Simeon Barclay’s lecture was one of my favourites of the visiting artist talks. Barclay spoke to us about his current practice, which culminated in an exhibition called They Don’t Like it Up ‘Em. Informing his work was a deep cultural connection to British history, encapsulated by the title which refers to a famous Dad’s Army joke, and his connection to his black identity and heritage. His work focusses a lot on culture and cultural icons like David Bowie, and the perspective he comes from makes his work unique.

The relationship with culture and how we situate ourselves within it is a very current debate with the rise of identity politics and the political progression (and regression) for marginalised people. An interesting aspect of his interpretation of this debate was the way he used Brutalist architecture as a metaphor for this marginalisation,with the effect of Brutalist architecture arriving in a wave and then fading out and being unappreciated. The connection with Leeds city was important as well, for both situating ourselves in a physical place as well as a political place.

Another work I enjoyed was his graduation piece, Peacock, for which he had written a creative writing piece showcasing his wordsmithery and his connection with the physical landscape of the UK.

‘hegemonic masculinity masquerading behind big black cocks/I am that big black cock rising against/sculpting against Calvins/I clock in/unprotected/unconnected/un plein air sex/ bragging rights for banging whites /an english rose for a psyche scolded/Wrigleys Extra/hot Ginsters pasty washed down with Ribena/ Wrigleys Extra/ Esso or Texaco/The tiger is blind tonight/A57/A49/jettison rubbish/light speed/Birmingham M6’

This quote from Peacock exemplifies both Barclay’s cultural connections, from listing brand names and common foods associated with a particular class, fuel stations which we’re all familiar with, and roads which most of us could place on a map or in a city, as well as his political stance from identifying heteronormativity and hypermasculinity in a poetic way. His writing itself is formally interesting, with his use of a hard ‘c’ and plosives creating an extra force behind words that would offend traditional sensibilities.

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