IT’S been perfect timing for the UK premiere of Nicola Green’s exhibition, which opened last Friday, just days before Barack Obama’s second presidential inauguration.
Had he not won last year’s election, or indeed had he failed to clinch his first term back in 2008, her series of silkscreen prints would have documented dashed hopes rather than the realisation of a once seemingly impossible dream.
But, as history has decreed he will spend a further four years in the White House, her works are a story of determination and possibility – not just for one man but for a more tolerant world.
Green made six trips to America to follow Obama on his first presidential campaign trail, filling sketchbooks, collecting magazine articles and scribbling notes. Some of these appear in the exhibition’s first of two rooms, artefacts displayed in glass cabinets, a splash of red, white and blue against the gallery’s muted tones.
Her observations make fascinating reading. Painting a picture of the future president in words, they evoke Fiona Banner’s wordscapes. “Bony hands. Moving everywhere. Pointing. At us, at himself, at the sky [...] Most defining feature and then his smile”.
Hands too appear in the seven finished artworks, each one symbolising a single day in the campaign. A clenched fist in gold leaf in Day 2: Struggle, a circle of different gestures in Day One: Light, Obama’s face and outstretched palms in Day Six: Sacrifice/ Embrace.
Green’s is a deeply political work but it is not party political. It is both optimistic and questioning.
Just what, you are left wondering, will happen on Day 8?