Painting Exhibition on the 2011 Riots Opens in Tottenham

Painting Exhibition on the 2011 Riots Opens in Tottenham
Rosalind Davis, 'We Were Here Once'.
(Courtesy the artist. Photo: Jools Henry.)

A show tackling the riots that spread like wildfire across London and other British cities in the late summer 2011 has opened in Tottenham, then one of the epicentres of unrest in the capital.

Currently displayed at the Bruce Castle Museum, “To The Light” gathers paintings by RCA graduate Rosalind Davis, responding to the images of destroyed buildings and shop fronts paraded in the media at the time of the events. Close-ups of smashed glass panels, they are eerily abstract, as if attempting to conjure up an aesthetic experience from these contemporary ruins. Thin threads are embroidered on the paintings’ surfaces, “the stitch being about reparation,” Davis told Wild Culture’s Tom Jeffreys.


A keen blogger, the artist wrote about her personal experience. “As I cycled through Peckham during the time of the riots in 2011, and then was trapped where I lived between mass acts of chaos and violence as gangs met outside my house, I sensed palpable danger and felt incredibly vulnerable. I watched precious buildings attacked and set alight, destroyed.”

“For me buildings are always about humanity and the human experience, a portrayal of our civilization and so it was heartrending to see,” she continues. “I, and society / psychologists / sociologists / politicians / police could not rationalize what I was seeing or hearing. It echoed with me very personally and intuitively about violence I had seen, felt and absorbed, none of which made any sense to me, to harm others, to destroy.”

Perhaps surprisingly, the artist doesn’t mention on the blog posts seen by BLOUIN ARTINFO UK the lack of prospects that are widely acknowledged as a contributing factor to the riots. But the exhibition’s location suggests a desire to partake in the wider social context. “It was clear that the exhibition should geographically be related to the places where the riots had occurred,” Davis writes. “[I]t needed to be placed carefully and be in a place that had wider possibilities of engagement with the issues surrounding the work.”

To The Light, Until November 14, 2013, Bruce Castle Museum