Are illustrators and Surfaces Designers merely space fillers? Can they, should they and are they allowed to make comment on matters such as economics, social and political issues or moral and philosophical debates. As a practitioner do you even care?
I think that this comment relies on the artist themselves, and their own personal views and opinions and style of art. Some artists may feel very strongly about issues such as economics, social and political issues and include them in their work, whereas other artists/designers may be interested in these matters but may not want to include them in there work as it may be too controversial.
When I think of political, social and philosophical art I tend to think of graffiti art because graffiti art is a way of artists to show their views and opinions to a large audience, in a public place. I also tend to think of fine art as a way of artist's expressing their opinions and social issues, that sometimes may be seen as controversial to some viewers.
I also think the matter is different for illustrators and surface designers, I think that surface designers sometimes have to be more commercial as their designs are being put on products bought by the public such as cards, stationary, fabrics and home furnishings, so it would be too controversial to include matters such as politics and social issues. I think that surface designer's work can still be meaningful and have depth behind it but it would be less obvious and more viewer freindly. Whereas illustrators may be asked to illustrate a newspaper or article where illustrations like these may be appropriate for the content, then they can comment on more controversial issues.
Although I haven't seen many surface designer's work who use political, social and economic issues in their work, I have come across the work of Timorous Beasties, a contemporary duo who create beautiful and intricate wallpaper and fabric designs. Once described as William Morris on acid, they have included controversial issues in their work, however have done it so it isn't noticeable and when noticed is a humorous spin on a classic style and technique of wallpaper.
Toiles are a classic style of wallpaper from France in the 1770's, they depicted peaceful and romantic scenes of people having picnics by a lake, couples, flowers and beautiful scenery. However Timorous Beasties have taken the idea of a classic Toile and turned it on it's head by instead of beautiful landscapes they have included a modern landscape of London's most famous landmarks, such as Big Ben, London Bridge, and the Gherkin. Instead of couples sitting in an idillic park having a picnic Beasties have included a sinister and dark reinterpretation of modern life that includes junkies, prostitutes, tramps sleeping in the park, and even a young lad peeing against some bushes.
The wallpapers have caused controversy and split people's opinions, some people see the wallpapers as highly offensive and have stereotyped races, whereas some people have seen the humour and playfulness that Timorous Beasties had intended this collection to be.
The collection has been seen as controversial as parents who bought the wallpaper to decorate their child's bedroom with had to return it after closer inspection (Article).
It has also been torn down from GPB26m arts complex in London, it was built to celebrate the east end's cultural diversity and found that they wallpaper contained inappropriate and insensitive racial stereotypes. Oona King the faculties chair woman said ''It's important for artists to have some freedom of expression and I don't sanction each and every artistic decision before it's made. But as chair of Rich Mix, I cannot allow the image to be the defining image."(Article)
I think that artists and designers should have the freedom to include their opinions and views in their work, and I admire people who include these matters in their work, however it is not something that I would do myself. Although I want to have more meaning and depth in my work I wouldn't want it to be seen as off-putting and offensive as this would not be the audience my work would be aimed towards.