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


Room103 @Oxford University

fb Orwell

Programme cover and introductory page for


fb1fb3fb2fb dfb aOct. 10th: Carole Cadwalladr and Fintan O’Toole in fine, provocative form at this evening’s talk ORWELL AND JOURNALISM at The Sultan Nazrin Shah Centre, Worcester College, Oxford University.


Room 103 @ the Foyer of the English Faculty Building, Manor Road, OX1 3QU.

Contributions by Paul Steffan Jones, Garry Barker, Tony Baker, Nigel Pugh, Mark Elmore, Liam Ainscough, Alan Pergusey, Glenn Ibbitson.

This event was organised by Dr. Lisa Mullen and Dr. David Dwan


ROOM 103 @Oxford University: The Artist’s Videos

Glenn Ibbitson barcode poster

A week-long event in Oxford exploring the legacy and impact of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Artists videos from Room 103 will be shown at the evening talk: ORWELL AND JOURNALISMA conversation about contemporary journalism and politics with
Carole Cadwalladr – winner of the Orwell Prize 2018 and Fintan O’Toole – winner of the Orwell Prize 2017
Organised by Dr. Lisa Mullen.
Video contributions from Kath Wilkinson, Sonia Boué, Kerry Baldry, Emma Saunders, Dave and Will Stephens, Glenn Ibbitson.
10 October 5.30pm-8pm
The Sultan Nazrin Shah Centre, Worcester College, Oxford OX1 2HB

Room 103 @Oxford University

A week-long event in Oxford exploring the legacy and impact of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Room 103A fb


10 October 5.30pm-8pm

The Sultan Nazrin Shah Centre, Worcester College, Oxford OX1 2HB

A conversation about contemporary journalism and politics with

Carole Cadwalladr – winner of the Orwell Prize 2018

Fintan O’Toole – winner of the Orwell Prize 2017


Showing short films by Kath Wilkinson, Sonia Boué, Kerry Baldry,  Dave and Will Stephens, Emma Saunders, Glenn Ibbitson


11 October 2019 9am-5pm

The Nash Room, Worcester College, Oxford OX1 2HB

9.15 Greeting 

9.20 Jean Seaton, ‘Orwell and Fear’ 

9.40 Joshua Dienstag, ‘Orwell’s Pessimism’

10.40-11.10 Coffee Break

11.10 Anna Vaninskaya, ‘Speaking Truth to Power: George Orwell and Victor Serge’ 

11.30 Dorian Lynskey, ‘Orwellspeak: How the Language of Nineteen Eighty-Four Infiltrated Politics and Journalism in the 1950s

12.30-1.30 Lunch

1.30 Joanna Kavenna, ‘How to Live in an Unreal Reality’: The Power of Fiction in a Post-Truth Age’ 

1.50 Victoria Bateman, ‘Speaking Naked Truth to Power’

2.40-3.10 Coffee Break

3.10 Nathan Waddell: ‘Oceania’s Dirt: Mess, Filth and Nausea in Nineteen Eighty-Four’ 

3.30 Greg Claeys, ‘Orwell for the Twenty-First Century’

4.20. Concluding Remarks


Room 103 def fb

10-17th October 9am-7pm

Foyer of the English Faculty Building, Manor Road, OX1 3QU

A selection of art inspired by Orwell’s novel by Tony Baker, Alan Pergusey, Paul Steffan Jones, Nigel Pugh, Liam Ainscough, Garry Barker, Mark Elmore, Kath Wilkinson, Glenn Ibbitson.

Free Entry


George Orwell Studies: vol.3, #1


George Orwell Studies:  volume 3, number 1  2018

ISSN 2399-1267

Includes the article; ‘Room 103’: Orwell’s Influence on Contemporary Visual Art -by Glenn Ibbitson.  p70-82

Adapted from a presentation as part of the third George Orwell Studies Conference, held at Goldsmiths, University of London on 30th May, 2018.

The issue is guest edited by Professor Tim Crook, who generously introduces my contribution as follows

Glenn Ibbitson, in presenting to the conference a paper titled ‘Room 103: Orwell’s Influence on Contemporary Visual Art’, argues that so many visual artists identify with Orwell because his work powerfully advances the principle of the freedom of the individual to think independently. Ibbitson curates an online platform ‘Room 103’ where artists engaged in visual media can present work inspired by ‘Orwellian’ themes. And his paper bristles with an Orwellian mischief: ‘Now you may justifiably label me as the artist who put the lie in artistic licence and to that charge I plead guilty, but only to the extent that Orwell himself ascribed fictional, nefarious activities to his room on that same corridor. We all crave a catchy title after all.’

Artists whose contributions to ‘Room 103’ were cited in the presentation are:

Tony Baker,

Paul Steffan Jones

Antoni Garcia Serrat

Kerry Baldry

Mary M. Mazziotti

Paul Salt and Sue Shaw

Alan Pergusey

Nigel Pugh

Liam Ainscough

Garry Barker

Dave Stephens

Dalton Desborough

Emma Saunders

Clare Ferguson Walker

Kath Wilkinson

Saul Hay Gallery, Manchester


The issue also includes contributions by

Tim Crook: Professor Departmentof Media, Communications and Culture at Goldsmiths, University of London

Len Platt: Professor of Modern Literatures, Goldsmiths, University of London

Richard Lance Keeble: Professor of Journalism, University of Lincoln

Douglas Kerr:  Hon. Professor of English, University of Hon Kong; Hon. Research Fellow at Birkbeck College, University of London

Nicola Rossi: Novelist. MA in Digital Media, Goldsmiths, University of London

Darcy Moore: Deputy Principal, Secondary School in New South Wales. Post-graduate teacher education at University of Wollongong

Martin Stollery:  Independent Scholar. ‘Alternative Empires: European Modernist Cinemas and Cultures of Imperialism’ [pub. 2000]

Book reviews by Elinor Taylor, Peter Stansky, John Newsinger, Paul Anderson, Nick Hubble

Grateful thanks to the editors of George Orwell Studies.

Room 103 @Studio24 Mabgate, Leeds.

b vid1Room 103: Studio24 poster design by Tony Baker. video still Kath Wilkinson

Every Northerner knows that one should always balance attention paid to both Lancashire and Yorkshire equally!  After an inaugural and well received exhibition of Room 103 at Saul Hay Gallery in Manchester, a revised selection of work was presented for a White Rose audience at Studio 24 in Leeds. Tony Baker took the lead in organising this show, ensuring that the Yorkshire dates followed closely behind Saul Hay, so that I could bring all the selected work across the Pennines together, instead of sending the work back to the artists and then ask for it back in a month’s time or so. [Note to self: arrange more shows like this which run one immediately after the other!]b S2180016As a child, I spent a lot of time around Mabgate, as my maternal grandparents lived on the tenth floor of Cherry Court Tower at the north end of the street. At that time, the factory’s were huge; dark and glowering. They exhaled metallic odours and poured chemicals into the partially subterranean beck running parallel to the lane. Their interiors remained a mystery to me.b ceil4

b ceil2

b building1Studio 24 is housed in an industrial building of the type with which Orwell would have been familiar from his journeys through the North chronicled in “The Road to Wigan Pier”.  It retains its authentic working space. Bricks arc in shallow vaults to form a ceiling sparsely supported by cast iron columns. This is crossed by a grid of exposed conduit and strip lighting which illuminates the open, near-square space below.


Dick 3Dick Durkin: Orgreave I &II

b gi GbGlenn Ibbitson: “England, Your England”.  Garry Barker: “Eye See You..”

b ap jtx3Alan Pergusey  &  Jonathan Turner

Saul Hay had been located in a similar post-industrial inner city area in Castlefields, the cradle of the industrial revolution by the Bridgewater Canal basin, but was rejuvenated as a refined white space gallery interior. Studio 24 was by contrast a run of clean white display panels across brick walls of peeling paint. I was interested to see the aesthetic effect of these surroundings on the artworks themselves.b amm tb beautyJoe Kelly Ormeshar     Aamta Tul Waheed    Tony Baker

b lb gi copyLiam Burke:          Glenn Ibbitson: Barcode/ Target series

imageJoe Kelly Ormeshar: “KO” series

Tony had created for his students on the Art Enterprise degree course at the Leeds City College University Centre a module designed to produce a visual response to the themes of dystopia, surveillance, identity and dictatorship that lie at the heart of much of Orwell’s writing. These students provided  work which had a directness which provided a satisfying counterpoint to perhaps more obscure or nuanced contributions from established artists. At the moment, the students involved share one entry on the project website, as the theme had been set as a college module. However, if any of them develop their chosen Orwellian theme in the future, they are free to submit subsequent works and they will be allocated their own page. I was very pleased to see students engage with Room 103; it confirmed that Orwell can still speak across time and across generations. 44110696_965006013700487_5512501094606962688_nAs a keen follower and participant in the Leeds music scene [his current musical incarnation is one half of guitar/mouth organ combo le POUM], Tony was able to deliver the centrepiece of the Leeds show -a set by the marvels that form the Commoners Choir. We had always referred to this pop-up exhibition as a gig as the Friday evening was designed around the C.C. performance. They did not disappoint. As an artist, I get my highs from painting, from producing something worth exhibiting. I enjoy organising art shows. That comes with the territory for an independent artist, but I hadn’t experienced a buzz as a curator -until the Choir sang “George Orwell Meets The Commoners On The Road To Wigan Pier” Specially composed by Boff Whalley for Room 103. Hearing it [performed here for its first, but hopefully not only time] it filled me with immense pride. These are people are full to the brim with wit, humanity and compassion; key elements they share with the great man himself. gen1b tb gbb defgenb giI was asked if  a] I considered the show a success and b] if a weekend exhibition was worth the effort? a]Yes, and b] most certainly. On Friday evening, there must have been more than a hundred people at Studio 24 and though many were fans of C.C. and had come specifically to hear them, they were an audience who also seemed to appreciate the visual art on offer. The venue provided a fine backdrop on which to document the work in both video and still photography. These will be used to entice another venue or gallery to exhibit our ongoing tribute to the writings and ideas of Eric Blair.


Watch a video of Room 103 @Studio24 here.  [Soundtrack “George Orwell meets the Commoners on the road to Wigan Pier”. Written by Boff Whalley. Performed by the Commoners Choir]


Video Reel: Room103 @SaulHay

9Emma Saunders: “Follow the Leader”

7Kath Wilkinson: “Do it to Julia”

1Sonia Boué:  “Retreat”

2Sonia Boué:  “The People is Divided”

9aGlenn ibbitson:  “Consignment”

5Kerry Baldry: “Boot”

4Dave and Will Stephens:  “Veil”

The showreel will be running throughout the preview at Saul Hay Gallery, Manchester on Thursday 11th October; 6pm -8.30pm

Room 103 Saul Hay preview posters

Online posterPoster design by Alan Pergusey

Room 103 SO poster.001Poster design by Susannah Oliver


S+SPoster design by Salt + Shaw



Poster design by Antoni Garcia Serrat


image1Poster design by Emma Saunders


fb Tony BakerPoster design by Tony Baker


poster for Veil at Saulposter design by Dave Stephens


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAimage by Paul Steffan Jones


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPoster design by Glenn Ibbitson


invite2Poster design by Kerry Baldry


SAULHAYPoster design by Roberto Cambi


kathb WilkinsonPoster design by Kath Wilkinson