Throughout history, artists have frequently been the ones to stand up against political powers and fight for freedom through the simple use of a canvas, paintbrush or camera.
And the latest exhibition at the NN Gallery in Guildhall Road, Northampton, is testament to the fact that times have not changed and artists are still making their voices heard in different ways.
Political Toasts (which runs until June 30) is made up of work by Armenian artists in the group, Art Laboratory, Flavia Muller Medeiros and Kristina Norman.
Ranging from photography and film to installation, graffiti and documentation, the exhibition sets out to challenge or simply consider the politics in countries such as Estonia, Belarus, Finland and Armenia.
NN’s artistic director, Catherine Hemelryk, said: “These are all artists working within specific political situations. Art Laboratory use their art as a protest against what they see to be obstructive governments in Armenia. The Government can close an exhibition if they consider it to be radical, so these guys can’t necessarily show in the galleries, so they do graffiti in the streets and they do performances and actions. I met them two years ago and they really stayed in my mind.”
Meanwhile, Flavia’s contribution to the exhibition is linked to time she spent on a residency in Vilnius, Lithuania, where the Belarusian European Humanities University is now based.
Originally in Belarus, the university was closed down by the Government, Catherine explained, and forced to move to Vilnius.
She said: “It was closed down because it was seen as too radical and dangerous for people to have this free education in humanities. The EU found it a home on the edge of Belarus and Lithuania so students and staff have to leave their own country to go to university there.”
Flavia’s work shows a photograph taken of all the staff and students of the university. Her email conversations with someone named Irka, at the university, have also been recorded in a book, which can be seen at the gallery.
She said: “Travelling in Lithuania and through the Baltic countries, I met Irka. We got to know each other and she told me about the university.
“I included all the students and staff in the photo as a historical documentation of the university. I think the university had been seen as too progressive, they tried to have other teachers from abroad and the Government did not really like that.” The exhibition is free to enter.