Hew Locke’s mesmerising photograph is one of many works we are pleased to loan to Ways of Seeing, a collaborative project with Waltham Forest Borough of Culture 2019 launching this month.

Serpent of the Nile (Sejant) by Hew Locke

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About our Featured Work
Serpent of the Nile (Sejant) is one of several works from Hew Locke’s How Do You Want Me?, a series he produced in 2007 exploring ideas of power through a collection of large-scale portrait photographs. In each one, Locke depicts himself in the guise of corrupt kings, rulers and tyrants. Here, he poses as a Dowager Empress in a ball-dress festooned with plastic flowers, baby dolls, and miniature tigers, beneath a royal coat of arms. Look closely and you will see the artist’s eyes looking back at you.

Growing up in British Guyana, Locke was struck by the power of the Queen’s image and how it was used to promote a set of values and beliefs. He was drawn to the excess of jewels, the combination of glamour and power. Serpent of the Nile (Sejant) invites us to consider personal power. In today’s society, do you get to choose who you are, or do others decide for you? Referencing national identity, personal fantasy, and socio-political caricature, Locke questions how Afro-Caribbean culture is perceived in western society. Lost under layers of costume and accessories, Locke artfully parodies the weight of history and stereotype bearing down on the individual.

About the artist
Hew Locke was born in Edinburgh and lived in Georgetown, Guyana from 1966 to 1980. He studied at Falmouth College of Art and at the Royal College of Art. Exhibiting his work extensively in the UK and abroad, he challenges traditional representations of power – whether by painting over photographs of public statues of military or political figures, or reflecting on the ownership of wealth by creating drawn interventions on to former share certificates. Hew Locke: Here’s the Thing, a major survey of the artist’s work features at the Ikon Gallery, Birmingham until 2 June, after which the exhibition tours to the USA.

Ways of Seeing: Government Art Collection in Waltham Forest Borough of Culture
From April to August this year, Serpent of the Nile (Sejant) will be on public view at Walthamstow Central Library as part of Ways of Seeing, a collaborative project between the Government Art Collection and Waltham Forest Borough of Culture 2019.

68 artworks by 33 artists have been selected from the Government Art Collection for display across the borough in unexpected spaces. Related to ideas around production, landscape and nature, art works connect with the Borough’s rich history of creativity and its mix of urban spaces, waterways and forest.