Brian Jungen is part of a younger generation of artists who have emerged over the last few years amid an active scene in Vancouver, Canada. He was born in Fort St John, British Columbia to a First Nations mother and a Swiss-Canadian father. This dual heritage, and the tensions and links between aboriginal traditions, pop culture and consumerism, often provide the themes and subject matter for his work.
Characterised by a startling use of materials and meticulous craftsmanship, Jungen transforms everyday objects into thought-provoking works which bring together the contemporary and the historic, the material and the spiritual.
For Tate Modern’s Level 2 Gallery, Jungen has created an enormous red flag constructed from an assortment of mass-produced materials: bags, hats, clothes, small plastic kitchen tools, umbrellas and other things are stitched together into a patchwork quilt. Inspired in part by Jungen’s interest in Greenpeace, and in particular the banners made by the members of this group, the colour and form of Jungen’s flag also refers directly to the workers’ anthem The Red Flag, originally written as a poem by Jim Connell, an Irish political activist of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.
The Red Flag
The people's flag is deepest red, It shrouded oft our martyred dead, And ere their limbs grew stiff and cold, Their hearts blood dyed its every fold. (chorus)
Then raise the scarlet standard high. Within its shade we'll live and die, Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer, We'll keep the red flag flying here.
Look round, the Frenchman loves its blaze, The sturdy German chants its praise, In Moscow's vaults its hymns are sung Chicago swells the surging throng.
It waved above our infant might, When all ahead seemed dark as night; It witnessed many a deed and vow, We must not change its colour now.
It well recalls the triumphs past, It gives the hope of peace at last; The banner bright, the symbol plain, Of human right and human gain.
It suits today the weak and base, Whose minds are fixed on pelf and place To cringe before the rich man's frown, And haul the sacred emblem down.
With heads uncovered swear we all To bear it onward till we fall; Come dungeons dark or gallows grim, This song shall be our parting hymn.
Jim Connell (1889)
The exhibition Brian Jungen is fifth in a series of exhibitions conceived by Jessica Morgan, Curator, Contemporary Art, Tate Modern, and is curated by Jessica Morgan, assisted by Amy Dickson, Assistant Curator, Tate Modern.