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Home  >  News  >  Portraits Covered in Black Paint in Protest Art Exhibition

News

Portraits Covered in Black Paint in Protest Art Exhibition

Tuesday October 12 2021

Artist I.D. Campbell (front) with Sally Foster-Fulton of Christian Aid, Graeme McMeekin of Tearfund and Maria Zafar and Nadeem Baqir of Islamic Relief UK with the three portraits. Picture by Colin Hattersley.


A protest art exhibition has opened at Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum featuring three striking portraits, the faces partly obscured by black paint. 

All three paintings represent lives that have been devastated by the climate crisis in countries around the world: Joyce, who lost her home during a cyclone in Malawi; Rita, who lived in an area battered by cyclones and storms in Bangladesh; and Dhital, who lost his home in floods in Nepal.

The paintings, by Glasgow-based artist I.D. Campbell, have been commissioned by Christian Aid, Islamic Relief UK and Tearfund ahead of the COP26 climate conference, to shine a spotlight on stories from the vulnerable communities within which they work - communities that are on the frontline of the climate crisis. 

The three international development organisations hope the exhibition will help amplify global voices over the coming weeks and prompt action, in what is widely regarded as a critical United Nations climate summit and a pivotal moment for the planet. There has been concern that covid restrictions and the cost of accommodation will make it impossible for representatives of poorer countries and vulnerable communities to attend.

The exhibition runs until October 24 at the Kelvingrove, then it will go on tour and appear at a number of prominent venues in the city during COP26 including Glasgow Cathedral, St George’s Tron Church and Glasgow Central Mosque.

Head of Christian Aid Scotland, Sally Foster-Fulton said: “Protest art allows us to explore the issues around climate change in a really powerful way, and by dipping each painting in black paint we’re able to visually represent the way the actions of the industrialised north are impacting on our sisters and brothers around the world.  

“This injustice must be at the heart of COP26 and the voices of communities in the global south must be at the centre of decision-making.  Each portrait is one of our global neighbours and we owe it to Joyce, Rita and Dhital and the communities they represent, to make sure their stories and lived experiences are amplified this November.”

Maria Zafar, Campaigns and Public Affairs Coordinator at Islamic Relief UK said: “Islamic Relief UK, Christian Aid and Tearfund have teamed up on this project to bring attention to the impact climate change is having on vulnerable communities – and to ensure they are not forgotten during COP 26 negotiations next month.

“Climate emergencies are becoming more frequent, and whilst we may see them reported on the news, we rarely see how communities adapt in the long run.

“These images seek to change that. They are a vivid representation of the effects climate change is having on communities worldwide and how individuals are forced to change their lifestyles in the face of devastation.”

Graeme McMeekin, Head of Tearfund Scotland, said: "This exhibition is such a striking but sobering way to convey the damage our organisations are seeing on a daily basis around the world, as people are increasingly being pushed back further into extreme poverty as a result of the climate crisis. For every bit of progress, we take a backwards step when we fail to address this harsh reality, which Iain has captured so vividly.

"With COP26 right on our doorstep, we have a real opportunity right now to tell the stories of those who cannot be in Glasgow at this time, but whose lives and livelihoods hang in the balance with every word uttered at this conference."

I.D. Campbell said it had been a privilege to collaborate on the project, and that he hoped people would take the time to see the paintings while they are at the Kelvingrove and read the stories behind the portraits. He said: "When I paint portraits, it elevates who this person is in people's minds. People become curious about who is in the painting and want to know what their story is. We want the public to be curious about the real stories of those on the frontline of the climate emergency and hungry to see climate justice."

The dipping of the portraits in black paint took place at Glasgow Cathedral last week in the presence of the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Lord Wallace of Tankerness, and was filmed for the BBC's Songs of Praise. Lord Wallace said at the time: "What a powerful atmosphere! We could hear the paint drip from the paintings. It was such a powerful message and communicated so powerfully and sacramentally."


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