Balnacra Arts & Pottery by Vicky Stonebridge

Socialist Art

Socialism and Art, Socialist Art – Revolutionary Art, is too big a subject to discuss in any length here today. But I found myself thinking about it recently. In the west we are so wrapped up in the cult of the individual, elite artists are seen as market leaders, as being allowed to say and do whatever they like- elephant poo, pickled sheep etc. The rest of us supposedly tread a lonely path in our garret’s seeking that perfection in expression and interpretation of the world around us.

Using Art for political expression, can that be real art? or are the artists being constrained and inhibited for propaganda purposes? There is a fear of politics in the UK, it is seen as career suicide to mention words like feminism and socialism.

When I painted this painting ( currently centre spread in Fire Fighter magazine ). I was certainly not under any pressure from anyone, it sprung from my own desire to paint a strong image of comradeship, to represent the Trade union movement in a positive light. I’ll never forget how moved I was as a young art student, marching alongside the defeated Miners down Princes street in the 1980’s, pipe bands playing, banners bright, tears on those proud mens faces. Its not propaganda to express these things.


I deliberately chose to study ceramics ( pottery to you or I ) at College, because the elitism in art rankled me even then. a pot is a pot, you don’t need a degree to interpret it. beauty and function that everyone can access. Now I paint, I deliberately push towards the representational to be accessible, whilst chucking paint around & smearing it in pleasing patterns would be fufilling to me, it says nothing to the untrained eye. I do not wish to only communicate with an elite. Is this ‘selling out’ ? only if the individual is more important than the collective. I’m with the collective, nothing is more liberating than being in a group/society/community where all are equal ( yet different ).

Last week I was at Wortley Hall near Sheffield for some FBU womens meetings. The building itself was incredibly inspiring ” why should Beautiful Stately homes only belong to the rich ?” . The building is run by a co-operative of Trade unions and Left organisations, as a conference center and hotel. Among the lovely historical painted ceilings, wonderful libraries and chandeliers were lots of Incredible Socialist Art Works.

The history of social minded Art seems to be a hidden one, like womens art. I’ll need to do much more research on it. But Art should belong to the people, I don’t just mean the state owning a Titian, I mean people creating and participating in the arts. Art for arts sake. Humans are creative creatures, why do we take this out of their hands at primary school and place it in those of elite, the art school cliques, the gallery owners and their Arts council friends? Get down any community centre and see what the youth club has got on the walls, lets all get creating, whatever and whenever we like. Creating from the worlds we inhabit, be it urban, rural, imaginary or political.

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This entry was posted on February 2, 2011 by in Blog and tagged , , .

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