Greg Rook


Communal Wash

I was brought up understanding the 1970’s TV programme The Good Life to be some kind of ideal — affable making-do and self-reliance were the cornerstone of my moral upbringing. Yet the more I romanticise an agrarian, self-sufficient lifestyle, the more I fear that it will come about through disaster and collapse rather than progressive thinking. I have considered three distinct utopian projects, each of which offered a real alternative to contemporary society: the 1970’s Hippy communes in the western United States; the English communitarian ‘digger’ projects; and the Soviet social experiment. I am interested in what motivated the movements — whether they were born more from optimism or pessimism, the reasons for their failure and their relevance as contemporary potential futures. Having moved out of London five years ago, I’ve had time to test my romanticised understanding of rural life. In recent works I have scratched out hopes, fears and aspirations. Although I was initially transfixed by the romance of the loner, new paintings have involved more and more people. Now the kind of communal gathering pictured here seems romantic and impossible.