Kate Milsom, The Migrants

Following the uprising in 1789, an ever increasing number of French aristocrats, clergymen and land owners whose properties had been confiscated sought refuge abroad.

Britain became the commonplace destination in particular for those living in Brittany or Normandy.

Although some of these émigrés settled and thrived within the Huguenot community or were hosted by fellow English noblemen, the majority were forced into areas like St. George’s Field, Southwark, where they lived and died in appalling conditions.

Leaving a life of relative privilege behind, they were just as badly prepared for the journey as they were ill equipped to carve a new role for themselves in a foreign country.

The Migrants, a series of new works by Kate Milsom, revisits this often forgotten period of history to draw parallels with the present refugee crisis.

In her paintings the displaced become the unexpected inhabitants of a hostile landscape.

Betraying recent circumstances, already a world away, their clothes are not suitable for the long journey ahead, their belongings of little practical use. They share a striking appearance with the animals around them, a dialogue that speaks not just of a common vulnerability and imminent risk of extinction, but also of an unexpected turn of events which has caught both of them unprepared.

The patterns and maps, recurring elements in the body of work of this artist, here become a subtle yet nagging reminder of the loss of structure and belonging experienced by these people. History repeats itself.


The Migrants are on sale at Gala Fine Art in Bristol.

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