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I do a lot of visual research for my work, I need a mental kickstart at times to get things flowing. Unlike when I was in college in the early to mid 90s though, there is now an overload of work to look at, through channels such as Instagram or Pintrest, which is fantastic. But what’s become increasingly evident, if taken at face value, is the grim abundance of artwork involving characters/machinery armed to the teeth.
Growing up in the late 70’s and 80’s, I was front row to science fiction art produced by the likes of Chris Foss, Chris Moore and Peter Elson to name a few – the ‘Golden Age’ of science fiction art. What they all seemed to have in common, along with what the vast majority of other artists of the time, was a feeling of optimism in their images. Sure, there were space ships blowing up and ‘interstellar battles’, but for every image showing something blowing up, there were at least 10 that did not.
I don’t want to come across all flowers and roses. I like my fair share of things blowing up in games, movies and images but the collective ‘we’ should find it a little disturbing when looking through bodies of work by some very talented ‘young’ artists where the core theme seems to be militaristic. Is this an indication of their thoughts of what the future holds for us, or is it a reflection of influences such as console games, where the major themes are violence (a ‘problem’ even the games industry itself admits to)?
Conflict is at the core of so much the entertainment we consume, from print through to games. In many ways though, it can often be the ‘lazy’ option – it’s so much easier to create entertainment with conflict as the core as opposed to it being just a part of a larger narrative (if at all). Maybe it’s time we spend more time and effort in teaching, and learning, what a good narrative is about, rather than simply deferring to the easiest way to instant gratification…