You leave your hometown for five minutes and by the time you’re back, a superstore of mammoth proportions has sprung up at its heart, slowly but surely putting other local independents out of business.

It’s a narrative that is familiar to many, and one that illustrator Zoë Barker has chosen to cover in her latest body of work, after she saw a similar thing happen in her native village of Suffolk when Tesco moved in.

Her work, called Values, features painstakingly detailed drawings, featuring scenes from traditional village life superimposed onto the cold, clean structures of corporate giants such as Primark and Ikea.

Ann Summers by Zoe Barker
Ann Summers by Zoe Barker

Barker says, ‘It is a reflection on the rub between modern “efficiency” and old fashioned ideals, on new, “contemporary” ways of thinking that have been seemingly embraced as the norm, versus the ideals present in my parents’ and grandparents’ generations.’

‘The idea of the “local”, and the sense of community it creates seem somewhat under fire.’

Players by Zoe Barker
Players by Zoe Barker

Each drawing has a roundel with a fitting slogan or exclamation. ‘I’ve placed the new value directly on top of the older value to suggest the absurdity,’ she says. ‘I’ve used humour to highlight it as well.’

Even the way that Barker has found the images matches her before-after theme. The ‘old’ images were found by for tactile family photograph albums, local newspapers and old films, whereas the modern images were found by trawling through Google Images. ‘There’s a really impersonal cheapness to finding images in this way,’ says Barker.

Lovin' It by Zoe Barker
Lovin’ It by Zoe Barker

Whereas the black and white imagery is meticulously neat, the coloured roundels have been drawn in a more scrappy style.

Barker adds, ‘I am interested in how a fast-paced mentality, quick efficiency, and modern ‘morals’ translate onto rural, traditional England, and what we are compromising when we buy into them. ‘

Primark by Zoe Barker
Primark by Zoe Barker

Values by Zoë Barker opens at the Department of Coffee and Social Affairs, 14-16 Leather Lane, London EC1N from 4 March-14 May.

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  • Ben Hanbury November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Good job Barker! Look forward to the exhibition!

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