Propaganda Art during the Cultural Revolution

Propaganda art had become the most favoured vehicle for the conduction of the government’s ideology in China at the onset of the revolution. Between 1966-‘76, utopian images flooded the media expressing the wonderful quality of life for the working class. Smiling, ageless and bubbly peasants, workers and soldiers graced many of these posters as they effortlessly toil over their work. Leaders were glamorized as devoting followers would gleefully celebrate their presence. Gaudy colours expressed the joy that the labourers would behold on a daily basis. Clusters of the lower class would suggest strong communities and farmers worked in pleasant unison.

Images of the communist chairman Mao Zedong were glorified in a God-like state where he would be the centre of all happiness. Throughout the era this imagery was intensified and gradually he became further divorced from the masses. This augments the irony of the communist party’s supposed intent.

I personally view these posters as a pictorial oxymoron. Specifically “The Growth of all Things Depends on the Sun” by Wanwu Shengzbang Kao Taiyang which depicts a trail of doting labourers celebrating his presence (they bask in his presence as they would with sunshine hence the title)Image. His robust stature is just off center with most of the workers eyes on him proving his significance. They are framed by a flourishing cotton field just like their amicable community. What seems to be consistent about these posters is that they are all generating a mythical lifestyle to aspire to, which unfortunately is highly unlikely to be the working class’ reality. 

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3 thoughts on “Propaganda Art during the Cultural Revolution

  1. Hi Stephanie I really like what you have said about propaganda art during Mao’s Regime. I have recently been reading about Anselm Kiefer, the german painter, and came across his incredible series of work’s called ‘Let A Thousand Flowers Bloom.’ This title is taken from Mao’s famous Hundred Flowers Campaign.I have grabbed this quote from wikipedia: “The policy of letting a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools of thought contend is designed to promote the flourishing of the arts and the progress of science.”

    It is really interesting to consider how Kiefer uses Mao in his paintings in an ironic way. He is depicted amongst an epic landscape of wild flowers. The paintings captures the heroic sentiments of Mao’s campaign. Yet the lack of any other figures, in contrast to the image you selected, reminds me that Mao’s poetic idealism destroyed itself and achieved the opposite to what he suggests in his campaign.

    There is a video interview with Kiefer on this page, which is really worth a watch. It got me thinking about how the image of an icon like Mao can be used in a way that is counter to the effect of the propaganda art you mentioned above.

    http://whitecube.com/channel/in_the_gallery_past/anselm_kiefer_let_a_thousand_flowers_bloom_hong_kong_2012/

  2. Gave it a watch, really enjoyed that! It was great seeing a stark contrast to what I’ve been looking at. It was interesting to know that he worked from photos of the statue of Mao as his colour palette resonates with stone-like tones and textures, despite the fact they were flowers. I agree with what you’ve said about the lack of figures in the work, it is as if they have been replaced with the morbid flowers; as if to say he rules an empty world. I suppose you could look at it from various angles but this is what I’ve taken from his work so far. I’m new to this artist but I think i’ll look further into his work; now you’ve sparked an interest!

    Thanks for mentioning this!

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