Making art out of the general election

First taken by Jonathan Yeo in 2001, the role of Election Artist is a relatively new position, where artists are commissioned to create artworks throughout the campaign of the UK’s General Election and create a final piece for the Parliamentary Art Collection.

As the 2017 General Election official artist and the first woman to take on the role, Cornelia Parker is a well-known sculptor and installation artist who was nominated for the Turner Prize in 2007 and elected to the Royal Academy of Arts and appointed Officer of the OBE in 2010. Many of her exhibitions include somewhat destructive themes. Her ‘Cold Dark Matter’ piece, in which she exploded a garden shed and suspended its fragments, is a good example. She has also been relatively vocal in politics, embracing the label of ‘feminist artist’ and supporting the parliamentary candidacy the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas.

Looking at the official Election Artist Instagram account, Parker’s previous artwork has clearly influenced her work within the election campaign. As well as the expected snaps of campaigners and adverts, she has also shared numerous posts of her abstract pieces. Perhaps she will incorporate these later in her final piece; it would certainly make for exciting viewing.

The fact that the job of general Election Artist actually exists can be surprising at first, but a part of me is also surprised that it did not come about earlier. Cartoons and images have been used to explain political happenings for hundreds of years, and it really makes sense to embody each different election in a way that can be artistically represented, and therefore visually appreciated. Official reports and statistics can hardly encompass the full atmosphere and points of view that a piece of art can.

Artwork has always been a significant force in politics, particularly in adverts and campaigns, but also as a part of public reaction to political occurrences not only during elections, but in everyday life. I personally feel that, with social media making content so easy to share, these works have become a larger and larger part of the public reaction to politics, allowing a mix of words and images which make it possible for different opinions to be fully explored. The importance of such political work has been officially acknowledged by the new addition of the Instagram account (electionartist2017 if you want to check it out), which has truly made the Election Artist’s work a part of everyday life for the public.


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February 2021
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