Intricate digital collage voted Best in Show by visitors to the 2018 exhibition
Visitors to the 2018 Columbia Threadneedle Prize at Mall Galleries were each asked to vote for their favourite work in the exhibition. They chose Emily Allchurch’s ‘Babel Britian (after Verhaecht) 2017’ to win the £10,000 prize.
Emily Allchurch builds up complex digital collages recreating Old Master paintings in a contemporary idiom. ‘Babel Britain (after Verhaecht) 2017’, adopts the Tower of Babel theme (Emily has previously used this theme to portray the city of London in 2005 and 2015), but this time as a comment on the state of Britain in its entirety. Based upon Tobias Verhaecht’s C15th painting of the Tower of Babel, displayed at the Norwich Castle Museum, her recreation depicts an increasingly divided country, on the cusp of Brexit, and at a pivotal moment in its history. Construction of this colossal tower appears unstoppable, despite the storms clouds gathering overhead, and the shadow cast by the disaster of Grenfell Tower.
This architectural collage - assembled from photographs taken around Britain in the past year - is peppered with topical markers spotted in the environment: signage, graffiti, property developers' advertising hyperbole, street art and protest banners - reinforcing the message of political and economic uncertainty, as well as the growing inequality of wealth.
Emily’s decision to display the work on a lightbox maximises its theatricality and offers a window into another world.
“This year’s exhibition attracted a larger number of votes than ever before”, commented Lewis McNaught, Director of Mall Galleries. “However, it’s clear that Emily’s most ambitious and politically pertinent work to date resonated with a majority of these visitors.”