Tales from the Metropolis: ‘Like Me and You’ by Maggie Leaver

I was struck by an image in the newspaper  – people seeking refuge from Syria walking towards the Turkish border. This image affected me greatly.

I was concerned on a human basis about the conflict in Syria and the impact on the people there, with many, many people having to leave the country.

I was also concerned about the rising hatred and dismissal of immigrants to this country  – most of whom were likely to be refugees and asylum seekers. It seemed to me that these people would see such an image and not see human beings like them.

I was studying romanticism in art with tutor Helen Tarr on a course at the MAC at the time.  Paintings I particularly focused on included work by Goya, Delacroix, Millet, Turner.

The more I thought about the issues, the more I studied the people in the image in the newspaper, and the clothes and items carried which are common to us.

I started to develop the painting using oils on canvas and worked on it over several months where it evolved into a work which was aiming to gently challenge assumptions.

Maggie Leaver, 'Like Me and You'

The people in the painting could be anyone across the world.  They were just like us but in terrible circumstances.  My intention was, using colour and pattern and a lot of rough scraping, to encourage the viewer to put themselves in their position, highlighting how they could be us and not ‘them’, fleeing from everything we have and know in order to survive.

As my preference is for contemporary artwork, I referenced a number of artists in completing the painting. There were quite a few, but names include Banksy, Joan Eardley, John Keane, Kathy Kollwitz .

Someone said to me they thought it was crowds of people heading to a music festival… then they looked closer.

That’s fine by me.

Maggie Leaver, ‘Like Me and You’

ART BLOG will be sharing the inspiration behind the works on show at Metropolis in a series called Tales From the Metropolis,  written by artists, running throughout the exhibition…

#history #Syria #birmingham #immigration #culture #refugees #arts #exhibition #humanitarian

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