Philosophy

The London National Gallery recently held a much-needed debate about what on earth we should do about the artist Paul Gauguin, the innovative post-impressionist painter who was also a sexual predator. As part of the Paul Gauguin Portraits (2019) exhibition, the public were invited to the gallery to hear from an expert panel about how to approach the moral issues surrounding the artist and his work. How should we curate his paintings of his child brides? Should we even still display them? Might the paintings be harmful in themselves? Is Gauguin getting cancelled?

Our creative and cultural industries are integral to personal and group identity, which is why the art we make and the way we display it is so important to how we express ourselves and present marginalised narratives. I strongly believe that analytic philosophy can offer vital clarity and answers to problems currently being faced by cultural industries. Philosophical research at the intersection of aesthetics, ethics, and political philosophy is crucial to answering these sensitive questions carefully, paving the way to more egalitarian curation and dynamic, critical museum spaces.

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It is known that our verbal speech has the power to oppress and liberate social groups. My research in philosophy of art explores how visual art also has this capacity to shape society: through what it says, and through what it does. My work spans philosophy of art, aesthetics, philosophy of language, and political philosophy, and explores the vital intersections of these disciplines to reveal the power and significance of art for humanity. My research explores how visual art behaves like, or as, speech, and the ethical and political dimensions of this. I argue that artworks have propositional meaning, can perform speech acts, are sensitive to curatorial context, and can tell lies. In recent work I explore how art can form oppressive speech, aesthetic mitigation of art-based hate speech, and the nature of aesthetic (in)justice.