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Escif - Between Them and Us

Words:

Edd Norval

Photos:

Escif
June 6, 2022

Revolutions, loud, fiery, silent, subtle, are happening all around us, all of the time. There’s enough going on in the world that is unjust and there’s always going to be people pushing back against perceived tyranny. Through the art of Escif, we can bear witness to all of these types of revolutions through the works of an artist that acts with the critical voice of an activist.

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Many artists can fall into the simple trappings of an activist. There’s the common perception of ‘the system’, which carries with it many negative connotations. Although partially difficult to define, most people get the reference. But, many activists who act out against ‘the system’, can adopt systematic thinking to do so. They’re fighting the wrong fight, not against ‘the system’, but as a part of it.


The key to transcending these invisible bounds is to think for yourself. To imagine the problem, gather multiple perspectives and apply critical thinking. If the solution is the same as that arrived at by predominant forms of media - mainstream or otherwise - then it probably requires a return to the drawing board.


Ultimately, the point is that people, in this case artists, are as guilty as anybody else of just adding to the noise, of not provoking thought, just simply provoking. Of questioning ideas, but asking the same questions as everybody else. Escif, a Valencian street artist, comes across as somebody willing to put the time in, critically and creatively, to make us reassess our views and challenge the ills of society.

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Recently, particularly over the course of the coronavirus pandemic, certain discourses became censored to the point of satire. Any questions against the need or efficacy of a vaccine were silenced in an Orwellian manner. Truth, with a capital ‘T’, was only to be found booming, repeatedly, from official government and news sources - places and people who have, over the course of decades, been little more than a source of lies.


A dichotomy was struck and, unsurprisingly, oversimplified for our times. We only understand life in these dualistic terms and, when we don’t get fed the simple black versus white, good versus evil and superhero versus villain, the world switches off. Those clicks and views start to drop. That’s why the government and mainstream media adopted a model of storytelling that weaponised the systematic scaremongering surrounding the vaccine. Their perspective wasn't critial, wasn't democratic. It was do as I say and don't ask questions.


People were persuaded to become an enforcer for 'good' otherwise be branded as a danger to society. This brings us back to the original point. Artists should challenge the status quo, but most didn't, they reinforced it. Creative voices began to speak on behalf of the very people who have never cared about them - becoming glorified mouthpieces for Big Pharma. Or, a select few chose to oppose the vaccine, with their equally thoughtless edgy ‘sheeple’ art. More noise. More predictable behaviour.

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Throughout the course of the pandemic, Escif has created interesting and informed art that, more than questioning the vaccine or virus, questioned its place in society and the reaction of people to it. Whether that be in ideals like nudism, when he painted two nude females, free in the ocean apart from their masks, or in religion, when a priest holds aloft a QR code instead of the Eucharistic wafer.


He also pokes fun at lifestyles, like punks who, previously wore t-shirts against ‘the system’ but, in the art of Escif, in a piece titled ni dios, ni amo - neither God, nor love - chose to wear t-shirts emblazoned with Big Pharma corporations logos. In another, in place of a tattoo, the punk was receiving the vaccine. Escif neither points a finger, nor casts a moral assertion. Instead, he’s happy to observe the absurdity of the situation and distil it into powerfully painted watercolours - their muted palette and simplicity almost belying the magnitude of the themes he’s tackling.


The coronavirus pandemic isn’t the only theme to receive Escif’s treatment, but it is the one that best highlights his ability to offer an insightful critique that is willing to go beyond the monotonous dichotomies that fail to pass the litmus test of what should be considered as art - a creative manifestation of incredibly complex themes, issues and emotions. These are things that Escif understands and, he hopes, we can too by consuming his work.

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