Two south-London ladies are taking their own personal political stance: using art. Chris Waywell meets them.
‘A woman come along this morning, and went: “Oh look, target practice,”’ says Sonia Pettifer. That’s not generally considered a good reaction to a market stall, but Pettifer’s offering is a bit different. Among the vintage clothes and collectible knick-knacks of Greenwich’s Clocktower Market, Pettifer and her friend Libby Sheppard present their unique political artworks. A lugless David Cameron (‘He has no ears when it comes to the poor of this country’) with the flat dead black eyes of a shark can grace your des res for a mere £15. Larger pieces, such as a brilliant examination of political figure-wagging only run to around 60 quid. They’re all great, and prompted by the social inequalities of our times.
‘It’s my gut reaction to it all,’ says Sonia. ‘The people struggling, the misery – it’s all around you. There’s no fighting back from the little man. Rather than just get angry about it, I thought: Why not turn it into images?’
Their works have the immediacy of great folk art: you can see exactly what is going on and who the people are, but the unschooled technique and inclusion of impassioned polemic on the canvases give them a raw impact. If there’s Gilray and Gerald Scarfe in there, there’s also a bit of trade union banners, Brian Haw’s Westminster protest and Belfast murals.
Libby and Sonia also have a unique collaborative style: ‘The words just flow,’ says Sonia. ‘I can’t read or write well. I just hear these words, and Libby writes them down, because I can’t spell. She doesn’t interfere with the flow. We work together on it.’ ‘We work all night,’ adds Libby. Libby also paints herself. ‘She’s excellent,’ says Sonia. ‘If I say to her, “Can you do a Miliband?” she’ll do a Miliband. She’s very good at portraits.’
In an age of micro-managed political images and blockbuster shows of folk art, Libby and Sonia are on a lonely path, but it’s what they see and hear and feel. And it’s fresh and genuine.
‘I’ve got so much passion in me,’ says Sonia. ‘I don’t want to be angry. I’m not mastering the brush: it’s the issues. It’s a tiny fight back.’
Sonia on the party leaders:
Cameron ‘He’s just for the rich: he isn’t for the poor. The things they’ve done in the last five years to people on benefits is disgusting.’
Miliband ‘He ain’t got no backbone. The Labour Party’s just not Labour any more.’
Clegg ‘He sold his soul to the Devil, teaming up with that lot. He let the students down bad. He’ll team up with anyone, won’t he?’
Farage ‘He’s blue because he’s cold, isn’t he? I don’t like him at all. He frightens me. He’s whipping up all this hatred. They say he’s not doing well in London, but I don’t believe that. He can’t bear any criticism.’
Libby and Sonia are at Greenwich’s Clocktower Market every Saturday. Paintings from £15.
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