British Territory 82 is a series of paintings exploring the landscape of the border region of North West Ireland, contextualised via post-internet sharing culture.
The title of the project is representative of the unique 'gallows' humour of the area, referring to how the local postcode (BT82) is misinterpreted as British Territory 82. In actuality, it simply refers to the first and last letters of ‘Belfast’, and not to assert British dominance over an otherwise Nationalist area. This playful representation helps to underline concepts of misinformation in the current age.
Traditional Irish landscape painters from the North West Irish speaking Gaeltacht provide a point of stimulus and reference for the work. The outsider primitive art of the region focuses on painting everyday scenes with an uncommon naivety that has directly inspired the composition, application and subject matter of British Territory 82. A facsimile photograph taken by the artist as a teenager is included in the installation to provide a small link to time spent with these artists on the remote island of Toraigh and their significant influence on producing these works.
This project attempts to explore the few commonalities between the two different idioms of internet sharing culture and traditional landscape painting. Paintings are rendered in oil on metal, referencing the composed images of other people’s lives we view through shiny miniature screens every day. The use of square panels to glorify the otherwise unremarkable draws similarities to common oversharing on digital platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook.
There is an insinuation of political motivation behind the works, which references the darker side of social media interactions, with Russian bot influencers and digital political brainwashing juggernauts such as Cambridge Analytica. These are affecting the region and acknowledging them is becoming increasingly important with the immediacy of Brexit and the negative impact on the border, cross-community and paramilitary relations.
Despite these issues, the context and political nature of the works are left intentionally ambiguous. Whether or not the work is political or apolitical is left up to the viewer, and much of the action or conflict in the images remain insinuated.
The installation shots are from SHIFT, Capitol Spaces, Cardiff, where the work has been completed as part of a residency. There is a mix of media and execution in the displayed pieces, ranging from oil on metal, oil on panel, a charcoal sketch, a photograph and some oil on 'studio scrap' wood, recalling the folk-art origins of the outsider painters of the Gaeltacht.