Friday, 15 April 2011

Jonathan Barnbrook at Wolverhampton Art Gallery

Graphics students have attended a thought provoking talk by Jonathan Barnbrook concerning his political designs. Barnbrook, who’s most current work responds to the politics of Northern Ireland, was in Wolverhampton to visit the specialist Northern Ireland collection at the Art Gallery. He later went on to the Lighthouse for a graphics and music night.

Barnbrook began by setting the scene “The definition of graphics has been very narrow” he said “as a means of commercial cash generation. However, good design can be a unifying force. As a graphic designer, I felt I should be responding to what is happening in the world politically”.

Some of the first designs show, were his responses to the first gulf war, using juxtaposed visual cliché to express his thoughts

Barnbrooks slightly later projects have included work that deals with the situation in North Korea. He described his intrigue of how the regime uses classic Stalinist slogans at every opportunity. His work he describes as “showing an outsiders perspective on the absurdity of the situation”.
“The point of my work, is to hold a mirror up to our own society, When the Soviet Union existed, there was an alternative, but now there is no such contrast”

Barnbrook talked of “The book of Laughter and Forgetting” by Milan Kundera, as being particularly influential to him.

“There are no longer any political ideologies, only commercial strategies” he said. “I still question my work, I’m still insecure about what I’m doing”

Barnbrook went on to show his designs Olympukes, that present an alternative set of pictograms released at the time of the Athens Olymics. These designs can seen or downloaded from:

Barnbrook talked about his memories of 911 and showed designs that responded to this event.

Finally, his Northern Ireland work, still in development, was showcased. Images of hand lettering from political murals, was discussed as forming the basis for future typographic expression.

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