Artists play several important roles in today’s society. An artist uses his tools, whether it is paints, pens, pencils or any other median they enjoy and find effective to comment on the trends society has formed, an important subject to the artists such as political stances and views and areas that the artist feel need to be shown to different areas of society to get across a message, such as the painting that depict starving children, death and war.
For my essay I would like to focus on the painters in our modern world that create works for a particular reason, other than the enjoyment of art. Artists may be good at drawing pictures on canvas but these pictures often lack meaning or have bland outcomes. Few artists now are brave enough to step out of the walls of their urban studios to explore the vast and mysterious world and the tales it holds. The artists that embark on these journeys to countries such as Rwanda, Afghanistan, the Middle East and Iraq bring awareness to societies that have been isolated from the struggles that the populations of these places, plus many more, face in everyday life.
One example of a modern artist who tackles these issues head on through his outstanding works is George Gittoes. Gittoes, born 1949 has developed a practice of visiting the troubled spots of the world, working in areas that would normally be reserved for journalists and reporters. George gives society a powerful close up to conflicts such as the famine and peacekeeping in Somalia, Ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia, de mining after civil wars in Cambodia, Pakistan and Afghanistan and the outbreaks caused by the peace process in the Middle East.
George Gittoes paintings ‘possess an aggressive, but compelling visual challenge, utterly distinct’ – Art historian, Bernard Smith said about Gittoes’ work. His work has a great feeling of shame for what we as humans are capable of and he captures the moments he views with a sense of blurred realism but makes it very clear what he is meaning. One painting by George that caught my eye was the ‘Witness’ painting from 1995. This picture captures the horrific Kibeho massacre in Rwanda with a naked woman being sliced limb from limb. It’s a very dark painting with angry brushstrokes representing the horror and pain in this picture. One other picture that has a horrific meaning behind it is the ‘Death through a telephoto lens’ from the Returning series. This picture is quite confusing when you read the story that goes with it but if read, is a strong message to society about how easy many people have it.
With a lighter and more enjoyable message to society there stands the works of the artist Peter Coad. Peter’s works show remote and beautiful Australian landforms with a strong sense of heart and mind in his paintings. His paintings send a message to the public about places that can be discovered by overstepping boundaries and finding our place in the world. His pictures relate to what he absorbs when working throughout Australia and places such as Hawaii filling viewers who look upon his works with a feeling of beauty in only the simplest of works.
While at the Hilton hotel where works of Peter Coad are currently being displayed I saw one of his paintings and was amazed at home simple yet beautiful it was. The painting ‘Onkaparinga’ is a large painting that uses mainly solid aboriginal style colours. The thick orange and reds of the painting capture an awe of the Australian land that has been displayed many times before in traditional aboriginal paintings, but using much more detail, almost completing what aboriginal artists where doing years ago but with the focus on a new modern audience.
Artists such as Peter Coad may not be well known for spreading a strong and in your face message to the world such as the works of George Gittoes, but send a message of tranquility and peace that the world could use to overcome the savagery that humans are faced with. As Peter expresses, his works have a strong tie with the environment and a personal sense of place. The paintings are not magnificent photograph like landscapes, but are Peter’s own visions that express an unseen world of harmony and balance of the indigenous spirituality. With the strong trend in Australia being the aboriginal arts and crafts, Peter reinforces us with his paintings, how much the aboriginal culture has rubbed of in modern Australian culture. Racism and feuds are put aside and the Australian society is shown how important, not to mention beautiful, the inclusion of Indigenous culture is within us.
After researching the visual artists and how they affect our modern day culture I have come to a strong conclusion that artists present society with not only updates to events that would otherwise be shadowed by the media and governments but show a side to life that many people would never view. Whether it is a positive or negative emotion that the audiences of such artists feel it’s the job of visual artists to create emotion and stir up thoughts and reactions in the public. There are far more examples that where available to me in writing this essay on the roles of visual artists in our society but I have felt that it’s only necessary to show enough information for each individual to come up with their own explanation of what artists do in our community. No matter whom the person is, I feel that each artist brings with them a different meaning and reasons to why they do what they do, and whether they have a positive roll in society is up to the people.
Courtney from Study Moose
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