Date of Award

2009

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Contemporary Arts Honours

School

Communications and Arts

Faculty

Faculty of Education & Arts

First Advisor

Dr Nien Schwarz

Abstract

This study examines closely some of the artworks produced by Howard Taylor, Ronald Searle and Ludwig Hirschfeld Mack while they were interned as prisoners of war (POWs) during World War II (WWII). It examines the significance of their POW and post-war artworks in the context of their experiences in WWII, the institutional representation of WWII POW art generally and, more broadly, the context in which wars shape the creative output of imprisoned soldiers and civilians. It further examines how POW artwork has influenced the choice of subject matter for some contemporary artists. I discuss a certain invisibility of POW artwork in public institutions and examine the neglected status of POW artwork in institutional culture, with the intention of reinforcing its significance in contemporary culture as an ethical tool for avoiding war and informing my own visual arts practice. The research deliberately circumvents 'official' war art, which is art commissioned by political representatives, executed by professional artists and intended for public display. I argue that official art is commonly associated with propaganda, victorious or heroic events, serving to illustrate concepts of nationhood. I explore the reasons why and how some POWs produced visual art and find that POW art has in the main memorialised events, and serves religious purposes and economic purposes such as the exchange of goods for food, and also functioned as a means of secretly passing on information. Art making was also a way to alleviate boredom by providing occupation and mental stimulation.

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