What do Andrew Marr’s paintings tell us about his views on Brexit?

The BBC journalist has to remain neutral on the subject, but his views on Brexit may have crept into his artwork

One of Andrew Marr’s paintings
One of Andrew Marr’s paintings. Photograph: Courtesy of Andrew Marr

Andrew Marr says making art in your leisure time is a source of wellbeing and has written movingly about sketching after his stroke. So there’s a poignancy in the way the nightmare of Brexit infects his latest paintings of Highland landscapes and circuses.

As an eminent BBC journalist, Marr can’t really speak his mind on the issue paralysing and splintering the nation, but there is no rule against artistic expressionism. So Brexit symbols have danced into his pictures. Gold stars on blue in one of them look to me like a sign that his heart lies in Europe. The more you look at this painting, the more unequivocally it celebrates European civilisation. As well as gold stars, a gold figure dances wildly in the big blue EU yonder.

Marr has mixed a reference to the EU flag with a homage to Matisse’s cut-out image Icarus, of a figure against a blue sky studded with gold stars. Mr Marr, who do you think you’re fooling? There is nothing subtle about this. It is a painted love letter to the EU and to the greatness of European art. Look longer still and it’s clear he is heartbroken. Matisse’s Icarus depicts a stricken, bloodied airman falling to disaster. Marr’s golden dancer has a river of blood spewing from it. The joy is undercut by pain. Brexit is a tragedy. Marr shows all this as a painting within a painting, with his own spattered palettes in the foreground. He is mourning Europe by painting it – thinking of Matisse, and war, and the Fall of Icarus.

Our national crisis improves Marr’s paintings. Sigmund Freud claimed creativity is a sublimation of repressed thoughts. He was talking about sex, but what about political views? Marr has turned his position to his advantage. Forbidden to declare his view of a topic that dominates his work life, those pent up feelings intensify his art.

Still, he paints to get away from all that. Not all his new paintings are tempestuous meditations on Europe we’re losing. A lot depicts the River Gruinard in Wester Ross, a favourite haunt far from the madding news cycle. He loses himself in speckles of foam and leaves. You can’t blame him for seeking reassurance in nature.

(This story originally appeared on The Guardian)

Categories: Art & Design, World

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