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Craig Whittaker, 'The Useless Made Useful'

Friday, 4 March 2016

By Hannah Anstee

UselessA Hebden Bridge exhibition is drawing attention to our politician's apathy regarding the recent and devastating floods.

'Watching Paint Dry' is an installation of new work by Belfast based artists Stephen Millar, Nathan Crothers and Hebden Bridge based artist Aziza Mills.

Millar and Crothers have created a visual reply to December's floods in the North of England and it's being showcased at Inkfolk in Machpelah Mill.

Stephen Millar said, "We thought if we could visually create a sandbag cabinet to be displayed in Hebden Bridge then these useless politicians could finally be helping out. We created stencils of the images of each of the 22 members of the cabinet and sprayed them onto sandbags."

Charlotte Mellor Meecham, who runs Inkfolk said, "At first it was just going to be the cabinet members but then Craig Whittaker was made after several requests from people online through Twitter and Facebook."

Thus in the event of another flood these politician sandbags will be of more use than the politicians themselves.

Charlotte said, "I think the message is a direct comment on the lack of help and support that we had through the time of the floods.

"The end result communicates a very powerful visual message."

When asked about the inspiration behind the project Stephen Millar said, "We discussed various ideas including making water damaged paintings (questioning the value of art) but we both agreed we wanted to make something that displayed people's frustration at the lack of support from their government. Could we make the useless useful?"

"From watching events in the North of England and Scotland, we very quickly came up with the idea of using sandbags. Sandbags felt like the last piece of tokenism from the government. They don't even work that well, not unlike the government.

"The online response has been phenomenal. Genuinely, neither of us has ever produced a piece of work that has created so much discussion online. We've had thousands of shares/retweets."

The sandbags are for sale and each one costs ##30. Forty percent of all sales will be added to the flood relief fund.

In addition to this, both Millar and Crothers will also be showing a series works from their individual art practices. Hebden Bridge based artist Aziza Mills is showcasing a new body of work including drawings and paintings of different life studies.

Stephen said, "We weren't able to get over for the exhibition ourselves but like Sir Phillip Dilley (former head of the environment agency) we'd rather be in Barbados."

Inkfolk is a four-day festival (5 times a year) of music and art, held in the old mill basement of Machpelah in Hebden Bridge. The space is used to showcase creativity to enrich the cultural scene of the town.

The exhibition is on now until Sunday 6 March. For more information go to