The Communicative Dynamics of Painting: Art as Activism

By Joan Marie Kelly.

Published by The Arts Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This presentation discusses collaborative methodologies using art as a form of activism. Combining art practice and the creation of the artifact with sociological and cultural analyses of the interaction of the artist and the immediate milieu of the subject, artist Joan Kelly has pursued an investigation into the communicative dynamics of painting. The purpose of the art practice is not simply to create art, but to generate an encounter. The enterprise is more ethnographic than mimetic; thus, in this conceptualization, portraiture becomes a form of conceptual art. Through engagement with marginal communities—sex-workers and immigrant workers—the point of the art is to reclaim this group from social oblivion, to give each of them a “face.” The normative social gaze leaves these people out of its purview; the general public is not aware of what is going on inside these social groups. Thus, the art’s purpose is to break the barriers that separate “us” from “them” by bringing the artist and the subject together and putting the results into a participative public domain. Through these means, art is able to bring about social integration and moral cohesion. Art becomes a vehicle for activism. The artist aims to create a space through the use of art that will induce the subject to narrate their personal narratives, their anxieties, their attitudes towards economic and social class, and towards family and the state. The artist wishes to find out about the stigmas that they have suffered, their attitude towards sexuality, gender, race, and other social characteristics. This concept of art as a vehicle for activism was carried out in the red-light districts of Singapore and the brothels of Kolkata.

Keywords: Art, Encounter, Social Activism, Interface, Portrait

International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 4, Issue 3, pp.413-432. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 4.740MB).

Joan Marie Kelly

Assistant Professor of Foundation Studies, Art Department, Nanyang Technological University School of Art Design and Media, Singapore, Singapore

Assistant Professor Joan Marie Kelly has been a faculty member of the School of Art Design and Media since 2005. She received a Master in Fine Arts from Western Connecticut State University and a Bachelors Degree from Maryland Institute College of Art graduating Magna Cum Laude. Her research interests include comparative studies of survival systems and processes of hidden and marginalized communities in India and South East Asia. She is also working on a body of work comparing the outcomes of War: human lose, survival and sustainability. Her process is through the use of art as a means of her field work as an encounter with her subjects. She has a growing exhibition record including international venues. She is invited to exhibit in a duel person multi media exhibition and workshop at the Tuanku Fauzia Museum, Universiti Sains Malaysia Sept. 2008 and an International Drawing Biennial in the Czech Republic October 2008. Her recent fieldwork has taken her to the brothels in Kolkata, Geylang the red-light district in Singapore and the villages outside Hanoi.


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