• ARTContent: Suzy Sabla

Malcolm Morley's 'Battle of Britain' & the Ongoing War on Tyranny

This week, ARTContent encourages you to take as many moments as you need for yourself. And we truly thank you and appreciate any space you've given us to read the following essay: a reflection on art, politics and humanity on today's date, November 2nd, 2020. It begins like this... 

Malcolm Morley's Battle of Britain & the Ongoing War on Tyranny

We are at the precipice of one of the most significant political moments in recent history. As we near the final hour before polls close and our fates are sealed, we reflect on the last four years and how they have come to a head in 2020, a year that has changed us all, for better or for worse. 

With the onset of a global pandemic that has both shook and strengthened human beings to the core worldwide, we are living in the shadows of war. It is a war of feuding ideologies, faiths and definitions of what it means not only to be human and surviving challenging times, but what it means to show humanity in the face of uncertainty. 

Looking through the ARTContent Archives, Malcolm Morley’s Battle of Britain shone bright and allegorical of recent months. The edition depicts the infamous WW2 air raid, which took place between July 10th and October 31st, 1940. The attempt by Germany’s Luftwaffe to disarm and demolish any remaining opposition in Great Britain is widely recognized, not simply as Germany’s failure to attain armistice, but notably, as the first major German defeat on a long road to the championship of democracy against the tyranny of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. 

Malcolm Morley,Battle of Britain(2005), Silkscreen on Arches Paper, 35.5" x 35", Edition of 175. Published by ARTContent.

Through the combination of Great Britain’s Royal Air Force’s strategic pliability and the support of the nation in numbers, the Battle of Britain resulted in the near-depletion of every last resource. Yet, amidst the smoke and flames, it was the common man that rose from the caves of Great Britain’s underground and into the shrapnel, to fortify the spirit of the nation, to keep fighting, to triumph and ultimately, to lead to the defeat of a fascist demagogue. Nearly 80 years later, 8 minutes and 46 seconds changed the course of an already heightened state of anxiety in America, when on May 25th of 2020, George Floyd was brutally murdered on the streets of Minneapolis. And like Great Britain’s defenders who emerged from the underground during the summer of 1940, American citizens — and their allies worldwide — set their fear amidst a pandemic aside, to pop out from their bubbles and to ignite a summer of protest, calling for the dismantlement of a systemically racist and oppressive society.  Innocent Black lives are repeatedly lost at the hands of law enforcement, with no signs of remorse nor consequence. Children continue to literally be torn from their families’ arms, caged by ICE and denied not only love, but decency. Bodies from poor and marginalized communities are stacked in containers behind hospitals throughout the nation, their lives reduced to mere numbers, quickly escalating towards a quarter million. The audacity for any individual — especially ones in power — to deny the blatantly broken system, which stares us in the face, as if mockingly, has only emboldened the masses as they continue to take to the streets with masks and demands for change in hand. The one’s who can still breathe are not going anywhere.  These sins will not be absolved. But it is not just America that is broken, it is the world. This week alone, we have seen the plight of Armenians through the resurgence of a modern day genocide at the hands of Azerbaijan and Turkey. We have heard the call of the Nigerian population  — who live in fear of having their human rights stripped to the point of being bare — as they beg for the abolishment of the nation’s corrupt SARS unit. We have felt the trembling of women enraged, as they watched the world moving backwards with the introduction of a new law by Poland’s political leaders to ban nearly all abortions. And still, an unruly virus that is scientifically proven to be lethal, continues to create divides between citizens worldwide, with the perpetuation of debates as trivial as whether or not wearing a mask hinders our individual freedoms.  Malcolm Morley, an Englishman who spent the latter portion of his life painting from his home in Long Island, NY said of his identity, “I don’t belong to England or America…The nationalistic aspect of art is something I don’t care for; and I rather like to think of myself as a citizen of the world.” With this in mind, peering again upon his superrealist take on the Battle of Britain, one can’t help but broaden their interpretation of an otherwise straight-forward image. What we see is a battle-ridden sky above a tanker in the waters surrounding Great Britain. But what we also know, is that the sky spans the globe uninterrupted…and be it up there, or down here, we are all human.  For this, we deserve our humanity.

Vote for humans. Vote for humanity. Vote. 

Written by Suzy Sabla  November 2, 2020

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