“Public murals often serve to reinforce a sense of unity amongst groups of people by celebrating the heritage of a place and the diversity of its residents” artist Ruth Angel Edwards explained as she presented her vast painting Life in a Peaceful New World where seven people stand, squat, hold buckets and work staple guns, saws and cement. They are strong and colourful, their faces animated by emotion woven into the canvas by a mastered palette. They are a collective.
“The aim was to try and create a situation where the subjects felt an ownership of the work,” the artist says. Ruth’s work is considered; photographing individuals at work and then arranging them into idealised situations, they are staged moments that are both celebratory, humorous and affectionate whilst also posing wider questions about the nature of group identity. Transformed from collaged photographs into large painted canvases and then displayed within their original studio setting, they appear utopian, reminiscent of 1950s Ladybird book illustrations or religious pamphlets. They are moments of fictional perfection.
Set up in collaboration with the East London based artist studio group Sauna Gallery, the female figures in the paintings are central to the work and capture perfectly those euphoric moments that sometimes happen when working in a group when you all suddenly realise that you are part of something so momentarily brilliant yet entirely transient by its nature that you can’t help but be a little bit ridiculous.