The Approach Of War In Contemporary Art

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War has always existed since the appearance of a man. From prehistoric times, art included many representations of war and combat scenes. Whether it is wars between tribes, between people, different people, or even because of religion, men used war for personal ends to obtain territories, power, and wealth. Some people make war for the only purpose of defend against the aggressor to defend their culture and their property. In art, war has often been used to glorify battles won by states. The artists served as propaganda for the sovereigns, the art made it possible to demonstrate the power of their country and their army to the people. Also in order to communicate a political issue or to promote a message to the population, the artists have used different artistic domains and styles. Bourke (2017) expresses that portrayals and reflections on war are numerous for instance artists have turned to oil and water paints, pencils and crayons, silk and wool, carved wood, photographic film, digital technologies, and blood.

This essay discusses the approach of war in contemporary art with three different works.

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Firstly, Kingdom is a manga written and drawn by Yasuhisa Yara. The manga recounts the story of Shin, a young slave in old China during the era of the Warring States period (221-207 Before Christ).

The story begins with Shin as a slave for rich people, to arise in social class is the only option is to become a warrior, there is no other way for a slave.

Indeed, the story takes place during the Warring States period, when China was divided into seven kingdoms: Qin, Zhao, Han, Wei, Chu, Yan, and Qi. Through the story of Shin, we also follow the story of Ei Sei, the man who would later be known as Qin Shi Huang, the unifier of China. Shin will rise from a simple soldier to a general during the different battles to unite China. In order to conquer China, he needs to overthrow the 6 rival states that threatening his state Qin. The kingdom is very interesting because he shows an aspect of pure violence in the battle. For the author, there is no good or bad not an evil man, and a great man he shows purely the truth of a battle. The ability to lost thousands of soldiers for winning a small territory shows the unconscious of humankind. Moreover, he shows the brutality that soldiers do when they conquer villages, rape, killing, slavery. The author doesn’t choose to show the . Every soldier from both sides has family, friends that’s why they fight, they have a purpose to fight and one army is not better than the other indeed they will commit the same atrocity.

The genre of action doesn’t involve only raw battle, but also a battle of strategy, tactic, and instinct in a highly intelligent way. In fact, the author took into account that the Chinese military was one of the first to call battles an art.

“In Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, a treatise dating from the fifth century before Christ. In it, military strategists are reminded that just as ‘in battle, there are no more than two methods of attack – the direct and indirect – yet these two in combination give rise to an endless series of maneuvers, so, too, there are not more than five primary colours”(Bourke, 2017, p1). Yasuhisa Yara is really involved in writing and also researching the Chinese military past in order to show as faithfully as possible the history.

In my opinion, Kingdom transmits a feeling unique as manga, actually, it is one of the few that is representing with honesty and realistic historic fight.

Secondly, this artwork named “Napalm” has been made in 1994 by Banksy. It is a collage from the original picture of Nick Ut during the Vietnam war, entitled The Terror of War, taken on 8 June 1972.

The following year, the photograph won both the Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography and the World Press Photo of the Year. At the time the photograph had caused a lot of attention by denouncing the atrocities committed by the American Army during this war.

Here Banksy has fun with this photo by making a collage and putting the little girl next to Mickey and Ronald two emblematic figures of capitalism one from Disney and the other from Mc Donald’s. Then, this girl is the focal point of the scene it strongly reinforces the look we have in this image. Also the artist tries to shock the public by making hold the two arms of the little girl by Mickey and Ronald. This would imply that it is capitalism that accompanies such a disaster. Moreover, the contrast between the two characters and the little girl is really striking. Mickey and Ronald both smile as if they were going for a walk, unlike the little girl who is horrified. Banksy shows both sides of America one side that is the fun, the entertainment but also the American culture and American dream, on the other hand, America has a dark side that commits an atrocity in the war as the bombings on civilians. 


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