Hollywood Reloaded is a pretty, well, loaded title for a show consideration the alarming gun violence stats in America; or at least, the perception of such violence.
As such, it’s a prescient and interesting avenue to be explored through art, just as two artists – 80- year-old London-based photographer Terry O'Neill CBE and Bran Symondson, an ex-soldier turned artist who turned to the discipline after documenting the Afghanistan war—have done.
The joint exhibition at London’s HOFA Gallery, which is now open, has been described as "a bold and brash reinvention of Terry O’Neill’s portraits of Hollywood icons posing with guns".
This means portraits of stars like Michael Caine, Bridget Bardot and Roger Moore, have been modified to show them with each bearing a gun. These images are pockmarked by bullets fired by Bran Symondson, using the same gun as in each portrait to create the final image. "Guns, and the violence they symbolise become subjects, displacing Hollywood stars and the glorified ethos they mediate as well as create," says the gallery.
The collaboration and the artworks were inspired by the ongoing conversations about gun violence around the world, and examine the perceptions of guns – especially in the US. The collection of images also "recognises the relationship between Hollywood imagery and the reverence paid to wield a firearm which has made the gun a conscious and subconscious desideratum of many," as HOFA puts it. "While Hollywood is merely one among various contributing factors, its role is significant particularly for its prominence."
The violent connotations of the weapons is offset by a jarring yet rather pretty fantastical, colourful bloom of butterflies on each monochrome portrait. The works aim to create a gentle yet thought-provoking look at American historical and present-day fetishisation of guns.
The works also exemplify Symondson’s stated aim of "turning something of fear and loathing into something of beauty".
"What Bran has done with my photographs is astounding," says O’Neill. "He’s taken such time and consideration when creating his art—he really has transformed my photographs into something entirely his own. It’s been a thrill for me to work with a young artist such as Bran, to listen to his thoughts and process."
The show’s debut takes place at London private members' club Annabel’s before moving to HOFA until 14 October.