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You can see what you want in art

Published 13/11/2015

If the painting "Christian Flautists" by Joe McWilliams is to be viewed as symbolically anti-Orange, then it would hardly be saying anything challenging, or profound.

It would be propagandist, feeding into the prejudices of one set of viewers by antagonising the other, challenging none. However, is there not an ambiguity in how the painting can be read, suggesting that it could be about "us", rather than simply "we" and "them"?

The shadowy, conically hooded figures, lurking to the side of a cold-looking, triumphalist church building, are not only suggestive of the Ku Klux Klan, but also of the earlier, sinister confraternities of an equally fanatical Spanish Catholicism, the fanaticism and intolerance of which was revived and carried by the nationalist forces of Franco in the Spanish Civil War. And, as for the dress transfer and fiery crosses, the territories of the southern states of the US were once part of the Spanish Empire.

W A MILLER

Belfast

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