‘Injustice’ is the theme for entries into the London Legal Support Trust’s inaugural art competition which launched this week in the capital.
SJ’s editor at large, Kevin Poulter, and I made the trip across town on Monday night from SJ Towers to La Galleria, Pall Mall, for a private viewing of the exhibition and to meet some of the artists who were proudly displaying their works.
Around 70 paintings, mixed media works and sculptures portrayed wide and varied responses to and interpretations of this year’s theme. It was unsurprising that among the shortlist were many thought provoking pieces for everyone to consider, reflect, debate and enjoy.
Pieces like Caro Millington’s Not waving but Drowning multimedia sculpture, which aimed to capture the helplessness of those who have become overwhelmed by ‘draconian’ cuts to legal aid, restrictions to welfare benefits and increasing inequality in 2014.
Then there was Renascence by Jamie Limond, which considers ‘warmongers’ and the consequences of their actions. It is a poignant reminder of not just the Great War, which we all should remember for its centenary this year, but also more recent conflicts too. Of particular interest is the way the artist has ‘removed’ the figure’s body from beneath its shroud, yet his ‘essence’ is still visible through cracks and gold filament in the surface of the lead sheet.
Perhaps my favourite piece of the whole exhibit was Access to Justice by Andrew Brady. The figure to the right of the painting represents Lady Justice, where she is traditionally portrayed as blind, symbolic of her impartiality. The bejewelled figure in the centre of the painting has the ear of Justice and represents those in society with money, influence and power. Keen observers will also note that the ‘rich’ are obstructing the third figure, which represents the poor and disadvantaged, from accessing Justice.
It is a simple yet powerful image that breaks down the government’s policy on legal aid to its bare bones and as the artist explains in his description of the work: ‘Making cuts to Legal Aid is one of the greatest injustices in our country today.’
While perusing the images and sculptures on display I stopped before The Window – The Street by lawyer, Jane Hinde. The mixed media piece recounts the tale of one of her former clients. A pseudonym is used to protect the innocent, the guilty and those involved in the arrest and prosecution of ‘Nick Burton’. However, those with a copy of Archbold will be aware of the only defendant in English legal history to have stood trial four times for the same offence.
The first two silk screens are prints from crime scene photos. They are described by the artist as ‘The window through which no killer came, the nets shrouding the truth here represents a threshold he cannot cross’, and ‘The street where he waved down the police is the place, now inaccessible to him, where the case against him began’.
Reading the story of ‘Burton’ and his travels through the highest courts in the land (and Europe) one can hear the artist’s message loud and clear: What is legal is not necessarily just.
This blog was first published in the Solicitors Journal on 30 September 2014 and is reproduced with kind permission.