‘Media has long been a rival to religion as the opiate for the masses and media images play a huge role in that. Images are everything, they affect our comprehension of the world and its events. The problem is they portray a version of reality which at best is through someone’s else eye and at worst are lined up before our eyes with an agenda.

It is easy to just accept, be entertained and get distracted by what is presented to us on the surface, and not notice or even not care about what you can find within those images with a bit more investigation and thorough look.

Most of what we deem real is an enhanced version of reality… I continually remind the viewer that there is a darker, more sinister concept embedded within, which at first glance seems visually pleasing - harmless even - but then it challenges you to discern what, if anything, is real… .’- Ash

Ash admits that he once used to play it safe. Having previously painted in fine detail, an accident forced him to change direction, executing bolder and more expressionistic brush strokes. Ash continued as an artist, rising to each physical challenge- sometimes even turning a canvas upside down to reach the difficult areas. Whilst studying at the London Metropolitan University, he produced a controversial painting of an injured Iraqi boy that covered the canvas with a repeated photograph of the boys burned face, an extreme close up of the pastel colours in the skin. This piece sold immediately and Ash decided to leave the ‘safe’ subjects behind, determined to challenge and inspire.

Today, his vast canvases are the foundation for layers upon layers of oil, resin and glossy photographic imagery. Western women flaunt themselves in various stages of undress while Eastern women peer out modestly from burqas. We are forced to consider the nature of exploitation and oppression in Ash’s heightened visions. Like the dance of the seven veils, the technique uses many layers of resin with photographs and painting between each to expose the naked truth. The appropriately contrasting mediums of photo/ paint are at times difficult to distinguish between, blurring the line that divides reality and illusion.

Here, hijabs clash with stripper chic, adorned by dark eyes and naked flesh. Are the women sexually repressed- or simply adhering to principles of modesty and behaviour? We may disdainfully regard these coverings as symbols of male oppression, but what about the sexual approval sought by wearing make-up or mini-skirts? Will we ever stop judging each other on public appearances? The debate always leads back to freedom of expression, and Ash himself remarks that you ‘have to let people be free- you either believe in freedom or you don’t.’