In paintings, prints and film, Glenn Ibbitson uses the human figure, constrained within the frame, as a metaphor for any individual confined by political oppression, the most obvious being that of a prisoner or a person being ‘trafficked’, whether by coercion or voluntarily. The paintings, all square in format, may be hung anyway up, further suggesting the discomfort and vulnerability of the figures within, needing to adjust their cramped positions as crates are moved.
Glenn explains: “Initially I was painting work on the theme of escapology, and this developed into thoughts about our current social environment” where people are either desperate enough to smuggle themselves in confined spaces on vehicles in order to reach another country, or simply to flee from their own, or are shipped by force in cases of ‘extraordinary rendition’ or human trafficking. The physical enclosure of the figure puts the individuals in situations requiring enormous physical and mental strength to withstand extremes of endurance.
The figures are anonymous, the lighting deliberately obscuring individual features. A “wholly dispassionate titling system” further demotes the figure to a mere commodity, albeit human, a ‘unit’ in a ‘batch’ which in totality becomes the ‘consignment’ of the exhibition’s title. Human trafficking is not explained by the artist instead he uses his considerable skills as a figurative artist to explore ideas and emotions about what such commodification of humans might feel like.
To the viewer the effect of the exhibition is extraordinarily moving: lifesize figures held in crates, turned uncomfortably. At one level the figures are executed expertly and can be appreciated for that quality alone, at another level the viewer is confronted by the reality of one of the worst of mankind’s treatment of its own members. Separated into their crates the figures have no awareness of, or communication with, others stacked nearby and remain alone on their journey, desperate and still.