Nowadays, many artists prefer to create art with an in-depth meaning behind, which could be a provocation to the public and raise the public reflections toward politics, religion, sex, drugs, violence, crimes, human rights, and many other issues in the world. Some artworks were created offensively, politically, erotically, or mystically enough to influence people’s perspectives. In order to gain a deeper understanding of ‘art and design as provocation’, this article analysed the ‘Repetition is Truth- Via Dolorosa’ series made by Rachel Howard.
Rachel Howard is a British artist known for her painting. Her series ‘Repetition is Truth- Via Dolorosa’ was made between 2005 and 2008 and is now exhibiting in the Newport Street Gallery. Rachel’s inspiration of this came from the ‘Stations of the Cross’, also known as ‘Way of the Cross’, ‘Way of Sorrows’, and ‘Via Crucis’, which is about the fourteen divisions of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion. Although the Stations are arranged in order, Howard’s paintings do not have a fixed sequence. She mentioned, ‘My stations have no beginning, middle or end, but are an endless circle. Repetition is truth.’ The huge-scale paintings exhibited in the gallery give the audience a strong feeling of agony. Through layers and layers of acrylic, the pain is vividly depicted as an endless process by the repeating strokes.
Not only relates to the painful path of Jesus, the series, Repetition is Truth- Via Dolorosa, also impact people with the strong messages about human rights toward violence. Among the large paintings, there is a small-sized artwork, namely ‘Study’, hung on the wall in Newport Street Gallery. The man in the painting is Ali Shallal al-Qaisi, who was captured in United States custody during CIA interrogation at Abu Ghraib Prison in 2003. Al-Qaisi became well-known when the Abu Ghraib scandal made the news. He was captured in a photo tortured at the hands by the people from the nation which carries the torch of human rights and freedom. Being shocked by the image, the artist then decided to make it into an ironic artwork, raising the awareness of violence.
Rachel Howard was also obsessed with the box which Ali Shallal al-Qaisi was standing on while being abused by electricity. She kept thinking about the relationships between the cross, the Crucifixion, and the box. By drawing down the box with layers of household gloss and acrylic, Howard wants to stimulate people with her art and lead the audience to reflect on the horrific violence in the twenty-first century.
In conclusion, Rachel Howard’s art not only provoked people’s sensibility of excruciation but also evoked human’s consciousness toward violence happening today. Under her art, the torment was repeated, as well as the conscious of human rights was aware.