What’s the Meaning of This? – John Yeadon at 70

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Renowned Coventry-based artist John Yeadon will be opening his solo show at the CET Building on 18th May, and it will feature a selective retrospective view of paintings produced in the 1980s alongside his more recent work.

John Yeadon looks back to his 1984 Dirty Tricks exhibition at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum in Coventry and compares this work with his recent paintings.

Thirty-four years ago this controversial exhibition of Yeadon’s grotesque realist, large allegorical ‘history paintings’ was received with alarm and pleasure. At the high point of AIDS paranoia and gay ‘blame’, Yeadon’s forthright, radical, critical, ‘in your face’ paintings challenged preconceptions on sexuality and society.

The Coventry Evening Telegraph declared that it was ‘Smut Not Art’, however the exhibition increased the attendance at the Herbert by 40%. Works from this exhibition were later that year exhibited at the Pentonville Gallery in London and the British Art Show of 1985. The Arts Council of Britain also bought a version of ‘The Last Chilean Supper’ one of the ‘lavatory wall smut’ paintings so derided in the Coventry Evening Telegraph and John Yeadon was featured by Emmanuel Cooper in his book the Sexual Perspective/Homosexuality and Art in the Last 100 Years in the West, published in 1986.

This exhibition not only compares Yeadon’s paintings of the 1980s with his recent work but asks the viewer to reflect on the political, ideological, social and economic changes. These past struggles and contradictions of the 80s that generated Yeadon’s work might also be relevant today.

Have things changed – is society more tolerant, more open minded, more liberal today? As Coventry approaches the City of Culture, is the city more enlightened, less provincial?

Now at the age of 70, this is the second of three ‘retrospective’ exhibitions John Yeadon is having during the next 12 months.

Three Witches, Feb – April, The National Museum of Computing, Bletchley Park.

What’s the Meaning of This, Yeadon at 70. May – June. Newsroom Gallery, CET Building, Coventry.

70 X 70, Incorporating, Unbelievable Stories and Fearful Symmetry. February 2019, Lanchester Research Gallery, Coventry University.

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