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Gene Meme an art installation about population

 

>> Listen to Nicky Barranger of The Interview Online talking to Gregor about Gene Meme

 

         

 

>> Listen to the Gene Meme debate

 

 

>> Read the texts

In June 2010 Gregor created a dramatic installation of paintings about rising global population which filled the atmospheric Crypt Gallery under London's St Pancras Church.

A wall of 50 abstract paintings represented humans as a biological proliferation driven by our genes to replicate and spread. The paintings ranged from images of cellular structures, dividing and multiplying to abstract crowd scenes showing simple figurative forms spreading to the edges of the canvas. In combination, the 50 paintings overwhelmed the viewer, filling their field of vision and dominating the confined crypt.

The Gene Meme paintings are visceral and corporeal. The technique adopted mirrors the subject; an under-painting of skeletal webs and cellular structures overlaid with translucent membranes. Gregor went out of his way to disrupt any emerging compositional structure, maintaining a sense of life by opting for gestural blots and splashes, and loose washes of contrasting colours, rather than allowing order to appear. He used pure, optically luxuriant colours; deep blood reds, cold pale blues, organic, luminous yellows and vivid oranges, applied in such dense combinations that the paintings seem at the same time to contain every colour and yet to be almost monochromatic.

They were accompanies by Alex Harvie’s 50 elegies for historic societies whose rapid growth had unintended consequences. Addressed to "you", the elegies accuse the viewer - you did this.

For every painting sold, Street Child Africa offered a vulnerable child in Ghana a year’s apprenticeship including accommodation, food, medical care and support, to help lift them out of poverty.

The installation was supported by a public debate, online resources and an educational programme for Key Stage 1.

The debate was held in St Pancras Church in London and asked the question: what, if anything, should be done about rising population? It was chaired by Radio 4's Geoff Watts, with speakers including Aubrey Manning, Fred Pearce, Professor John Guillebaud, Roger Martin, Savina Geerinckx and The Revd Jeremy Caddick.

Gene Meme was sponsored by Bosteels Brewery.

Rupert Maas from the Antiques Roadshow and Maas Gallery said, “Primeval gods haunt the painter Gregor Harvie - Khaos, and Eros (love, the life-bringer). Spread across the fifty intense paintings of his new show, Eros has triumphed - life has proliferated so fast that Gaia is exhausted. Logic predicts that, full circle, Khaos will prevail in the future, but all we can see in The Crypt Gallery (the underworld!), where the fifty paintings are densely hung, is exponential cellular division evolving through to teeming crowds. A glimpse of what may be the fate of all this life is given by his partner, writer Alex Harvie, in a series of elegies for past societies that have collapsed under their own weight.”

>> download Gene Meme catalogue

>> download KS1 teaching materials