All art is propaganda of some form

Art in Michelangelo’s words was something not created through brain but something sculpted from inner inspiration and culture. He believed that every stone had a sculpture within it, and that the work of sculpting was simply a matter of chipping away all that was not a part of the statue.

That was the age of Renaissance, an epoch when art went through a phase of resurgence. It was the period when art was nourished and hence it flourished. Painters, artists and sculptors were commissioned to produce fine works of art which went on to become timeless masterpieces. Such was the soul in these works that Michelangelo once said, “The true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection”.

But times have changed. Beethovens’ melodious symphonies have given way to Nirvanas’ boisterous sounds (Oh the irony in the name!). Short, crisp and shallow writings seem to have substituted Shakespeare’s profound methods of literature. Paintings too, seem almost superficial when contrasted with Renaissance paintings.

Art has come a long way, spanned many centuries and has always pleased the aesthetic mind. Discerning people call it a stimulating break from the mundane world.

However, art has always had it’s own objective, totally different from that of it’s enthusiasts- propaganda. Never has this gracious form of self-expression washed its’ hands of propaganda. Not once.

In “The Frontiers of Art and Propaganda”, an essay which  George Orwell wrote in 1941, he says that if we look back at the English literature of the last ten years , the thing that strikes us most is that the literature has almost ceased to be aesthetic and instead, has become more inclined towards subject-matter. Eighty years later, that subject-matter still continues to flow.

Paintings have been canvases for unadulterated propaganda. Leonardo da Vincis’ Mona Lisa, which is probably the worlds’ most analysed painting, still manages to perplex artists and academics alike. The lady conceals so much that till date no one knows what she is actually concealing. It smiles down at everyone who examines her and always has the last laugh (pun intended). In another painting of his called The Last Supper, da Vinci employs some carefully placed religious symbols. Today, studies of these symbols have revealed that disciple sitting beside Jesus Christ say is actually Mary Magdalene- the lady with which
Jesus is secretly believed to have fathered a child. When da Vinci created this painting, it was gleefully accepted as a magnificent portrayal of Christ and his twelve apostles having bread and wine. Later though, came to the forefront a stark revelation: the apostle sitting to the right of Jesus was not an apostle after all.

Propaganda lurks in every book, painting and drawing. It reminds us that every work of art has a meaning and a purpose — a political, social or a religious purpose. It debunks the sole purpose of art and leads to aesthetic judgments forever corrupted by our own prejudices and beliefs.

Mudit Kakkar

Winner – 25th July 2011 – The Viewspaper Express Yourself Week