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Visions of Utopia:

Since 1949, propaganda posters have been produced in China as a visual language to unite the masses. Posters and billboards portraying images of youth in minority costumes, traditional paper cuts and China’s abundant workforce engaged in modernisation were meant to unite the masses through ‘revolutionary realism with revolutionary romanticism’. These images offer interesting insight into Mao’s version ‘socialist utopia’.

With the opening of China to foreign investment and trade in 1979, the vision of a ‘socialist utopia’ has changed once again. Propaganda posters are replaced with large-scale billboards featuring luxury cars, clothing and products from the West.

In order to illustrate this change, artists from Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia, Lisa Scharoun (Lecturer of Graphic Design) and Frances Tatarovic (Lecturer of Photography), have created a series of ‘advertisements’ that utilize similar themes of Maoist era propaganda posters with the infusion of the glossy characteristics of luxury fashion advertising.  The images reference techniques and the visual language of contemporary western commercial fashion photography. Within the artworks, the past and present visual culture of China is juxtaposed to create a dialogue between the icons of the Maoist vision of a socialist utopia and the contemporary visual icons of fashion and luxury advertising.

Presented by the Faculty of Arts and Education, Deakin University and Deakin Creative

About the Artists:

Lisa Scharoun is an artist and lecturer in graphic design at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia. Lisa completed a Bachelor of Arts in graphic design at Florida Southern College in Lakeland FL, USA in 2000 and subsequently worked in the advertising industry in the US before commencing a Masters in design studies at The University of the Arts London, Central St. Martin’s College in 2001. On finishing her studies, Lisa continued working in the advertising and design industry in London from 2002-2003, specializing in branding and visual identity. In 2003 she accepted a two- year position lecturing in the visual communications department at Raffles Design Institute in Shanghai. Lisa has exhibited extensively showing her oil paintings in the Lakeland Art Guild Annual Juried Show in Florida, USA (1999-2000), a collaborative multimedia work at the Xhibit group show in London, UK in 2001, a solo show of oil paintings at the Room with a View Gallery in Shanghai (2004), acrylic paintings in Women’s Work group exhibition (Room with a View Gallery) in 2005, and photographic work in Foreigner Focus Shanghai at the Meiyuan Arts Center in 2005. She also staged a charity exhibition at Shanghai University in 2004: auctioning her work to raise money for school supplies for migrant children living in Shanghai. During her experience in Shanghai, Lisa was especially intrigued by the presence of western fashion advertising and its affect on the youth of Shanghai. Lisa has just recently completed a PhD entitled ‘Western Fashion Advertising in Mainland Urban China and its effects on the Self Image of Youth’ at Queensland College of Art, Griffith University, Australia in March 2008.

Frances Tatarovic is a photo based artist and commercial photographer who has been teaching for over nine years. Currently she is a Lecturer in photography at Deakin University Australia and has also taught at the Australian Center for Photography in Sydney, Australia for nine years. She holds a Masters of Fine Art from University of New South Wales, Sydney and has exhibited her artwork extensively. Frances notes that, "photography, like memory, places images firmly in my imagination. My previous work centres around landscapes; landscapes that evoke personal recognition. Onto these landscapes I project my histories and obsessions.” According to Simon Schama Landscape And Memory…”landscape being a text in which we write our reoccurring obsessions...looking at what we have and what we have lost." In this current series she is working collaboratively for the first time with Lisa Scharoun on a project that looks at the collision of art, culture and advertising.

'Visions of Utopia' wins international photographic prize
first prize in the Fine Art-Collage category of the '2009 Prix de la Photographie Paris (PX3)'


Exhibition Details

Visions of Utopia

12 June - 29 July 2009

Dennys Lascelles Exhibition Gallery

Deakin University
Geelong Waterfront Campus
1 Gheringhap Street
Geelong Victoria

Open Monday - Friday
10am - 4pm

image from Visions of Utopia exhibition


image from postcard invitation to Visions of Utopia exhibition

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