Iain Hetherington conceives his paintings as a mode of addressing cultural hierarchies. His canvases are elusive portraits depicting not people, but the signifiers by which they are labelled by others. His recurring motifs of street gang ephemera, such as baseball caps and gold chains, speak of the hypocritical perception within art – as well as other fields – of society’s ‘disenfranchised’ elements. “Anti-elitist views can be the most elitist of all,” Hetherington says. “Social ‘inclusion’ often means telling people what they are capable or not capable of understanding.” In his Diversified Cultural Worker series, Hetherington presents thuggish apparel as empty costumes, ‘derogatory’ designations that might be worn by anyone – from yobs to museum curators – blurring the roles of common bullies and PC policy makers.

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