Friday, October 16, 2020

Farm Animals on Animal Farm, a cautionary tale (an homage to George Orwell)


Acrylic on gessoed aluminium panel (mounted), 18 x 14"
Painting #278, 2020

This painting was started back in February at the beginning of the pandemic. It may seem whimsical on the surface, but it is an allegorical piece infused with political overtones.

I purchased and read "Animal Farm" and "1984" by George Orwell shortly after CNN started using the term of living in an Orwellian time. This came about when then US President advisor, Kellyanne Conway used the term "alternative facts" while coming to the defense of White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer when he stated that Mr. Trump had attracted the "largest audience" ever to witness an inauguration. Right away, Conway's "alternative facts" was compared to "doublethink", a term coined to the act of simultaneously accepting two contradictory beliefs as correct. People also drew comparisons to "newspeak", one of the several wordplay Orwell invented for 1984, meaning to limit freedom of thought. By 1950, Orwell's newly coined words would soon find their way in the Oxford English Dictionary beginning with Newspeak, Big Brother, doublethink, thoughtcrime and unperson. In 1945, he was also the first to use the term cold war.

It was later reported by the New York Times that US sales of 1984 had increased by 9500%. Penguin Books quickly reprinted 75,000 copies and the book surged to #1 on the Amazon's Bestsellers List less than a week after the inauguration.

Even more recently when Bob Woodward was invited on CNN to talk about his most recent book "Rage" and his recordings of conversations with Donald Trump, he mentioned the word Orwellian, which is attached to a dystopian totalitarian state.

George Orwell (1903-1950) was born Eric Arthur Blair. He was a novelist, essayist, journalist and critic. His penname was taken from the River Orwell in Suffolk, England. He was born in India to British parents. His parents separated soon after he was born. In 1904, his mother would return to England where he and his sister were both raised. In 1922, instead of going to university, to chose to serve with the Indian Imperial Police in Burma, where his maternal grandmother lived. His service there fed his lifelong opposition to Imperialism.

Politically, he favored democratic socialism. He went to Spain in 1936 to fight in the Spanish War. There he joined republican forces backed by the United States and the Soviet Union. However, after he was wounded by a snipper, the Soviet forces accused him of betraying the anti-fascist cause and he had to flee the country.

George Orwell Square, Barcelona, Spain - dedicated in 1996.
Orwell lived in Barcelona between 1936 and 1937 , where he became a member of the POUM , coming to fight on the front with the Republican side. He later wrote of these experiences in Homage to Catalonia (1938), which especially portrays scenes on La Rambla and its surroundings.
Left photo of myself taken by my son Jean-Luc - July, 2019.

He spent part of WWII working as a correspondent for the BBC which further fed his distaste for totalitarianism regimes. His experiences in Spain and during WWII created the political leanings that helped shape his most famous novels, Animal Farm (1945) and Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949).

George Orwell
Source Wikimedia Commons

Animal Farm is a fable that reflects events leading up to the Russian Revolution of 1917 and then on into the Stalinist era of the Soviet Union. Orwell was a critic of Joseph Stalin and hostile to Moscow-directed Stalinism. The Soviet Union had become a brutal dictatorship built upon a cult of personality and enforced by a reign of terror. Orwell tells a story about humans via animals. In the process he reveals the sins of the revolutionaries are not limited to people involved in the revolution, but when those in charge, guided by high ideals, then goes on to betray them all. Anytime a revolution goes wrong, people often bring up "Animal Farm" and declare it to be ahead of its time.

George Orwell died on January 21, 1950 from complications of tuberculosis acquired three years previously.

The painting is infused with symbolism pertaining to the animals themselves and the role they play in Animal Farm. It is also a reflection of the current political climate in the US. With the Covid-19 pandemic currently underway, all of these animals have all been linked to previous flus, pandemics and other diseases transmissible to humans.
props used-
• Animal figures - Farm World by Schleich
• Background wallpaper-"Golden Lily" by William Morris (1834-1896)
• base- Record album cover with plastic wrap of ''Power, Corruption & Lies" by New Order (1983) / album artwork - "Basket of Roses" by Henri Fantin-Latour, (1836-1904) collection of the National Gallery, London.

L- auto-portrait of Henri-Fantin Latour, photo taken during visit of the Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin, Ireland (July, 2019) / R- Record album - Power, Corruption & Lies by New Order

• Artwork featured on George Orwell books by Shepard Fairey. Ironically, Fairey became widely known during the 2008 U.S. presidential election for his Barack Obama "Hope" poster.

OBEY 3-Face collage, signed offset lithography
24 x 18" (set of 3 prints) - open edition
-personal collection

To acquire this painting, please contact: 

Galerie de Bellefeuille
1367 avenue Greene, 
Montreal, Quebec H3Z 2A8 
Tel: 514.933.4406