El Dorado

Hew Locke was raised in Guyana, a former British colony and the only English speaking country on the South American mainland. As a child he would fantasise about discovering the golden city of El Dorado that was associated for centuries with an abundance of gold and precious stones. The city was believed by Europeans to exist in the jungles of South America; as a consequence many searched for the treasures of the ‘city of gold’, in quests that ended in the loss of countless lives during the on-going grab for land and wealth in the New World. Locke’s image of our serving monarch, El Dorado, is a sculpture peppered with protruding plastic swords and draped with jewels that conceal the face like a creature colonising a nest. For the artist, the work is partly inspired by the venerated Catholic Spanish statues of the Virgin Mary, including La Macarena of Seville. He explains “I am attracted to this plastic stuff, which is after all designed to be attractive. I like how it looks. It is aspirational. I have tried to take the cheapest thing I can find and work it to make it look precious. The irony here is that the material I am using – such as the golden plastic toy weapons and jewellery – are trying to look expensive.” He adds: “I am not making a critique of mass consumerism – I am just acknowledging it as a reality of our life today. I am very conscious of the fact that this work could not have existed 20 years ago, as these huge amounts of plastic foreign imports were not available in such profusion.”


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