"Is that what life's worth nowadays. Fifty gallons of petrol?
God help us all" - Greg
‘Survivors’, Series 1, Episode 12 (1975)
In 1975, when Britain was seemingly grinding to a halt, with political
upheaval and economic gloom threatening financial and social collapse,
the BBC broadcast the incredibly successful series ‘Survivors’ (1975
-77). Based on the premise that a global pandemic could leave only a
few thousand survivors in the UK, it explored the practical and
political implications for a group of individuals attempting to survive
and ultimately rebuild society. The concepts of self-sufficiency and
commune living were extremely current both in the UK and in the US,
where there are still survivalist groups and families who choose to
disengage with contemporary aspiration and act ‘as if’,
culture-crafting and story telling – anticipating an imminent collapse
of society and constructing their lives according to this premonition.
New paintings by the artist Greg Rook explore the historical stasis
brought on by the post-apocalyptic scenario depicted in the TV series
'Survivors', and the chasm left by potential futures once imagined. In
his work, the English landscapes depicted are corrupted by the
post-apocalyptic imagery rooted in us by twentieth century history, and
the literature, television and cinema influenced by this two-way
slipstream of history and fiction. His practice explores the politics
of apocalypse: the right focuses on the battle and the final show down
that will, in the final triumph of the conservative impulse, return the
earth to the state it occupied at the beginning; the left focuses on a
New Age, where there will be no final battle, only a glorious
transition to a future of sheer bliss. In this system there is no evil,
only the perception of evil and therefore perception is all that there
is to change. The right wing imagines perfection only in the past, the
left in what’s to come.
Much like the idealistic satire of self-sufficiency and sustainability
presented in ‘The Good life’ (1975), broadcast in Britain at the same
time as ‘Survivors’, Rook's work invites us to question our own
position in relation to the fragmented realities of his paintings.
Borrowing from historical aspects of landscape painting and shared
fears of post-apocalyptic narratives, Rook, not only reminds us of the
lives we dreamed of in the 60’s and 70’s, but also the undetermined
future unfolding in the pastoral lands of his works.
“You realize that our mistrust of the future makes it hard to give up
― Chuck Palahniuk, Survivor