Most people will agree that art and politics go together hand in hand. Historically, art has been often used as a commentary on politics. From centuries-old paintings of famous battles and wars, to modern age craftivism and political murals, art has and still is an influential medium for communicating political and social ideas and an alternative way for people to engage in protest.
Even in our digital age, art and politics still share a close relationship. The invention of computers and the internet has enabled many to create and disseminate art at a scale that would have previously been thought unimaginable. The rise of social media has facilitated a new sphere for people, especially young people, to engage with issues and ideas in an accessible way for most.
Meg Mcwilliam is a fashion student from Darlington, who creates vibrant collages in response to political affairs and social issues in the UK and around the world, with the hope of reaching out to the younger generations and breaking the wall of political apathy. In this article, Meg tells us why she creates political art and why it is crucial to communicate political ideas and issues to the public.
What motivated you to create political art?
I was getting really frustrated and angry at the government and how they were dealing with things. I didn’t know how to express this at first and it was quite overwhelming. One day I thought I’d make some art and it really popped off. That’s when I realised perhaps this was the way forward.
What is your creative process?
I get really, really annoyed and just completely vent all my ideas onto a page. I always try and add a comedic satirical element as I don’t take myself seriously and don’t want to. I think it’s important to not lose yourself in all of this shit the Tories have created because then I would be so dull.
Which of your pieces are your favourite or mean the most to you?
The “Snatching milk and meals” piece does mean a lot to me as it’s the piece that started it all, so it’ll always hold a special place in my heart. Another piece that means a lot to me is “stop killing black trans women” as it’s a message that saddens me every time. I found it deeply upsetting to find out that the average life expectancy of a black transgender woman is only 35 [years], I feel as though not enough people pay attention to this statistic and it’s honestly saddening.
What do you think about the current state of UK politics?
It’s an absolute shambles, I’m honestly scared we’re going to turn into a police state. The way the pandemic has been handled has really highlighted how evil and greedy they are. Everything that’s coming to light now is a direct result of 10 years of Tory rule.
I hate that politics is seen as a privilege to be involved in.
Disengagement has always been an issue in politics, and a tough one to fight. A 2019 audit by the Hansard Society paints a pessimistic picture of political engagement in the UK. It found that 47% of the British public feel they have no influence at all over national decision-making. Compared to 2018, more people say that they are not interested in politics at all and do not know anything about it.
Furthermore, a 2021 parliament briefing paper highlighted that young people in particular are less likely to register to vote and participate political activities, with women and ethnic minorities also at the lower end of the political engagement scale. When asked about this issue, Meg’s answers echo the above findings and sentiment.
As a young person, do you feel like you have a voice when it comes to politics and your rights? Do you feel heard?
Meg: I feel heard by my generation but the older generation not so much, I feel as though they see us younger lot as whiney when in reality, they’ve fucked us all over majorly and we’re all suffering from it now. The government don’t listen to us either – it’s like us vs the world at the moment, but I feel that my generation could be the start of change.
What do you hope to achieve through your art?
Meg: I really want to get the younger generation interested in politics, I know for me the long articles can be really boring and complicated. I hate that politics is seen as a privilege to be involved in and I believe if it’s simply reserved for the middle class, we will have no change at all. It’s very important for a diverse range of people to be involved and to understand.
What change would you like to see, on a political and societal level, in the next few years?
Meg: First of all, get the Tories out now! And yes, I mean Starmer too. I think settling for someone just because they’re a better alternative is a bit of a stupid logic. Why should I settle for someone whose morals don’t align with mine? I think Labour could be a really good party if it wasn’t full of red conservatives, transphobes, and “#girlbosses”. I’m hoping in the future things may get better as a lot of my generation is left wing and do want progressive change, so don’t let me down please!
Is there anything else you would like to share about your art (or anything else)?
I’m hoping in the next few months to sell some more prints to sell to charity, especially my collaboration with Peggy’s (the bar) which I’ll be donating half the proceeds to an anti sexual-violence charity.
What advice would you give other young people who are thinking about engaging in activism using art?
Do it! Honestly not only is it therapeutic but it’s a good and more relevant way to spread the word especially with how popular social media is. I think using art as a form on activism is also accessible to people who perhaps don’t feel comfortable protesting or can’t and can overcome that barrier between having a voice but also not having to go to extreme lengths to get heard.
Meg Mcwilliam does lot of work for the Terrance Higgins trust which is an AIDS charity. She often has pieces for sale on her website (digital copies), and she donates proceeds to the charity. You can take a look at her website at https://www.megmcart.com/ and purchase her work online. You can also find Meg on Instagram at @megmcart