Political Art- the only way forward?

Within a world permeated by political jargon. With Brexit on the tip of everyones tongue, no conversation being complete without criticising Trump, and Vladimir Putin slyly reinforcing a tsarist regime. Is there any place for light hearted, comedic and carefree art? Or, is it now more than ever we need the arts to offer us something more palatable.

I have often found pressure in my art work not being “political enough”, not making enough of a statement and not contributing enough in the fight against societies oppressions. Although, as my opinions and ideas become more formed and I in affect become angrier at the world. I am starting to try and express my disdain of the “system” pictorially. I do however keep on coming back to dogs. Not just dogs, illustrations of animals people and and places as well. But at the moment, mainly dogs. 

This is because dogs make me happy, their little quirks delight me, I love illustrating them and capturing their personalities and my dogs are as cute as they are stupid. It makes for some wonderful expressions. But am I being somewhat selfish primarily sticking to these story book illustrations? Should I be using my art to engage in bigger and better things and contribute to “the fight”? 

The term “mimesis” is often used when talking about art. Mimesis is the imitative representation of the real world in art and literature. An implication that art is intrinsically linked to society. Thus within a world which is currently as politically fuelled as the cold war. Surely under this idea, art should be reflecting the political climate of today. 

There are of course many artists under taking this role as there always have been. Politics has often utilised art as much as art utilises politics as a muse. But with the very nature of art being a freedom of expression it is the reactionary and arguably revolutionary art which stands out against the background of political propaganda posters. A piece that comes to mind is Dimitri Vrubels “My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love” or «Господи! Помоги мне выжить среди этой смертной любви» commonly known as “the Fraternal kiss”. This giant graffiti image adorning the Berlin Wall depicts Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker in  “fraternal embrace”, an artists depiction of  the photograph which captured the moment in 1979. This image is an excellent example of reactionary art work. In this case it was a post event reaction to the communist rule of East Germany, the Berlin wall and aimed to underpin the two political bodies in a mocking tone as the artist depicts their “love”. All the while making a direct comment against the massive negative impact the division of Germany into East and West, and the Communist rule had at the time. It is overall a brilliant piece of art. With its position on the Berlin Wall itself, it was positioned at the heart of the political warfare and “love” and consequently had a major impact. Excellently exemplifying the desire and need for art work which bounces back against the political climate and events at the time.

The Socialist Fraternal Kiss between Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker 1979 2

Vrubel Dimitri- “My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love” or «Господи! Помоги мне выжить среди этой смертной любви»1990-  https://rarehistoricalphotos.com/socialist-fraternal-kiss-leonid-brezhnev-erich-honecker-1979/

However, as blatantly important as art spanning under the political genre is. Surely we could all benefit from a break with politics. Within the midst of religious, monastic and propaganda art works the likes of the Sublime, the Picturesque and the Mythological all attest that art has of course, along side acting as mimesis, acted as a form of recreational pleasure. A chance to remove yourself from the negative events happening around the world and to be transported to alternative realm. 

In my eyes art isn’t just about making you think or “how does it make you feel”. But it should also be allowed to be fun, silly, adventurous and exciting. It does’t have to make a political statement, it doesn’t have to make you make you think it can in fact just make you smile. Personally this is why the works of Hockney appeal to me so much. With his vivid use of colours capturing the pleasures of the world around him. As he depicts the vibrant tapestry of the Yorkshire landscape, as well as his iconic pool paintings which leave the viewer to drool over this paradise like L.A. lifestyle. His work en-captures the delights he sees within his every day life. A positive reflection of the world around him. Art that makes the viewer smile. 


Hockney David “Garrowby hill (Yorkshire)” 1998-  https://curiator.com/art/david-hockney/garrowby-hill-yorkshire

And with that in mind, I think I’ll keep on plodding on with my dog illustrations, even they are broken apart by a smattering of reactionary works… 


The closed doors of Art Institutions

Following on from the Art fund Museum of the year prize ,which saw Tate st Ives being granted £100,000, I am once again led to question the elitism, and overall inaccessibility of the “Art World.”

Tate st Ives is a gallery which had already received a massive 20 million pound extension. A large sum of money for a gallery already ingrained within a large institution. As the very name would suggest it harks from the grandiose Tate establishment and includes itself within the “Family of four” art galleries around the UK. Its very name has a worldwide reputation which brings in millions of tourists, globally, every year. And its a body which does not appear to be strapped for cash. 

Whilst an already wealthy and acclaimed institution with guaranteed following and visitors gained. Other smaller, intimate and beautiful museums such as the Glasgow Women’s’ Library were once again shoved under the bus. As the Art World said fuck off to those smaller keen institutions and individuals and praised and gifted one of its favourite children.

These small institutions are the very same which also buck the trend of inclusivity and diversity within galleries of today. Bar the odd individual exhibition of a minority artist; (race, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, gender). It is more often than not that the larger art institutions fall back upon the canon of art history. As again and again we see white male artists (albeit brilliant ones) such as Turner , Liechtenstein and Warhol adorn the walls of the forefront galleries of today. With a continual merry-go-round round of “The Impressionists” and “The Surrealists” exhibitions hopping from gallery to gallery. Where the feck is the diversity. 

In contrast to this, smaller galleries such as that of Cartwright Hall in the city of Bradford can be seen to offer a collection well beyond the canon of western art. With an eclectic mix of pre-Raphaelite, monastic Indian portraits, Yinka Shonibare, and Hockney along side the like of Warhol. In fact this gallery is accredited for its broad diversity and inclusivity as all the works are curated together within the same chronology. A device which can only be seen to benefit the footfall of visitors to the gallery, within such a culturally diverse area of the UK. Whereas a large proportion of galleries champion a “need to be in the know” attitude illustrated by the fuck off tiny white plaques, full of lingo not everyone can understand. It is these small institutions that are championing the notion of Wilkommen. Along side the stupidly simple idea that art is for everyone, culture is for everyone and no one should feel excluded by the increasingly stuffy and stale air of galleries today.

But there is change in the air. This year saw the 250th anniversary of the Royal Academy Summer exhibition. And once we move past the glitzy celeb filled preview party which might as well spell out exclusivity in diamanté. What Grayson Perry has put together is a beautiful amalgamation. A miss match of prominent artists from around the world. Not separate by country, chronology, or culture but under the slogan “Art made now ” they sit side by side, along with aspiring artists of today. As the royal Academy summer exhibition opens its doors to all, both artists and visitors alike. Maybe there is a glimmer of hope peeking out underneath the closed doors.