Tony Benn is my muse
Wednesday April 27, 2005
Lucian Freud may have been inspired recently by Kate Moss, but the latest celebrity muse is a rather more unlikely figure: Tony Benn. The former MP has become the subject not simply of a painting but of a whole exhibition, ironically entitled Power, by the political artist Tracey Moberly. But don't worry - you won't be confronted with life-size images of the craggy, veteran leftwinger (Benn has just celebrated his 80th birthday) in the nude. Power is primarily an aural exhibition.
Benn on a 24-hour loop might be some people's idea of a nightmare, but for Moberly, who grew up in the Welsh valleys, he is a hero. "I always thought he was a fantastic politician," she says. "He has a great sense of fairness and of what is right."
The exhibition also includes three large, lit-up canvasses hung in the huge windows of the Old Street gallery in London. These depict voice portraits or sonograms of Benn quotes chosen for their personal significance to Moberly. "Tony's words are as interesting and topical today. I picked out three quotes that had their own relevance to me."
Moberly had the idea of using sonograms after Benn appeared on her radio programme, The Late, Late Breakfast Show on Resonance FM. When she was transferring the live interview from minidisc, a computer-generated image appeared and it struck her that this would be "a beautiful way to represent the man".
It is fitting Benn should be depicted in this form: "In the work I do, spoken word is everything," he says.
"He is his voice," says Moberly. "His voice is unique. I think he speaks the language of all people, but young people specifically, even though he's 80."
Facing the entrance to Hoxton Square, 340 Old Street is well-placed to reach a young audience. Moberly believes that even if people only catch a couple of sentences these will have resonance with their lives. "Even putting up the artwork, there was a line of eight people watching me," she says.