Red, White and Blue Brainwashed

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3 mixed media paintings
acrylic paint; material; resin
2 feet by 4 feet - on doorskin board
by Pierre Leichner

I am interested in a political art - that is to say, an art of ambiguity, contradiction, uncompleted gesture and certain ending, an art and a politic in which optimism is kept in check and nihilism at bay. -- Wiliam Kentridge

Nationalism is a controversial and complex concept. There are nationalists who value it as it empowers a nation with self-determination. However, it often leads to conflicts about identity, legitimacy, ideology, and fosters the creation of borders. It becomes a platform for those seeking power over others, and provides language and noble principles to justify their actions. It is often linked to racial and religious prejudices. As may be obvious, I am not a supporter of nationalistic fervour and do not see a positive, long-term future for it on our planet.

In Red, White and Blue Brainwashed, I chose not to confront directly the destructive aspects of nationalism but, rather, to draw attention to the contradictions within this concept. The title for these pieces was inspired by a song, "Red White Brainwashed" by the punk rock group Anti-Flag. Red, White and Blue Brainwashed is a series of three mixed media paintings. I used the British, French and Canadian flags as ubiquitous, recognizable signs of nationalism, and as springboards from which to challenge national symbols, identity, and issues in the past and present. In addition to the flags, I chose iconic places, animal symbols, and text (the national anthems) to further involve the viewer. I also used humour as a strategy to bring out the contradictions in these images and their meanings. Humour also serves to remind me not to take myself too seriously.

In each painting, one of the images directly gazes somewhat confrontationally at the viewer, inviting self-reflection or a reaction. The reflective surfaces of the works also allow for the viewer to see themselves in the work. It is important to me that the issues raised in these pieces make us aware of their ongoing nature. I want to avoid thinking that these were acts or attitudes of the past and were done by others, not us. I also continue to struggle to find the balance between work that is accessible to the general public but is not too easy or prescriptive.

I am planning to continue to explore mixed media techniques, using photographs, resin, and painting or drawing in both political and non-political themes.

December, 2005