Interview with Darren Coffield, artist and creator of "Against The Tide"

"Read widely, paint wildly, be wily."

Interview with Darren Coffield, artist and creator of "Against The Tide"

Could you first introduce yourself to the reader?

My name is Darren Coffield, I am an artist and author, living in London

Describe your work “Against The Tide” in 3 words.

Dilemma of identity.

What is the premise of “Against The Tide” and what inspired this work?

The exhibition confronts contemporary anxieties around immigration, fake news, and the rise of nationalism in the 21st Century.

You have chosen to combine classical imagery with photography featuring the humanitarian crisis. Please explain this decision.

The detail in the paintings forces the viewer to confront the fact that this is not happening in some faraway land to beings unlike ourselves. Visible to all and ignored by many, this is an ongoing, urgent and often fatal situation. 

Using graphic distortion, you plan to create an evocation of the British seashore. What do you think this will achieve?

I want to evoke the banality of the British seaside: bright stripy deck chairs and sticks of rock. With these colourful stripes, I create an eerie juxtaposition, using the beach as a cultural reference to explore its uses as a place of leisure as well as death.

You said, “I hope this exhibition evokes a sense of dislocation, spurring the viewer to question the moral and political crossroads our civilisation has now reached.” Please elaborate on this point.

We can no longer look on in the West and in any way claim the moral and political high ground. In the last 20 years, more than 60,000 migrant deaths have been recorded globally. 

My paintings explore the anonymity and individualism of migration and travel: bringing this wave of humanity to the forefront of the viewer's mind and exposing its unrelenting reality. Desperate, overfilling ships and boats ebb and wane in the beating sun, while other bodies are left hopelessly beached.

What action do you hope audiences will take after leaving “Against The Tide”?

Inspired to make a change in their own lives. Big or small.

Did you face any major challenges during the project?

I had to be very conscious of making sure that I could not be accused of exploiting the misfortune of others as my subject matter.

What has been the most rewarding moment of the creative process, or do you think this is yet to come?

The most rewarding part is seeing all the paintings hanging together for the first time in the gallery.  That's when you have a sense of achievement.

Do you have any advice for young people interested in doing your kind of job?

Read widely, paint wildly, be wily.

How can people find out more?

Header Image Credit: Mark Thomas photography


Sienna James

Sienna James Voice Team

Formerly Assistant Editor, Sienna now studies History of Art at the University of Cambridge and loves to write about the intersection of politics, history and visual art. Sienna is author of the Creative Education and Instaviews series.

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