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“It was important to be positive”: Jeremy Deller on his New Statesman cover

The original artwork for Michael Sheen’s guest edit of the magazine, “A Dream of Britain”, references William Blake’s Albion Rose and tie-dye clothing.

By New Statesman

This week’s cover illustration is by the Turner prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller, who is best known for work that explores British history, politics and pop culture – from Sacrilege, his bouncy-castle replica of Stonehenge (2012), to Everybody in the Place, his 2018 acid-house documentary.

Deller’s map was inspired by William Blake’s ink-and-watercolour Albion Rose, a naked colossus standing in a cloud of rainbow-coloured light. “It’s the last thing you see in the current Stonehenge exhibition at the British Museum,” Deller said. “And you could argue that British psychedelia gets invented with that image. It could be an album cover from 1968, 1967.”

Working with his long-time collaborator Fraser Muggeridge (who is a descendant of the New Statesman co-founder Beatrice Webb), Deller experimented with paints to create a “blended, dynamic, fantastical” map, before intensifying the colours on screen, creating a flare over Plymouth, a burst of gold over Northern Ireland. “It’s a hopeful, optimistic interpretation,” he said, “almost tie-dye. Its the kind of image you might disappear into if you were under the influence.”

What Deller sees is different from what you see: he was diagnosed as colour-blind as a child. The same goes for British identity, he says: it is personal and shifting, and not to be dictated. Nor is this map’s beauty incidental: “It was important that it be positive, at an incredibly negative moment in European history.”

This cover was commissioned for Michael Sheen’s guest edited issue of the New Statesman, “A Dream of Britain”, on sale from 25 March.

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