There are so many issues plaguing the world at the moment. It feels like it’s the worst it’s ever been. But maybe it’s always like this; the belief that past troubles pale compared to those experienced in the present. British pop artist, Charlie Haydn Taylor, can give you both perspectives. Literally. His art covers a wide range of subjects within the social, political and psychological realms, using digital collage to show the present, and the past, side by side.
Chatting with Charlie, it’s hard to believe he’s in his mid-twenties, wise as he is for his age. His interest in exploring the past and examining it in the context of the present, hasn’t come about because he’s jaded or bitter, or even because he’s trying to agitate. “I’m not an activist,” he says. “Actually, I’m quite centrist. People assume I’m more liberal because of the topics in my work. I’m just interested in exploring the issues affecting people. That could be misogyny, climate change, mental health. And then I like to look at how those same issues might have appeared in the past.”
This raises two questions for the viewer. Looking back at past events, with the knowledge you have now, how would you do things differently? And by seeing scenes from history juxtaposed alongside what’s happening in the here and now, can you gain enough insight not to make the same mistakes twice? Alternatively, maybe you’ll just notice things about the past or present, now they’re showing up in the same artwork that were obscured before.
“I love art history,” says Charlie, when asked about the references, motifs and fine details that are woven into his saturated, layered and carefully composed work. When asked about “The Divided Mind”, a scene featuring artwork by Francis Bacon, he explains, “I like how figures from the past can be a mirror to show us how we consume culture. I come from a family interested in people. People — individuals — are what make up society, not groups.”