David McDairmid – Rainbow Aphorisms

David McDiarmid Rainbow Aphorisms

David McDiarmid’s Rainbow Aphorisms, is a series of public works shown intermittently across sites in Clapham and across London, in partnership with Studio Voltaire and Art on the Underground. The launch event in 2017 was attended by the London Nigh Czar Amy Lame and Eleanor Pinfield from Art on the Underground.

Over the course of a year, artworks will appear at various locations including LGBTQ+ venue Two Brewers, the façade of Studio Voltaire, Clapham Tube Stations and other temporary locations.

The installation is the first of two projects that Studio Voltaire will be delivering as part of the Clapham Public Realm Programme – a new scheme initiated and supported by This is Clapham BID and Studio Voltaire in partnership with London Borough of Lambeth, with additional support from Arts Council England.

David McDiarmid (1952–1995) was an Australian artist, designer and activist, recognised for his prominent and sustained artistic engagement in issues relating to queer identity and history. Rainbow Aphorisms are a series of printed multiples, produced from 1993 until the artist’s death in 1995 of AIDS–related  illnesses. McDiarmid produced these works in response to his own, and his community’s, experience of the AIDS crisis, and the multiple forms of devastations it manifests –political, emotional, intellectual and medical.

“I wanted to express myself and I wanted to respond to what was going on and I wanted to reach a gay male audience. I wanted to express very complex emotions and I didn’t know how to do it … I was in a bit of a dilemma. I thought, well, how can I get across these complex messages. I didn’t think it was simply a matter of saying gay is good.” – David McDiarmid, 1992.

In the Rainbow Aphorisms’ series, the artist was fascinated by the power of the aphorism to contain a whole conceptual and cultural world. Bold san–serif texts are superimposed on a ground of full spectrum rainbow colours – referencing Gilbert Baker’s rainbow flag (1978) – “GIRLFRIEND, LIGHT AND SHADOWS”, “HONEY HAVE YOU GOT IT”, “I’M TOO SEXY FOR MY T–CELLS” – McDiarmid’s pithy textual observations are used to evoke the coded world of gay male subcultures in large western cities. The works employ an encoded camp and hip sensibility to convey ferociously witty messages, foregrounded by sugary colours. Whilst some works reference the virulence of tabloid newspapers responses to AIDS and become ironic statements, others are poignant and melancholic observations of the devastating effects of the disease.

This is the first solo institutional presentation of McDiarmid’s work in the UK, and the inaugural art in the public realm project delivered by Studio Voltaire in partnership with This is Clapham. The project has been mounted with the support and involvement of the David McDiarmid Estate, Sydney.