Drawing lesson, March 2009
Unofficial War Art
Since the First World War artists have been dispatched to war zones to produce official war art. Jill Gibbon uses drawing and art history to challenge the ideological function of this practice. Through a historical review of the genre, she suggests that official war art shrouds war in the ‘higher values’ that are often associated with art. In addition, its emphasis on conflict zones ignores the political and economic causes of war at home. So, when artists were sent to Afghanistan and Iraq to produce art about the ‘war on terror’, Jill decided to reverse official war art by drawing the peace movement and the arms trade. Replacing the ‘higher values’ of art with an alternative ethic of protest, she has drawn in locations ranging from nuclear missile bases, police cells and international arms fairs.
An artist and activist, Jill Gibbon attempts to use reportage drawing as a political tool. Her drawings regularly appear in the antiwar press, Peace News, Corporate Watch and The New Internationalist, and are more frequently displayed on the fences of nuclear missile bases than in galleries. However, she was part of the group exhibition Drawing Viewpoints at the Pittville Gallery in 2006, and was short-listed for the Jerwood Drawing Prize in 2004. She studied at Leeds Polytechnic (1986-89), Keele University (1995), and has just completed a PhD on the radical potential of reportage drawing at Wimbledon College of Art. Currently a lecturer at the Open University, she has also taught at Leeds Metropolitan and Staffordshire Universities.