewal of the area. Dreary and non-aleatory pieces like these shows how government bodies are blind, or at least non-caring, towards changes that need to happen on a wider scale.
Pieces like ‘Buxton House’, an iconic part of Huddersfield’s town aesthetic, highlight the defiant and enduring geometries that promote uncompromising stability but have since blurred into the background in comparison to flashier buildings surrounding it. The favela effect, something in which less aesthetically pleasing architecture is revamped to hide its poor state, is blatant in ‘Looking at the overlooked’ where an industrialised landscape appears partially primed up despite apparent being positioned next to wilted natural environments. ‘Urban Geometry II’ seems sad in effect conveying how striking buildings impose a great presence an area but this sentiment, as well as pieces like the Park Hill estate in Sheffield which seems like an echo of the past, is muted when compared to ongoing non-affordable housing which has become normalised. The title piece of the exhibition, ‘Out of Time’, pushes this architectural irony as the main building becomes background fodder much like the needs of its residents.
Payne’s paintings issue incredibly relevant social commentary in an age of austerity where the poor are marginalised. Echoes of the displaced and forgotten as well as a lack of willingness for the creation of affordable demonstrates a whitewashing of communities with cultural strongholds like record shops being replaced by non-essential trendy business ventures like milkshake shops that hold no communal value and mainly appeal to those able to excess spend.
With 23% of people in the UK living in poverty, the pushing out of local residents who have been part of their community, where they’ve raised their families and centred their livelihoods, are being ousted by price hikes and financially discriminative landlords. The purchasing of cheap property flipped and turned into yuppie cash grabs aiming to implement middle-class change within an area has become a plight on everyday working-class people.
Although revitalising a community to promote types of tourism and revenue should work to benefit the community in theory, corporate agendas only serve a middle-class consumer base and isolate the original communities. With none of the 200,000 affordable houses that were promised in 2014 being built and incidents like Grenfell, where poor property cladding led to the loss of life, ‘Out of Time’ serves as one of the most relevant exhibitions out at the moment.