The result of a thematic development for OurTowns project in Basildon, together with the Doug Gillen, Billericay round table and Laindon FC. Over a series of interviews we explored notions of ‘masculinity’, discussing how the term and our understanding of it had evolved and changed.

My approach was to reinterpret an affectionate portrait of a father and son by Albert Edelfelt.

During our interviews, I was searching for the common denominator for this complex theme I’d been given – however what I ended up noticing was what was missing from all of those conversations.

One of the questions asked, related to role models. I had assumed many of the default answers in those conversations would have been ‘my father’ yet that was the one answer never given.

During the painting process, we had many conversations with the general public about the concept behind the artwork and were surprised by how many people opened up on the streets about their own fractured relationships with their fathers.

I had assumed the fathers role would play a major part in this conversation, but I was shocked at its total absence. Is society evolving in such a way that our pre conceived notions of identity anchored in role models we assumed were always there, breaking up under the strains of the constant forensic examination of our roles and identity that is part of our contemporary culture?

As society constantly examines individuals new and old ideas of identity and roles, I wonder how our preconceptions of role models are simultaneously in a state of change.

Title: Fatherfigures

Extra: OurTowns Street Art Festival

Location: Basildon, Essex, UK

Year: 2021

Photos: ©aruallan / © Doug Gillen

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