Luke Cornish (E.L.K) is renowned for his hyper realistic stencil works, each with a power and intensity that is almost visceral. In these works – a series of decorated riot shields – the artist explores protest, of all forms, and the rise of discontent the world was grappling with before the inertia of the current pandemic.
The individual works serve, not only as a reflection on, but a reflection of the fight for justice across all walks of life. From the Black Lives Matter protests, to climate action, women marching the world over, the fight against extremist ideology, corrupt government, fascist control, populism – the list is endless.
The artist explains, “I’ve been working on this series of art works on riot shields since the start of the year, inspired by work from my last exhibition Don’t Shoot The Messenger (held in February, 2021). The show featured stencils on weaponry and bank notes and three shields, so it was an easy continuation of that .”
Described by Wikipedia as:
A lightweight protection device, typically deployed by police and some military organizations, riot shields are typically long enough to cover an average-sized person from the top of the head to the knees. They are generally intended to be used in riot control to protect the user from melee attacks with blunt or edged weapons and also thrown projectiles, or non-lethal weapons such as rubber bullets and water cannons. They can also be used as short-ranged melee weapons to push back the opposing force. Riot shields are used in almost every country with a standardized police force and are produced by many companies.
While riot shields are shown to be effective in protecting the bearers and preventing protesters from breaking through police lines, their use may actually encourage people to throw objects.
To many, they are a symbol of authoritarian control and aggressive police/ military action to suppress demonstration. To Cornish, they are a platform, a powerful canvas from which to ensure we see the horror the world is facing.