Glenn Ibbitson: The Surveillers and the Surveilled; Moth Watercolours


crypsis   /ˈkrip-səs   noun: the ability of an organism to conceal itself especially from a predator by having a colour, pattern, and shape that allows it to blend into the surrounding environment.

Though 2020 marks the 71st anniversary of the publication of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four, it’s central concept remains, ominously, as relevant as ever. How is the artist/ dissident to express unpalatable truths and criticisms of contemporary society and the state apparatus whilst still being able to function as one of its citizens; free from official persecution?

 When I first read this masterwork as a teenager, it did seem as if western society at least, had insured itself against the risks underlined through its pages. Now it seems that perverse humanity has collectively snatched defeat from the jaws of what was perhaps in retrospect a mirage of victory. 

82178654_3116177191744361_7926946608212606976_o6079 Smith W.


This series of moth paintings is an attempt to find an imagery to incorporate a notion of surreptitious discourse within mechanisms of crypsis. A dissident giving voice to his or her ideas publicly, rather than merely in secret, by appearing to be saying one thing, but smuggling through a different subtext under a surface cover to convey a quite different meaning. 

  The visual deceptions observed in the structure, patterning and coloration present in British moths provided me with visual material to use as metaphor for operating under the radar; fully functioning in plain view, but hidden from all but the closest scrutiny. An inversion on the idea of sleight of hand; not by distracting the eye away from the real subject, but rather fooling it into a misreading of evidence presented directly.

Julia 2Julia [alt. version 1]

Julia 1Julia [alt. version 2]



  However, as Winston Smith was to discover to his cost, that repressive state is equally adept at employing the same strategies. The small piece of raised bark on that tree trunk, the lichen on that stone wall, the peeling paint on the window frame; even the bird dropping on that nettle leaf. Watching.. Through each day, wherever we are, our movements are being monitored by small pairs of eyes hidden behind sophisticated crypsis. The state too, is hidden in plain sight; monitoring our tracks through actual and cyberspace… 

Big BrotherBig Brother




Do it to Julia“Do it to Julia”

All watercolour on paper 42.5×61      All images ©Glenn Ibbitson 2020


2 thoughts on “Glenn Ibbitson: The Surveillers and the Surveilled; Moth Watercolours

  1. Susannah Oliver

    Aha, Glenn, now I understand much better! I think ‘6079 Smith W.’ and ‘Julia [Alt version 2.]’ work best, as the ‘human’ is better disguised / camouflaged and yet still immediately recognisable / discoverable. As you were so affected by ‘1984’, so was I by ‘The Machine Stops’ E. M. Forster, perhaps that says something about my approach…? I found this interesting:

    Liked by 1 person

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