Meanings in Imagery

Exercise: Visual metaphors

Having recently read the chapter on visual metaphor in ‘Illustration: A Theoretical and Contextual Perspective’ by Alan Male, I made that my starting point for this exercise to ensure I had a proper definition. “A generalised definition of visual metaphor might suggest the description of an image that is imaginative but not literally applicable. When applied to the discipline of illustration, it is commonplace to describe this form of imagery as being conceptual.” Male, A (2017) From this definition and further reading in this book, I them explored illustrators working in this imagery form.

From the left: Marshal Arisman (, Brad Holland (, Anita Kunz (www,

Marshal Arisman and Brad Holland both have a surreal quality to their work and surrealism is a movement considered to have been the “biggest influence on conceptual illustration“ Male. A (2017) . A lot of work by Anita Kunz makes statements about politics and world affairs. She provides social commentary through her work.

As a result of exploring conceptual illustration and visual metaphor, I can appreciate the power it can have in challenging ideologies, raising awareness of issues and bringing humour to situations. When talking about Portuguese illustrator Pedro Lina, Mark Wigan explains that “He sees illustration as a catalyst for social change, encouraging people to rethink and question society.” Wigan. M (2014) . Reading this made me think about Banksy and his use of satirical street art as social commentary. The photo below is one I took of his piece in Dover commenting on Britain’s exit from the EU. This inspired me to read ‘Planet Banksy: The man, his work and the movement he inspired."‘ compiled by Ket.

The brief for this exercise was to choose a phrase from a list and create images that symbolise the phrase. I chose ‘censorship of the press’ and made a mind map to generate initial ideas.

Apart from some very obvious ideas about gagged newsreaders and doctored newspapers, my thoughts about censorship of the press were centred on what they choose to tell us, how they create fear by using embellishment and hyperbole to inflame and sensationalise. The press is very subjective and needs to be looked at in a certain way in order to filter out the lies and storytelling and extract the truth. I made a few drawings exploring these ideas which I think convey them effectively. When I showed them to other people, they could see what they symbolised. However, I did rely on words in most of them and the majority of conceptual art and visual metaphor I looked at doesn’t include text. I found it very difficult to convey these ideas without words. Ideas such as: subjectivity, lies, truth, blame and fear are intangible and difficult to portray visually. I adapted the picture of the member of the press painting two entirely different pictures of a person or event by keeping the text limited to a name badge.

This was a difficult phrase to choose, particularly because I have my own strong opinions and thoughts on the subject. I guess that is what made me choose it. But I think it may have hampered my thinking and made the exercise more difficult. There is an illustration by Richard Borge featured in ‘Illustration: A Theoretical and Contextual Perspective’ by Alan Male about censorship that would work well when thinking about censorship of the press. This is shown below. I think if I had gone along the route of tangible ideas like locking up microphones, cameras and pens with keys and chains, then I would have been able to come up with more visual images.


Male. A (2017). Illustration: A Theoretical and Contextual Perspective. 2nd ed. London, NewYork: Bloomsbury, pp 68 - 73

Wigan. M (2014) Thinking Visually for Illustrators. 2nd ed. London, New York: Bloomsbury, pp 60 -63

Zeegen.L & Roberts.C (2014) Fifty Years of Illustration. London: Laurence King, pp 178-179