UK general election has its own official artist

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UK general election has its own official artist

LONDON - In this era of Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and selfies, Britain’s Parliament has taken a step back to the 1700s, choosing an artist armed with pencil and paper to offer insight into the general election campaign.

With a commission from the House of Commons, Adam Dant is crisscrossing the country, drawing candidates on the hustings, reporters in scrums and voters at rallies to create a rolling snapshot of this year’s election campaign, sketched at speed with a black Chinagraph pencil. Primary colors will be added later.

Dant, who has also focused his skills on the financial crisis and Scotland’s independence referendum, calls these “reportage drawings.’’

“It does something you can’t achieve with an iPhone and snapping,’’ he said while pausing for a sandwich at Portcullis House, where members of Parliament have their offices. “It removes the extraneous and captures something more eternal about these fleeting moments.’’

Lawmakers have commissioned artists to record each of the last four general elections, with their works becoming part of the Parliamentary Art Collection, which includes more than 7,100 pieces that illustrate the history of the legislature and elections over the past 600 years. Dant is known for monumental narrative ink drawings and his work is displayed in the collections of Tate Britain and MOMA New York. He will receive 17,000 pounds ($25,000) for his efforts surrounding the May 7 election for seats in Parliament.

Art can deliver something journalism cannot, says photographer Simon Roberts, the artist commissioned to chronicle the last election. Roberts chose to watch events unfold from the roof of his motorhome, a view unfamiliar to most people on the ground.

“It is the role of the artist to present a different perspective, unhindered as they are by 24-hour rolling news deadlines or political allegiances of commissioning editors,’’ Roberts said in an e-mail.

Dant, who studied graphic design in Liverpool and printmaking at the Royal College of Art, says that he will hone in on individual people to capture the sweep and fervor of the crowd, in contrast to journalists who tend to focus on political leaders and their positions.

The 47-year-old from Cambridge is often compared to William Hogarth, whose finely detailed drawings poked fun at the customs of the 18th century.

But Dant sees himself in the tradition of Pieter Bruegel, the 16th century Dutch painter known for capturing the day-to-day lives of peasants, and the caricatures of French illustrator and engraver Paul Gustave Dore. He plans to use Daniel Defoe’s tour of Great Britain, published between 1724 and 1727, as a guide for his travels during the election. AP
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