The Power of the Visual

As the old saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. This is definitely the case when comparing the power and lasting memory of an illustration, cartoon or photo to the written word—an essay on a political or social topic. In much the same way that viewing a graph can more quickly and clearly describe the results of a survey when compared to reading a written abstract, an illustration or cartoon can convey its message more powerfully by using creative visual elements that are aimed at stirring the viewer’s emotions in a way that makes them almost palpable.

I was fortunate to stumble upon a public exhibition of illustrations by international artists last week that focused on social and political issues around the world. I’m sharing my favorites in this post.

[Apologies for not giving credit to some of the artists, but the exhibition didn’t identify the creators of each work–strange, I know! For the signed illustrations, I’ve tried to decipher the artist’s signature.]

This powerful illustration certainly fulfills its purpose of addressing the remnants of Colonialism that still negatively affect indigenous populations today, as well as the timely issue of responsible tourism. Artist: P. Kuczynski, 2009.

Modern society seems to have created just the right conditions for imprisoning people in any one of many addictions. As this illustration shows, it is incredibly difficult to climb out of the addiction abyss without the assistance and support of loved ones and other care givers. Artist: Karry.

Honestly, this illustration reminds me of myself as I’ve constantly moved around the globe, always carrying a few precious possessions. Possibly it represents our materialistic culture and the burden that things can become, leading us into the depths of crushing debt and emptiness. What do you think? Artist: Shivin Ghoolipoooor.

This illustration also reminds me of my perfectionist tendencies and attempts to control the uncontrollable events happening all around me. Or perhaps it represents a life where work and caring for ourselves and others is never finished. What do you think? Artist: Yitsol.

The message being conveyed by this illustration seems clear. Humanity’s evolution has turned people into killing machines, or maybe that has always been our true nature. However, with the massive increase in our species’ numbers and frantic pursuit of material wealth, we are destroying our planet along with all its other creatures, and in the end, ourselves as well. Other thoughts? Artist: Ahmet Aykauat.

I’m completely open to your thoughts on interpreting this work, but I love it.

There’s no question that the Arms Industry continues to ‘shit’ bombs and other weapons onto our planet causing incalculable suffering. Artist: Calarca.

The human image is using the violin bow in an attempt to play a tune on the rope and noose. Do you have any suggestions on interpreting this one? Could it be about self-indulgence and the constant whimpering of many Westerners? How about the fact that while we fiddle away our lives, the noose of death is ever-tightening? More thoughts?

As a great admirer of Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings, I found this one interesting. The painting is one of Van Gogh’s most famous–his bedroom in Arles, France where he lived with Paul Gaugin during his most productive and turbulent period. The movers are taking away the bed, an important element of the painting since this is where Vincent died after reportedly shooting himself. Art as a commodity usurps importance of artistic expression?






Categories: Culture, PoliticsTags: , , , , , ,


  1. Wonderful. I think Van Gogh’s painting shows that today, Art is for sale. It has become a commodity to be bought and sold by those who run the art world. They can sell off pieces and make people famous who do not have talent and people will pay millions for trash because that’s what the hawkers have done and people believe them.

    I think the person playing the violin shows humans constantly under threat of death from war and their governments but trying to make the best out of a deadly situation over which they feel they have no control. They can’t remove the noose because they have been brainwashed not to really see it.

    To me the fisherman shows out detachment from others. He doesn’t care about the dead body because more and more we mean less and less to each other.

    I think the houses mean we take our culture with us wherever we go. When we travel we see other lands through our American eyes which means we don’t actually see what’s right in front of us. It’s impossible to do so…for anyone.

    The woman ironing the leaves means that women do the work that never ends and get nothing for it. Nothing at all. They work to death and are simply replaced by another woman doing a useless job that never ends.

    Just my opinions. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Thanks so much for expressing your thoughts @hitandrun1964! What wonderful insights you’ve shared! I totally agree with your thoughts on the woman ironing leaves. Wherever I lived around the world, women do the majority of the labor and it’s never ending. In Thailand, many of the men would sit during the day and get drunk while the women basically ran the economy but didn’t get credit for their efforts. I really appreciate your support of my blog!


  3. Powerful images, Henry. Each one is worthy of reflection.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow Henry! I was stunned by these images. Very powerful and intelligent in their simplicity. Interesting comments from you and hitandrun, I’ll add my own humble ones on my 5 favourite images.
    The houses. Yes, we take our cultures with us, we all do, not just Americans and westerners. Worse, we are prisoners to our cultures as the ropes show.
    The fisherman. A puzzle. It can have a lot of interpretations. A possible one: We calmly and indifferently step over dead bodies to get what we want.
    The noose. We are brainwashed lambs happily unaware we are on the way to the slaughter.
    Van Gogh. The gradual destruction of art by modern art itself.
    The ironing. Although visually less interesting, this is the one I was most struck by: The never-ending futility of our main pre-occupations. Wake up Marios, think what you are doing!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Nice! Far beyond the scope of everyday cartoons!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. A great selection, stark and true. Colonialism goes about its dark business, using many guises and disguises recognized by good artists. Thanks so much, Henry.

    Liked by 1 person

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