Donald Trump in a Mexican wrestling mask, Kim Jong-un in Mickey Mouse ears and Vladimir Putin in a Pussy Riot-esque balaclava; not a standard Saturday night in with our favourite world leaders, but rather the screenprints from my ‘Masks of Fear’ collection. The work conveys Trump’s xenophobic traits against Mexican people, Kim Jong-un’s deep resentment for western society and Putin’s views on the LGBT community and the Pussy Riot movement. I like to use my work to start conversations about wealth, political and social justice. Following the results of the American election, I had too many questions, one of them being: “Who are the people behind these masks of fear running some of the most powerful countries in the world?”. It seems other people felt the same, with the Trump and Jong-un pieces selling quicker than I could have ever expected.

One of my first pieces ‘Rich Enough to be Batman?’ seems to have resonated with people in a similar way, it’s an image of the Queen wearing a batman mask and it’s still the most popular to this day. With this one I’m posing an important question: “If you had enough money would you become Batman and use your money to fight crime and protect the vulnerable? Or would you splash out on expensive things for your own pleasure?”. I find it fascinating to see how people interpret this one, some see the mask as me depicting the Queen as the devil with horns, it makes others stop and ask more questions about the role of the British Monarchy.

Being part of ‘Trumpocalypse: what now?’ anti-inauguration, a one-off exhibition at the Sacred Gallery in New York has shown me how dark satire and humour within art can unite people from across the globe. Perhaps this re-emergence of political art is the only way we’ll survive not only the next four years with Trump but also the current bureaucratic climate.

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This is the question that inspired me to make ‘Rich Enough to be Batman’: a collection of screen prints depicting the Queen wearing a Batman mask.

The prints provoke a pressing question about wealth and social contribution – “If you had enough money would you become Batman and use your money to fight crime and protect the vulnerable? Or would you splash out on expensive things for your own pleasure?”

The idea came about when I was reading the Sunday Times Rich List that is published annually. I’ve always questioned the purpose of this…is it for everyone to collectively celebrate the success of the richest people worldwide, or simply to rub our noses in the fact that the rest of us are so far behind from having such wealth?

Headlines about billionaires exploiting their wealth are not uncommon. One story that stuck with me has been the collapse of BHS and the story of Philip Green (net worth £3.6Bn) syphoning off money before it went into liquidation. Another is the story of Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley (net worth US$6Bn) who refused to pay his staff minimum wage while he went on spending sprees buying mansions, superyachts and jet planes.

Of course, not all billionaires are self-serving – Bill and Melinda Gates (net wealth US$78.5) are well known for their philanthropy and good deeds. Mark Zuckerberg and his wife recently announced they would give the majority of their wealth over the course of their lives to “advancing human potential and promoting equality”.

In a world where wealth has become concentrated into the hands of an ultra rich elite, the question remains: how rich do you need to be before you become Batman?

Photo credit: Ben Lister