Leith artist turns rubbish into portraits of politicians

An artist is turning rubbish he finds on the streets of Edinburgh into portraits of politicians such as Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, David Cameron and Tony Blair '“ which are then brought to life with the help of new technology.
Trevor Jones shows off the app with his Donald Trump portrait. Photograph: Neil HannaTrevor Jones shows off the app with his Donald Trump portrait. Photograph: Neil Hanna
Trevor Jones shows off the app with his Donald Trump portrait. Photograph: Neil Hanna

Discarded Irn-Bru bottles, takeaway boxes and cigarette butts have been deployed by Trevor Jones to create new portraits for a forthcoming exhibition, which combines traditional oil paintings with “augmented reality”.

Visitors to the Leith-based artist’s show, Would I Lie To You?, will be able to download short films which he hopes will highlight how political “propaganda” has been used to manipulate public opinion in recent years.

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Jones said the fall-out from the EU referendum and the forthcoming American presidential election had inspired him to start creating the portraits in the summer.

The Edinburgh College of Art graduate believes he is the first artist in the UK to use the technology to create an exhibition, which he said will explore the lack of accountability of political leaders, the impact of recent political developments around the world, including the race for the White House, and the behaviour of key figures in front of the camera.

Theresa May, Boris Johnson and Vladimir Putin are among the other subjects to feature in the exhibition, which will be staged at the Out of the Blue arts centre in Leith next month to coincide with the US election.

Jones has been based in Scotland for more than 15 years, but is originally from Canada and the show will feature that country’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau.

The artist said the show will also examine the “mass confusion caused by those in power”.

He said: “It is really an exhibition borne out of frustration with current political situations around the world. I just kept seeing things that were being said by different politicians. I was just thinking, ‘What is the truth? What is really happening here?’

“Things have built up in Britain over the last few years with the general election and the EU referendum. We have been overwhelmed with statistics and contradictory information.

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“I started off with the David Cameron painting. He was talking about the Big Society and everybody doing their bit.

“I thought I would do my bit by picking up rubbish around the streets, make a portrait out of it of him and then augment it to show a very different side of them.

“I decided to do Donald Trump, then Hillary Clinton, and ended up with a whole series of them. The app uses image recognition. Once I’ve created the painting, I photograph it, upload it onto the augmented reality platform and then upload the short film I have made.

“When you open up the app it recognises the image and triggers the digital content. Each clip has probably taken me about a day to research.

“I think it will get people talking about the situation we are in and the current frustrations a lot of people seem to have at the moment.”

Would I Lie To You? runs from 4-15 November.