Nursery Rhymes, according to Katherine Elwes, have a deeper meaning and not just mere words and lullabies.
The simple, rhythmic verses, usually in a quartet, are easy to read and remember. This style is also apparent in propaganda materials. Singapore post-independent utilises such songs as most people are uneducated at that time.
I am greatly influenced by dadaism and pop art, and my artist reference include Hannah Hoch and Richard Hamilton. Both movements tend to discuss social and political issues in the form of art. I am especially interested in Hannah Hoch, who grapples with patriarchy within the circle of dada artists. Her works use cut outs from periodicals, some images with heavy symbolism, to express her disdain for the system and a voice for women.
For my series, I decided to do up social commentaries on various current issues in the form of visuals that are easy to read, very much like Nursery Rhymes.
Mary Had A Little Lamb (Capitalism)
Virgin Mary represents independent farmers who are exploited by large corporations (Mr. Monopoly, as capitalists are often represented by a man in a suit and top hat). Farmers are often milked for their produce and only a meagre stream of revenue trickled back to the farmers; most of the profits retained by large corporations.
Thus, people with spending power should be conscious in making responsible decisions when choosing products. Organisations such as the Fair Trade movement are pretty much encouraging a more sustainable relations between farmers and suppliers to prevent marginalisation of small-scale farmers and the welfare of plantation workers.
Ring-A-Round The Rosie (Feminism)
The ring of male heads around the central female character are scrutinising her with x-ray visions.
Feminism itself is subjective and there are two ways of approaching it:
- The objectification of women by the harsh dissecting beams coming out from the guys’ eyes criss-crossing over her face such that it is almost unidentifiable.
- The woman nonchalantly blowing gum; relish in the moment to show that she has power over the men by being able to manipulate their desires.
The Mouse Ran Up The Clock (Rat Race)
The mice on the clock are racing against time (which is never ending) even after they finished the race they are still running around the clock as if on loop. Their family and friends look at them with expectation, and even after completing the race they are not thrilled, causing the mouse to run once more just to satisfy their expectations. The cat, an arch-enemy of the mouse, looms in the background, unsatisfied, and barking orders. The mouse continue to run up the clock to satisfy parties that will never be satisfied by its achievements.
I used mice instead of other animals because they are often used in lab experiments, therefore often exploited.
There Was An Old Woman Who Lived In A Shoe (Ageing)
The cat in a babushka scarf (a signifier of old age) is living in a shoe, and the background is a school of fish. The cat is trying to reach for the fish but it can not succeed. This represents the limitations of old age and how as we grow older, naturally we become more hindered due to age. What was once easy to do (cat catching and eating fish) becomes something that takes effort to achieve.
I do not really fancy half-tone monochrome, but since this is the parameters of the assignment (albeit restrictive), I tried my best to work with it. The results were great for me and I kind of like the challenge of being limited to the design style that I have to find a way to work around it and make it work.
I played with scale and the relationship between the foreground and background to create depth of field. For Ring-A-Round The Rosie, I used layering and opacity before I half-tone to see what effect I would get. The result is an almost snakeskin texture with “scales” in different direction” and I find that it works for that piece.