Zoon Politikon

Zoon Politikon (or political animal) is a reflection on human individuality. The title refers to a passage by Karl Marx who explains that a human who tries to become an individual can only do so by being part of a society. To portray this idea, artist Ronald McMorran created a series of paintings of imagined or realistic moments in men and women's lives.

It achieves one thing marvellously: it is a chance to approach the artist and exchange points of view.

The images range from an aggressive looking man (in fact, a politician) devouring his own hands, to an innocent woman cutting a watermelon. The colours are bright and lively on one side, on the other (the side of the politicians) there is an intriguing darkness. A round through the room definitely awoke my curiosity but the exhibition seemed to lack something: context, a small introduction to what we were seeing, some sort of explanation.

The connection between the paintings, the title of the exhibition, and the artist's intention was only clear when I asked the artist himself. In his words, each painting is a meditation on the artist and individuals trying to get out of society. It tries to illustrate the intention of a person to become an individual, and its consequences. This last thought is beautifully summarized in a painting titled ‘The Departure’. In it a woman sits in shadow with her head lowered and unable to look at the figure that is about to leave her. The figure is made only of light and it walks to the unknown, perhaps to a brighter future. What are the consequences of his departure?

The concept of the exhibition is quite attractive and it could lead to very interesting discussions; especially when contrasting images of daily people, with those of politicians like the cannibalistic portrait titled Boris. This shows the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, devouring one hand with blood around his mouth. According to Mcmorran, this is a reference to a speech that Johnson gave on greed and the benefits of being greedy.

Nevertheless, without an introduction, the paintings and overall idea of the exhibition seem disjointed. What does a political being have to do with everyday scenes that do not specifically reference politics? How does the portrait of a young man holding sunflowers relates to Marx's explanation of what a zoon politikon is? What is the connection between individuality and a painting of Margaret Thatcher?

McMarron creates a window to frozen moments that invite us to reflect on everyday life of the individual and that of a society organised through politics. Although this is a fascinating idea and one that can be discussed in-depth, the lack of context might put some people off. At the same time it achieves one thing marvellously: it is a chance to approach the artist and exchange points of view.

Reviews by Natalia Equihua

Edinburgh College of Art

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The Blurb

Debut solo show, exploring human nature and the mind’s relationship with the perception of natural phenomena. Sit down just now, what is it you are really experiencing and perceiving? What language really is there to describe it? How can you be sure there is no intention behind the intention with which you act and feel? Hiding and to all obvious sense and purpose apparently silent? ‘Man is in the most literal sense of the word a zoon politikon, not only a social animal, but an animal which can develop into an individual only in society’ (Karl Marx). www.rolandmcmorran.com.