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I have not been an activist artist all my life. I was at Guildford School of Art in the 1960's taking a Fine Art course. Then for about a year & a half, I did various jobs including a season of driving five minibus camping tours from London UK to Greece and back. After this I trained as Conservator/Restorer of paintings at the Tate Gallery, leading to a 35 year career there.
Compulsory retirement at 60 motivated me to create my own art to keep occupied. Some years before retirement, I did small drawings & paintings of landscapes & townscapes, some of which were exhibited.
The on-going Balkan war in the 90's is when the activist art began & continued into the new millenium, inspired by the atrocities reported in the media & confirmed during protest rally speeches & demonstrations in London. Other events unfolded. the War on Terror, World Financial Crisis and Climate Change. plus the censorship, misinformation & surrounding lies. Investigative journalism from alternative media, documentary films, helped high-light these. The challenge was to try and use art as a medium. Many artists at the begining of their careers have been reluctant to tackle controversial & emotional subjects which are not considered 'proper art'. Activist art has a significant place in the history of art and in awareness of the young generation.
I became interested & motivated in trying to create this art because of family background and upbringing. The family were quite radical & progressive, sympathetic to the Quakers ( I was educated at a co-educational Quaker boarding school from the age of 12). My father was a second world war conscientious objector & a grandmother had been a suffragette in the early part of the 20th Century. An uncle (John Barclay) who had been on the front line in WW1, spent the rest of his life helping children affected war. Changes in in the 1950's & 1960's, made radical influences in my life. The Cold War, nuclear proliferation & testing, and the Vietnam War, politicised many of my generation. An uncle by marriage, was a founder member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) & my sister was chair of a London CND regional group. At this time I went on many CND & anti-Vietnam war demonstration, including the famous annual Easter four day Aldermaston Marches.1958-1963
Below - Chris Holden (kneeling centre left) in 1960 on one of the famous Annual Easter Alsermaston Marches against nuclear weapons, from the Atomic Weapons Research Establihsment in Berkshire to London. - c 52 miles/ 83 kms. Over 40% of the marchers were under 21.
Chris Holden (left) with Tony Benn former MP (centre) at the Cenotaph in Whitehall London on the 17 August 2009, reading out the names of British soldiers killed in Afghanistan since 2001.
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