Some artists aren’t touched by the loveliness surrounding them, their patrons’ sponsorship or the need for catharsis. Jim Fitzpatrick operate on a different bandwidth, channeling the inequalities and cruel realities of their existence or the lives of others to animate their art. This is the medium of political art.
Jim Fitzpatrick is an Irish artist who has evolved this style to expound his view of global politics and social standards. Best known for his work inspired by the Celtic tradition and cover album designs of lead Irish bands, his most iconic print depicts the black and red image of Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara, which became a universal symbol of resistance and anti-oppression in 1968.
Recently, Fitzpatrick has published a new print of Ahed Tamimi, the young Palestinian teenager currently on trial at an Israeli military court in the West Bank, to galvanize worldwide attention for her to have a just trial. His flavour of culture-jamming, order-disrupting and trouble-making ways reflects the current global zeitgeist where people worldwide are beginning to awaken from their lethargy to realise that curtailing of justice anywhere equals curtailing of justice everywhere.
There are four main aspects and functions of political art:
- sociopolitical expression
The grandson of political cartoonist Thomas Fitzpatrick, Fitzpatrick comes from a bloodline of artists. His grandfather worked for the Leprechaun Cartoon Monthly and Punch magazine in London and his father, Jimmy Fitzpatrick, was a photojournalist for the Irish Independent and The Irish Times.
Jim loved to draw from childhood and credits his mother for exposing him to art. He says,
My mother use to take me to Art galleries on Sundays…I remember seeing a stain glass piece called ‘Geneva Window’, by Harry Clarke…it lit up a light bulb for me and I was so inspired by it.
A Revolutionary Encounter
In 1961 Fitzpatrick was only 16 but already politically astute. Taking a summer job as a bartender to earn money for a pilgrimage to Rome, he once met Che Guevera. After chatting amiably, he recounted, “I asked him vaguely about his roots, because he told me his granny was Irish.” Once Che Guevara was eventually killed in Bolivia in 1967 Fitzpatrick was outraged. He then produced the iconic universal image of him as a martyr that has gripped the world’s imagination. Perhaps this is his aim when it comes to Ahed’s image too.
At the time Fitzpatrick was working in graphics using techniques like ‘spot colour’, which later influenced the Red and Black tone of this renowned print. The famous yellow star was coloured in with a felt-tipped pen and the Christly upward gaze he gave ‘Il Che’ was influenced by his Catholic upbringing. Fitzpatrick originally never wanted money for the poster, making it copyright free but once it became cross commercial – appearing on cigarettes packs – he reclaimed the image to be solely circulated for political purposes.
Saving Ahed Tamimi
Recently, Fitzpatrick created yet another powerful image of Ahed Tamimi, who was arrested after footage emerged of her slapping an Israeli soldier during a protest outside her home in Nabi Saleh in the West Bank. She faces 12 charges, including incitement to violence and assaulting Israeli security forces. The Tamimi family and supporters, claim that she reacted to an earlier incident in which an Israeli soldier shot her 14-year-old cousin, Muhammad Tamimi in the head with a rubber bullet at close range. Muhammad had to be placed in a 72-hour medically induced coma. He survived the gunshot but remains badly injured.
Fitzpatrick recently claimed that the image is a political statement,
I became aware of Ahed Tamimi in 2016…I was disturbed by her story learning that her village was under attacked. My effort is to raise awareness so that they can’t simply kill this young girl. That’s how serious I am about it and that’s how serious they are about it, I know how they Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) behave.
Why did he choose to illustrate her as ‘Wonder Woman’?
Fitzpatrick is hoping the image will go viral to bring awareness to the plight of Ahed, her family and her village the sharper focus. He is allowing a free download of the image on his website under creative commons but not to be use for commercial use.
I believe I am working for a higher purpose to save a young girls life.
The Artists Role in Society
The artists role is to produce work…artists aren’t there to give messages, they are there to reflect society perhaps but to add imagination and give colour to our live.
Born and raised in Toronto, Canada, Tanya knew that Palestine was her symbolic homeland. Always curious about her identity and connecting with her roots, she was eager to strengthen her ties to the Levant and traveled the region, desperate to learn more. It wasn’t until her first trip to Palestine that she became spiritually and emotionally connected.
She studied Political Science and Sociology at the University of Toronto. She then moved to the UAE, supporting numerous NGOs related to children’s welfare in the region. When she had her own family, she created the My Olive Roots platform in the hopes that her children and the Arabs diaspora would have a place to connect, learn and preserve their roots. Tanya enjoys discovering humanist stories and exploring the connection of food and art with culture.