‘Choose Love’ // Print Club London x Help Refugees Exhibition
By Abbie Steer
FTS takes a look at the amazing and inspirational work of Print Club London, Help Refugees and several artists involved in a charity exhibition during the UK’s Refugee Week as they decide to CHOOSE LOVE and inspire us to do the same.
Over the past few years Europe has experienced what has come to be known as the ‘European Migrant Crisis’, since arrivals via the Mediterranean peaked at over 1 million in 2015, many seeking refuge from political unrest in their respective countries. Becoming the focus of concern in this Post-Brexit Britain, it has arguably led to a widespread political crisis over irregular immigration within European countries and the tightening of border controls and regulations.
Last week was Refugee Week in the UK, the country’s largest communal celebration of refugee’s contributions to society. Each year the festival raises awareness of refugee’s own plights and their reasons for seeking refuge, countering the often negative discourse surrounding the issue in mainstream media, a rhetoric of ‘hatred and division’ that has unfortunately become prevalent in the current socio-political landscape. But, is this something that art can combat? It is said that ‘art is the window to man’s soul’ and it comes to reflect the very sentiments of society in a way that often we cannot see ourselves making it powerful in terms of influencing political change as they resonate with so many individuals.
Over the last six months screen-printing studio Print Club London and Help Refugees - a UK-based non-governmental organisation which works to provide humanitarian aid to refugees globally - have been working to produce an exhibition showcasing the works of several artists offering their own individual responses to the iconic fashion designer and activist Katharine Hamnett’s ‘CHOOSE LOVE’ slogan. The money from each sold print - which are now available to buy - will be going directly to those in need with the work of Help Refugees. They are being exhibited until June 29th in Print Club London’s studio in Dalston, London and, on Friday, From The Streets was given the opportunity to visit the exhibition and talk to some of the talented team of curators and artists themselves.
The director of Print Club London approached the charity last year and a “collaboration was born”, according to Studio Assistant Lizzi Mann. Commenting on art’s power as a political force she remarked, art “is something so many people can relate to and each of the different artists that we’ve worked with, all of their messages have been the same but they’ve approached it in a very different way that is understandable to such a wide range of people, especially when a lot of the time it is very heavy hitting facts or information. I think this is a very easy way for people to understand what the charity is about and the message behind what Help Refugees is doing.”
With political art projects like this, real change can be made in tangible and visceral ways as well as personal and rewarding ways as Lizzi told us, “this is a way where they can give money, but at the same time it comes down to their personal taste, they get to choose a print, they get to choose an artist that they like, so they get something obviously amazing out of it because they get a piece of art work but also they know that all their money goes directly to charity. Every artist has such a different approach, we all set them the same brief but every person has had a different response which is why I think it works so well as it can appeal to so many different people, you don’t even have to have an understanding of fine art.”
David Shand, an artist whose work explores advertising and its loss of meaning, is featured in the exhibition. “I think if you’re a sentient being you’ve got to care about it”, he stated sincerely, regarding the refugees and the exhibition, “and this was a great opportunity for me to just do something.” “Sometimes I feel like it’s a bit of a flippant thing to do, maybe it’s a bit of a frivolous thing doing art and then I don’t do it for a while and I get a bit fretful and I need to feed the art beast, so I know I need to do it anyway… I kind of do art and it’s kind of ended up being a reaction to my life in London.”
Talented French illustrator Lucille Clerc also spoke to us about the exhibition and her art. “This is an important attention to raise attention to,” she said, modest and bashful about her work. “My piece is about the more natural side of things, the idea of love being the main reason for the survival of any species, and is maybe more poetic.” Her print is a beautiful and delicate mass of green, refreshing and enchanting, defining love as something both natural and necessary.
“I think because we work as visual artists we have a sort of responsibility about the images we put out and it’s okay to make money and work for clients but we also have the responsibility to raise attention to social issues whenever we can and support organisations like Help Refugees,” she remarked.
Surrounded by so many prints of different colours and meanings, but with one central message in common, it was inspiring and touching to see so much art and by so many talented artists supporting such a crucial cause. This intersection between arts and activism, with their common goal of progression and innovation, can prove to be vital when brought together in advocating positive social change.
When talking about the future, Lizzi at Print Club London has said, “it’s been such an amazing project to work with and we’re going to continue it throughout the year. We worked with 30 artists originally for the launch of the project and we’re going to continue to keep producing prints.”
The prints featured in the exhibition can be seen and purchased here