A Dundee-trained artist and social activist is exhibiting a unique Covid-inspired artwork at a prestigious exhibition in England.
Award winning Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design-trained Frank To will exhibit an artwork inspired by Boris Johnson’s ‘letter to the nation’ at the forthcoming Royal West of England Academy annual open exhibition in Bristol.
He is the only Scottish artist this year to be accepted by the academy and has been shortlisted for the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnicity Artist Prize.
Sent in April to all households across Britain to urge them to heed the UK government’s coronavirus guidance and stay home wherever possible, the letter was delivered to 30 million homes, reaching all 66 million residents in Britain as part of the government’s public information campaign at a cost of £5.7 million.
To’s piece, titled ‘Spring 2020’, features a bumble bee drawn with charcoal and gunpowder on the infamous letter to the nation, which was featured in The Courier in June.
Why was this important to Frank?
“I view this piece as a way to combine my art with my social activism,” he said.
“For me, these letters highlighted the incompetence of the government in its handling of the pandemic.
“This was important to me because it is about taking a stance against the government and the Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak’s statement about the need for artists to retrain.
“That statement highlights the hypocrisy of the government. These letters cost almost £6m of taxpayers money and were a waste of money because most people chucked them straight in the bin; the information was already available online and no account was made for the visually impaired.
“My artwork recycles and repurposes these letters and, by doing so, makes a comment on the need for sustainability.”
Interest in social activism
Frank To, who splits his time between his Glasgow studio and the classrooms at Inverness College UHI where he is an art lecturer, has long been interested in social activism.
“I’ve always been heavily involved in social activism as I am a supporter of the Free Tibet movement, Me Too Movement, the Hong Kong protests and the BLM movement,” added the Falkirk born 38-year-old, whose work has been collected by high profile buyers including actor Sir Patrick Stewart and global consultancy Deloitte.
“As such, I’m delighted to be exhibiting in Bristol, a hotspot of the pandemic where, in June, the city centre statue of slave Edward Colston was toppled and rolled down Anchor Road and pushed into Bristol Harbour; a protest which I fully endorsed.”
As recently featured in The Courier, Frank To was recently appointed sole UK official artist ambassador for NGO IM Swedish Development Partner to create a new paint colour using humanium metal powder and to use Swedish social impact startup, A Good Company, Humanium Metal pen to create artwork to be sold to raise funds for projects supporting survivors and violence-prevention programmes. Humanium metal is made from upcycled illegal firearms.
The Royal West of England Academy annual open exhibition in Bristol runs until March 7, 2021.