January 20th 2000

Hunt painter hounded by controvercy

By David Ryan, IslingtonExpress

USUALLY when artist Per Fronth investigates disappearing tribes, he chooses the likes of the Xingu Indians in South America. Studying the Beaufort H the other hand, was always likely to generate controvercy.

Hardly surprising, then, that Candid Arts Trust director Maria Avino has had to warn police that "things might happen" while his exhibition , BLOODLINES, is displayed in it's gallery, in Torrens street, Angel.

The Norwegian's paintings show what he perceives to be the last remnants of British aristocracy at play, and are accompanied by a video loop showing a fox running away from Prince Charlses.

"It's one-and-a-half seconds in the life of a very scared fox." Mr. Fronth explained. "I let you make up your own mind whether it was killed."

The show, which opened last night, is thoroughly impartial, Ms Avino insisted. "We hope it will create a platform for further debate.," she said.

But try telling that to the League Against Cruels Sports, whose spokesman said that exhibition was "fatally flawed" because Mr. Fronth had not approached his organisation for help. "The promotion of hunting as something which is positive is wrong," he said. " If the images showed a fox being ripped apart that would bea bit more balanced, but they do not."

Althaough Mr. Fronth would not be drawn on the likelihood of animal rights protestors trying to sabotage the display, Ms. Avino takes no chances.

There have been no threats so far, but the gallery has spoken to police about the possibility of trouble and will be employing security guards as it routinely does with valuable paintings.

Mr. Fronth's own views about hunting seem decidedly mixed. Just when it seems he is sympathetic to huntsmen, he will come out with a comment like: "I want to give them a little kick."

Both they and the fox are being hunted, he believes. " What I have a problem with is the Disney notion that the cuter the animal you are, the more protection you have. On the other hand I cannot see that this is an honourable hunt, because there are 30 haounds to run after one fox."

In his youth, Mr. Fronth would hunt for hares with his father, but using one hound only. "Most people want me to take a stand, but I am not going to. The most controversial about my exhibition is that I'm trying to open a dialouge that is not so black and white."

BLOODLINES is at the Candid Arts Trust, Torrens Street, until February 6.