by Paul Gerrard
Skipton is a quiet market town better known as the “Gateway to the Yorkshire Dales” than it is for revolution. But on Friday 6 October, socialist artists and activists, as well as the general public, from Manchester, Lancashire and Yorkshire gathered there to view a dazzling selection of work by artists grouped around Bad Art.
Here were surrealist collages, intricate installations, disturbing paintings, photographs of demos, bold placards, banners, posters and cartoons in amazing variety. There was no monopoly of style or political position. The organiser of the show, Peter Harris, explains: “the diversity of the show was my main focus… The arts enrich our lives as does the power of the imagination – and although completely focused on the primary need for a socialist transformation of society, we must never lose sight of the importance of creativity.”
Alan Hardman, the respected cartoonist whose work has appeared in ‘Militant’ and ‘The Socialist’ over four decades, was present to meet visitors and talk about his work. As ever he was generous with his time and his prints. Unfortunately, Jean Stockdale, an internationally known ‘outsider artist’ who was inspired to exhibit here, was unable to attend.
Bad Art is not a school or genre, but a campaign with a shared recognition that art can inspire us in our struggle and that imagination must be part of the DNA of a socialist future; where no-one will be an ‘artist’ because everyone can be one, free to develop their creativity without political or economic constraints. As Trotsky and his collaborators put it: “To develop intellectual creation, an anarchist regime of individual liberty should from the first be established.” Several of the exhibitors here have no formal artistic training, but do have a passion to create.
The event was attended by 80 people, more than any other preview at the gallery. The 17th century Mill Bridge Gallery overlooking the 18th century Leeds-Liverpool Canal provided a fitting setting for art which points to a socialist future.