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 London 2012, Olympic art, Tracey Emin, Kingston University
Olympic Posters Challenged By Art Students - ArtLyst Article image

Olympic Posters Challenged By Art Students

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Kingston University students have designed an alternative set of Olympic posters to compete with Official offerings from the likes of Tracey Emin and Howard Hogdkin

3rd year design students at Kingston University have created a set of alternative Olympic posters, to rival the official designs unveiled last month. While the official posters were designed by the internationally-renowned likes of Tracey Emin, Howard Hodgkin, Martin Creed, Rachel Whiteread, Michael Graig-Martin, Bridget Riley, and Chris Ofili, these students felt that they could do better.

With titles such as ‘Terrorism’, ‘624,960 children worldwide will die during the London 2012 Olympics Games’, and ‘The plan for the transport in London is as ambitious as Stalin's five year plan’, the students are clearly eager to provide a political commentary to the games in a way that the official designs could not. But there is also a plea to be recognised as struggling artists or as individuals from the crowd, detectable in such titles as ‘Hello?’, ‘Competing for Exposure’, ‘Who’s There?’, and ‘Overcrowding’.

But it’s not all bad, with ‘London’ by Fred North celebrating the coming together of different cultures prompted by the Games, while ‘Spectacular Gathering’ by Maddy Whitty, and ‘Universal Language’ by Jo Hawkes, similarly highlight the joyousness of the occasion, and the ability of sport to enable mankind to overcome its differences.

Official Olympic Poster Artists:

Anthea Hamilton - Divers

Hamilton creates narrative environments through sculptural assemblage and collage. Her work in part is informed by the history of physical prowess and representations of the human, especially female, body. With Divers the poised legs seem to capture a gymnastic pose or show, perhaps a synchronised swimmer diver holding a balletic position. Interestingly, the only Olympic sport exclusively contested by women is synchronised swimming. Divers evokes the engaging theatricality of synchronised swimming, perhaps the most artistically challenging sport of the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Bridget Riley – Rose Rose

Riley is one of the most original painters of our time and is celebrated for her optically vibrant paintings. By manipulating relationships between colours and shapes, she creates illusions of movement and light. For her Olympic print, Riley has arranged colours in horizontal stripes, indicating the direction of athletic tracks or swimming lanes. The relationships between the colours create a sensation of movement capturing the energy of sport and the Olympic Games.

Chris Ofili - For the Unknown Runner

Ofili creates paintings inspired by personal experience, race, folklore, biblical narrative, and, for the last few years the island of Trinidad where he lives. In For the Unknown Runner a figure, somewhere between super-athlete and mythical being, sprints past a watching crowd. The figure is framed by a vase motif - a reference to the Ancient Olympic Games, which provided an arena for artistic and cultural expression as well as sporting excellence. For the Unknown Runner is a powerful dedication to both Olympic history and the future stars of the London 2012 Games. 

Howard Hodgkin – Swimming

Hodgkin describes his paintings as representational pictures of emotional situations. In his Olympic print Hodgkin has created Swimming – a deep, swirling mass of blue flooding across the page. In the darkest area of colour the outline of a figure can be made out as if pushing off after a tumble turn.  The fluidity of the brushstrokes perfectly captures the movement of water and the sensation of swimming.

Martin Creed - Work No. 1273

In a visually saturated world, artists can be faced with seemingly endless possibilities and choices. In response, Martin Creed imposes simple rules on his creativity. He might create a painting using only paintbrushes bought in a multi-pack, or make only one mark a day with the same felt-tip pen until the whole paper surface is covered. Repetition, stacks, and intervals are familiar motifs in his work, along with ascending and descending structures. For Work No.1273, Creed has made five single brush marks using a palette derived from the Olympic colours. The marks are arranged in an ascending form that seems to represent an extended podium offering places beyond first, second and third. Creed’s image can be seen as expressing respect for the excellence of all competing Olympic sportsmen and women. 

Rachel Whiteread – London 2O12

Whiteread is best known for her sculptural work, drawing has always remained a critical part of her practice. She has described drawing as being like a diary of her work, whilst memory remains a key theme. With her print, she has composed a pattern of overlapping rings in the Olympic colours. The rings explore the emblem of the Olympic Games, and also represent marks left by drinking bottles or glasses. They act as memories of a social gathering, such as the athletes in the stadium during the opening ceremony or the spectators of the Olympic Games.


Bob and Roberta Smith - LOVE

Smith uses the immediacy of language to create hand-painted signs on pieces of found wood.  These signs – painted in the style of community action banners, street signs, and fun fair posters - relay direct and often humorous messages. Taking the values of the Paralympic Games as a starting point, Bob and Roberta Smith propose the core elements of the athlete experience: courage, inspiration, love, and of course sweat. 

Fiona Banner - Superhuman Nude

Banner creates nude studies from life, transcribing physical scenarios into verbal descriptions.  These ‘wordscapes’ define the shapes and forms of the body as well as fleeting moments such as the tension in a second of shared eye contact, or a nervous finger tapping. Banner’s print is a nude study of a Paralympic Athlete. The title alludes to the extraordinary physicality of this body. She focuses on strength and physicality but also on the fragility of a human  awaiting competition.  Banner says ‘I liked the idea of comparing the athlete to a superhero, with some extraordinary prosthetic gift. Looking at an athlete naked made them powerful and vulnerable at once.’

Michael Craig-Martin – GO

Craig-Martin combines quotidian objects such as light bulbs, chairs, and umbrellas with everyday words.  His pairing of language and image is based on both familiar and unexpected associations. In combining the word GO with a stopwatch Craig-Martin conveys with a sense of immediacy the excitement and anticipation experienced in the moments before the starter pistol is fired, and the roar of the crowd as they encourage their favourite athlete towards the finish line.

Tracey Emin - Birds 2012

Emin shares her life, beliefs and feelings through her work with compassion and wit.  Emin took the Paralympic values of Inspiration and Determination as the starting point for her print and created what she describes as a ‘love letter’. Two small birds, delicately perched on branches, appear to kiss beneath the words ‘You inspire me with Your determination And I love you’.  The Agitos floats below them like feathers or leaves falling from the tree.  Birds have frequently appeared in Emin’s drawings to symbolise freedom and strength, whilst her use of handwritten text expresses personal thoughts and emotions.  Her print is an inspiring dedication to the Paralympic Games and athletes.

Gary Hume – Capital

Hume creates paintings with distinctive colour palettes, reduced imagery, and rich surfaces.  Hume has abstracted elements from an image of a wheelchair-tennis player, combining them with foliage and a soft and subtle colour palette.  The large, circular form represents the wheel of the wheelchair and the black tennis ball hangs suspended in space, with the tennis racquet poised to smash the ball across the net.  The large circular form can also be seen as a mouth cheering from the audience.  Hume has created an aspirational image celebrating summer sport in London.

Sarah Morris - Big Ben 2012

Morris has been creating complex, geometric, abstract paintings derived from cityscapes and architectural detail, origami patterns and signs and symbols.  To celebrate the Paralympic Games coming to London Morris has created an abstract representation of one of the city’s most iconic landmarks - Big Ben.  The grids and vivid colours create a sense of dynamism and also evoke images of athletic tracks, swimming lanes, and field markings.

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