Exhibition: Propaganda: Power and Persuasion (British Library)

19 Aug

The first thing that comes to my mind when I hear the word propaganda is lies. I think of corrupt governments spreading lies about the enemy to justify wars and other actions. But the current Propaganda exhibition at the British Library has shown me that as the 1950s French political thinker Jacques Driencourt declared, nearly “everything is propaganda”.
The exhibition’s examples of propaganda vary from a bronze coin issued in 290BC bearing the head of Alexander the Great portrayed as Heracles, son of Zeus, to World War two posters, then government health campaigns and even twitter feeds. Together these examples describe propaganda as any efforts to influence beliefs and behaviour.
The exhibition explores the origins, strategies and consequences of state propaganda ending with how digital technology has provided new routes for states to communicate but has also provided new ways for people to challenge and criticise state messages. Social media, such as Twitter, Facebook and online blogs, make everyone a potential propagandist!
Here are a couple of examples from the exhibition that I found interesting or amusing:

‘Personality Identification’ playing cards. Used by soldiers in the Iraq war to help them remember faces and names of different enemy members.


Superman Bosnian comic book.
This Bosnian comic book cover was used to highlight the plight of land mines in the country. It shows Superman swooping in to save two boys hunting for war souvenirs in a minefield. It was later band however, when children actually went looking for land mines hoping that they would meet superman and he would come to their rescue!


I also bought a book whilst at the museum: George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’


Oriol Angrill Jordà

15 Jan

oriol angrill jorda 4

“I did not start like most of the artists I’ve met… A majority of them had been enthusiastic about Art, almost since they were born, as a native desire to create or express themself. Unfortunately, it wasn’t like that (for) me.”

• Spanish illustrator
• variety of media (pencil, watercolour, charcoal)
• In his most recent project, “Blendscapes“, Jordà creates hybrid images with human figures constructed from delicate landscapes
• unique colour and texture combinations
• interesting displacement and reconstruction of traditional landscape imagery.

oriol angrill jorda 3


14 Jan

Germany, 1902-1975
“If the origin of my work is scandalous, it is because for me, the world is a scandal.”
• Bellmer began creating disturbing dolls in 1933, the year Adolf Hitler assumed power in Germany.
• Interpreted as acts of political defiance against the Aryan ideals and social norms promoted by the Nazis – Whom he openly opposed, and expressed the outrage he felt when his father joined the Nazi party.

Hnas Bellmer, doll

• Doll: made from glue and tissue paper, then painted a flesh tone.
Its order is undermined by the lack of distinct head or feet.

Hans Bellmer, doll

• Offer an alternative to the image of the ideal body and psyche popularized in German fascist propaganda of the 19030s
“an artificial girl with multiple anatomical possibilities”.


14 Jan

“Drawing a blank”
Born in1960, France


• Bronze sculptures
• “The Travellers” (In search of missing pieces)?
• The viewer fills the blanks
• Maybe a message to all of us to become a bit more transparent…?
• Images sometimes behind the sculptures (picturesque landscapes)
• How comes the sculptures don’t fall?
The unifying element of all the sculptures: a suitcase, bag or guitar case



13 Jan

Born in 1891, Germany

• 1914 volunteered for the German Army in WWI
• Wounded several times during the war. Nearly died when a shrapnel splinter hit him in the neck.
• In 1918 (end of the war), Dix had won the “Iron Cross” (second class) and reached the rank of vice-sergeant- major.
• Developed left-wing views and his paintings and drawings became increasingly political
• Angry about the way that the wounded and crippled ex-soldiers were treated in Germany.

otto dix, trench warfare

• “The Trench” was purchased and exhibited by the Wallraf-Richartz Museum. Its depiction of decomposed corpses in a German trench created such a public outcry that the museum’s director, Hans Secker, was forced to resign.
• “No More War!” travelling exhibition put on with other artists who had fought in WW1
• 1933: Hitler and Nazi Germany
• Government disliked Dix’s anti-military paintings and arranged for him to be sacked from his job as an art tutor at Dresden Academy.
Dismissal letter said his work, “threatened to sap the will of the German people to defend themselves.”

otto dix, war cripples

• “The Trench” and “War Cripples” appeared in a Nazi exhibition to discredit modern art. Later several of Dix’s anti-war paintings were destroyed by the Nazi authorities.
• With the Nazis in power, artists in Germany could only work as an artist, buy materials or show their work if they were members of the Imperial Chamber of Fine Arts.
Dix was allowed to become a member in return for agreeing to paint landscapes instead of political subjects.
• Dix mainly painted landscapes during this period, but still produced the occasional allegorical painting which contained coded attacks on the Nazi government. He exhibited several of these paintings in a one-man exhibition in 1938. In 1939 Dix was arrested and charged with involvement in a plot on Hitler’s life. Eventually he was released as the charges were dropped.

otto dix

• In 1945 Dix was forced to join the German Army to fight in WWII. At the end of the war he was captured and put into a prisoner-of-war camp. Released in Feb. 1946.
• Most of Dix’s post-war paintings were religious allegories. However, paintings such as “Job” (1946), “Masks in Ruins” (1946) and “Ecce Homo 2” (1948), dealt with the suffering caused by WWII.

Otto Dix died in 1969


13 Jan

“A creation of a world where the human race would live in a technological utopia.”

• Born 1967, London
• M.A. Fine Art at Wimbledon College of Art, 2009

adam dix, Aloft

• Works set out to investigate the associations between technology and our need and fascination with it.
• Telecommunications and its impact on society
• Examined futuristic past predictions of the 21st century and the subsequent representation of that imagined future.
• Morphing past dreams together with present aspirations.
• Describing behavioural responses with regard to communication, how we relate or comprehend technology on a humanistic level.

adam dix, The Blessing 2011
“the Blessing” 2011

• Results = amusing take on how dependent on technology we have become.
Figures almost praying/worshipping (New Religion)
• Painted in ink and oil, but because of the style, could almost be watercolour

“Olympus Digital Camera”

Paint Made Flesh

13 Nov

Paint Made Flesh examines the ways in which European and American painters have used oil paint and the human body to convey enduring human vulnerabilities, among them anxieties about desire, appearance, illness, aging, war, and death. In the tradition of great figure painting stretching back to Rembrandt and Titian, the 34 artists in the exhibition, working in the years since World War II, exploit oil paint’s visual and tactile properties to mirror those of the body, while exploring the body’s capacity to reflect the soul.

Drawn from private and public collections and arranged by chronology and nationality, the 43 paintings in the exhibition reflect a wide range of styles. Strong colors and vigorous brushwork associated with German expressionism give crude life to figures by artists ranging from the San Francisco Bay area painters to a younger generation, including Markus Lüpertz and Susan Rothenberg. Candid depictions of flesh by British painters Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud suggest psychological pain at the margins of society, while paint as skin betrays the inner feelings of Jenny Saville’s swollen females.

Other artists represented include Karel Appel, Cecily Brown, Francesco Clemente, John Currin, Eric Fischl, Willem de Kooning Leon Kossoff, David Park, Julian Schnabel, and Pablo Picasso.