Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Graham Ovenden Convicted, but No Fall from Grace

On April 2, 2013, artist Graham Ovenden was convicted in Truro Crown Court of various crimes about which much has been written in the Daily Mail, the Guardian, the Times, the Independent and other newspapers, both in print and online. Without exception, the reporting was (and will no doubt continue to be) wildly inaccurate and professionally irresponsible. Unproven claims asserted by prosecutor Ramsay Quaife were reported as facts. When two witnesses, testifying from behind a protective screen, denied that they had ever been abused despite insistence by the police that they had been, the press found nothing newsworthy to report. Although not a single aspect of the prosecutor's theory -- that Mr. Ovenden's "portraiture was part of a ruse to abuse young girls, making them dress in Victorian clothing before removing it and committing indecent acts"1-- was proven at trial, the lie perdured in the press even after conviction on charges that were far less serious and sensational.

For its part, the Daily Mail became shrill, attacking the "establishment" which supposedly protected and even fostered Mr. Ovenden's supposed (but non-existent) crimes and deriding Mr. Ovenden's famous friends. The Guardian commenced to hand-wringing, wondering whether anyone could rightfully ever look at an Ovenden artwork again. True, there were one or two voices arguing sanely in favor of judging Mr. Ovenden's art on its own merits rather than ad hominem, but it wasn't enough to dissuade the Tate Gallery from removing Mr. Ovenden's prints from view, both on its publicly accessible website and in the library, where his work was on view by appointment.

The story that will be told here is vastly different from what has been reported in the press. We will examine the facts adduced at trial, present the charges of which Mr. Ovenden was accused and for which he was either acquitted or convicted, and delve into the rather sinister background of the 2013 trial -- some 20 years of persecution and dirty deeds by the police, and in the end, Mr. Ovenden's son, Edmund ("Ned") Ovenden. Finally, we will look at Ovenden the artist, his practice and methods. It's time that the truth be told: there was no "fall from Grace" for Mr. Ovenden. His conscience is clear of wrongdoing, because he did nothing wrong.

Note: None of the images shown on this site are illegal and none were in contention at any time during Mr. Ovenden's trial. Rather, they are part of Mr. Ovenden's published output.

1 Davies, Caroline and Steven Morris, Artist Graham Ovenden convicted of historic child sex offences, The Guardian, 2 April 2013 20.16BST, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2013/apr/02/artist-graham-ovenden-convicted.

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