Opening on the one-year anniversary of the devastating loss of life at Grenfell, Brendan Bunting’s exhibition at Abingdon Studios examines one of the numerous issues that have yet to be resolved since the tragedy. I visited the show on preview night to see the exhibition and speak with Bunting about his motivation for creating work about the disaster.
Not afraid to explore issues that some may consider taboo, Buntings socially engaged approach and his determination to explore narratives that are not his own, sets him apart from his peers. It is difficult for an artist to master this field of practice, often appearing disingenuous or exploitative.
However, Buntings passion and drive to tackle the injustices he sees in society today seem to be the key to creating work that is not only poignant but respectful.
His Exhibition “4 of 71” memorialises four of the lives lost at Grenfell while considering the official figure of seventy-one that is still being called into question a year after the event.
Bunting has focused in on four of the people who died that day. Firdows Kedir, Jessica Urbano Ramirez, Khadija Saye and Isaac Paulos. Bringing together photos and memories of the three children and one adult and placing them next to the charcoal portraits he has created, Bunting drives home to the viewer the humanity that can be lost during the coverage of a disaster. Reminding his audience that while the conversation continues around the official number of lives lost, each one of those numbers was a person.
Bunting’s use of newspapers depicting images and articles of Grenfell crudely stuck together to create the centre piece of the exhibition, a representation of the Tower itself, is disconcerting. It speaks to the fragility of the building while commenting on the contributing factors of the fire and the response to the event. Washing lines holding articles of children’s clothing and the portraits of the children themselves cut up the space. As you walk around the exhibition you feel as if you too are searching through the rubble to find answers or meaning to what is undoubtably a heartbreaking and grievous event.
Bunting describes the exhibition as an “uncomfortable and emotional” experience, but one not without purpose. Certainly, watching the audience move around the space and then out of the viewing area, I would agree that the exhibition is indeed successful in its aim to continue the conversation about what happened that day. Moreover, I felt it was also a reverent tribute to the victims and the most thought provoking exhibitions I have seem in Abingdon studios project space this year.
For more information about Abingdon Studios and Brendan’s work see the links below:
Photography courtesy of Brendan Bunting
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