Take Art: Marcus Harvey’s Myra Hindley Painting: Genius
I think, to a degree, being part of an exhibition called Sensation
damaged this painting and limited its impact. I really wish that I had got to see at the gallery — that long walk that they had designed towards that iconic image: a child killer recreated from children’s hands. A lot of the Young British Artists included in that exhibition like the Chapman Brothers, Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst, have all been accused of using gimmicks, of being a patented case of the Emperor’s new clothes. This was something of the problem that assailed this painting — what was actually quite a profound idea (the children’s hands) came across as the same kind of shock tactic and gimmick, and I don’t think it was.
The other problem, which is a problem for all art no matter what medium, is that it was not focused on for it’s artistry and what it was trying to say — rather it was attacked for what it was trying to talk about. You are not allowed to talk about something like Myra Hindley unless you are one of those serious talking head types on some BBC panel. Perhaps it was that people already had a visceral reaction to Hindley and this painting, very visceral itself, represented something of an overload. Marcus Harvey must have been pleased that something he had created had such a powerful effect on people; I think it is just a shame that the piece wasn’t recognised for the brilliance that it represented. It may be one of those pieces that is rediscovered later and undergoes a renaissance — it may not. It is still true that people react differently to female killers — that unlike the fascination which follows male killers such as Jack the Ripper, Bundy and the Zodiac, women killers are a source of repulsion. A strange place for double standards to be in effect perhaps, but there they are. Double standards plagued this piece of art — it deserves better. It is genius.
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