“Reality is absolutely real,” slurs Dion Kitson, demonstrating his finest Francis Bacon impression. Dion, like Bacon, loves the idea of the ego of the artist, the ‘I can do anything’ attitude, the passion and ambition that drives creation and the creation of good art. Make your studio look like an artist’s studio and art will happen, this mythic obsession that carries an infectious belief in what he does and how he does it, constantly working within those walls to attack class division and Brexit delusion. Dion approaches his art, institution, and environment with a self-confessed schoolboy enthusiasm and rebellious streak, pushing to foster new and exciting opportunities, who can be bothered to wait around?
There is a deep love of British culture, a pride in the idiosyncrasies of Britishness, of working-class pastimes, a nostalgia for the seaside and the pub. This is seen through his creating a symphony of those sounds of Britain, of drinking tea amongst a cacophony of other such noises, it will chart the history of our fair isles, at once quaint and boisterous, from the first sound to the last. Along one wall of the studio stands a record player built into a table, with a wheel of edam acting as an LP, imprinted with the label from Charles and Diana’s wedding album. Operating in the bizarre, national consciousness, feeding into this fascination of all things blighty, there is an irrepressible humour that runs through Dion’s art. Armed with a wicked tendency for puns, Dion’s humour infiltrates his ‘Brexit Sucks’ sticks of rock that leave a sour taste and the ashtrays that bear Farage’s façade. Again, this ego resurfaces, with his own face burnt into prawn crackers and littering a mocked-up tabloid front page; is he self-obsessed or saying something else, or both?
Running parallel to this punny business, there is an anger and a hatred of what this country is doing to itself. Dion is going after the people who are leading us into this fresh nightmare, his ‘12 angry men of Britain’ are those wealthy, powerful Brexiteers with unprecedented control over the most vulnerable in society. Mike Ashley owns the high street, Tim Martin rules over cheap drinking, Nigel Farage and Tommy Robinson continue to spit fear and vitriol to those worst equipped to bat it away. It is immensely worrying to Dion, who can clearly see the impact this will have on his native Dudley and beyond, who finds solace in the bombast of American politics and their pop-culture president, easy to ridicule, and disconnected enough from British life that genuine dread doesn’t seep in.
“Do you adore Birmingham?” he asks, before waxing lyrically over a pint to the joys of multiculturalism, professing to having moments where he is overwhelmed by the brilliance of the second city. The love is clear, the anger is clear, the ambition is clear, and the belief is ever present in the art of Dion Kitson.