Chambers of horrors aim to raise the bar

A lawyer’s office may seem an odd place to launch an art exhibition but human rights workers, publishers and painters will mingle tonight with some of London’s top QCs at the opening of In the Absence of Justice, a year-long project examining civil liberties from a UK perspective. The project is a collaboration between human rights groups Amnesty International and Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID) and arts organisations Darlington Creative Enterprise and Triarchy Press.

Housed at Took’s Chambers, the London offices of leading human rights lawyers Richard Harvey and Michael Mansfield QC, the project kicks off with an exhibition of stark and haunting paintings by artist Ricky Romain, exploring the alienation and isolation of asylum seekers and refugees in the UK.

Romain says he hopes his work will challenge visitors to the project to question their own beliefs about human rights. “It’s not often that you get the art world and the legal profession coming together so it’s a great opportunity to get people thinking about their role in challenging human rights abuse,” he says.

Romain’s paintings were the initial inspiration for the project after Harvey saw the artist’s work at a gallery in Axminster, Devon. “I was just amazed by such a powerful artistic expression of issues that myself and my colleagues work on every day in the courts,” he says.

The exhibition will be followed by a series of lectures and art events that explore different facets of human rights, such as workplace bullying and corporate accountability.

Rosie Beckham, managing director at Triarchy Press, says basing the project at Took’s Chambers sends out a message that art has a part to play in the fight for justice. Triarchy Press has produced a book documenting the work of the project. It will go on sale on this year’s International Human Rights Day on Sunday to raise money for and awareness of the plight of refugees and detainees.

From The Guardian, 6 December, 2006.

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