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Hackney artists explore a world in trouble in Ecce Homo show

From left, Vinny Montag, Francisco Ortega and  Bruno Jamaica at the show. From left, Vinny Montag, Francisco Ortega and Bruno Jamaica at the show.

Friday, November 23, 2012
2:12 PM

A group of Hackney-based artists have married today’s ills of recession, greed and war with our biblical past, to take a provocative look at society.

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New Guernica by Vinny MontagNew Guernica by Vinny Montag

The Ecce Homo (behold the man) exhibition, displayed at the Mother Studios, in Hackney Wick earlier this month, is the fruit of a two-month labour of love from collective Action and Power.

Inspired and appalled by what they see as a toxic, crumbling world around them, the band of six artists created a multi-media tour de force.

Highlights included an expansive message-laden canvas bearing Christ’s image; a disturbing naked cast of a pregnant woman, and arresting photo-portraits of the Saharawi people maimed by war.

The exhibition takes its title and motivation from the words used by Pontius Pilate to wash his hands of Christ’s fate on the cross.

A disabled Saharawi woman. By Bernat MilletA disabled Saharawi woman. By Bernat Millet

The themes are at once ancient - corruption, greed, blame - but brought into a dark and disturbing modern context by the effects of globalisation.

“We thought Ecce Homo was the perfect name for the concept behind our project,” founder Francisco Ortega, from Dalston, said. “Today nobody is willing to take responsibility and everybody is asked to make sacrifices.

“We are in a world of trouble and there is no one to blame but ourselves.

“The whole world system is rotten because it is run by people educated to compete to be successful. The system has been conceived to compete and in any competition there is a winner and the rest are losers and what normally is good for someone is at the same time bad for others. There is no balance, greed is under our flesh.”

Action and Power is only about 18 months old and is an egalitarian set-up, says Francisco, originally from Seville, Spain.

The six – Benedict Romain, Bernat Millet, Bruno Jamaica, Francisco, Miguel Cabeza and Vinny Montag - met in artistic circles and have quickly gone on to form a tight band of brothers: supporting, inspiring and pushing each other.

“We are a group of friends, not just associates,” said Francisco, 35, “we hang out and get drunk together that is why our shows work so well, the best ideas come from any night out.

“Our own work is influenced by the others’ work and that is what makes it special. We keep our identity but at the same time we complement each other.”

He added: “For me every work that we exhibited in the show is great, well crafted - it shows understanding of the medium and it’s been skilfully resolved - so instead of highlighting a single piece I would say that the true protagonist is the whole exhibition. It is like a big body that needs all its parts to work properly.”

Action and Power first collaborated at the Hackney Wicked Festival 2011 (appearing again this year) but they have gone on to display at studios and galleries, including the Arbeit, off Old Street, east London.

The feedback on Ecce Homo from the public has been positive, according to Francisco, and the group now plans to expand on the theme.

Francisco said: “It will be an organic, environmental context this time. We are developing the idea but we’ll need to find a place suitable for the kind of show we want to make and again look for some collaborations - the idea is to keep working and have more people involved and reach the maximum audience.”

You can find out more about Action and Power at: www.actionandpowergallery.com or Facebook: actionandpower

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