North Korean Propaganda Artists Paint a Rosy China

The Guardian reports on “Beautiful Future,” an exhibition of designs by longtime expats Nick Bonner and Dominic Johnson-Hill as realized by North Korean propaganda artists which recently wrapped-up in Beijing’s Cao Chang Di Art District. The six paintings on show displayed modern Chinese architecture and contemporary culture juxtaposed with the arcadian paradise of socialist realism:

A jovial group of Red Guards bask in the golden glow of cornfields, waving their flags at the magnificent harvest, while a rustic farming couple look on, carrying an overflowing basket of perfectly plump red apples. It could be one of the many thousands of posters issued by the Chinese Communist Party’s Propaganda Department in the 1950s, of rosy-cheeked comrades brimming with vim and vigour. But something’s not quite right.

In the centre of this vision of optimism, where once might have beamed the cheerful face of Mao, stands the twisted loop of the China Central Television (CCTV) headquarters, radiating a lilac sheen. Framed by the vapour trail of a trio of jet-planes performing a victory flypast into the sunset, the building stands like a triumphal gateway to some promised land of Socialism with Chinese characteristics.

[...]“North Korean artists are the best people at delivering a message without slogans,” says Bonner, who collects North Korean art and has produced documentaries exploring life in the DPRK – as well as what he describes as “North Korea’s first feature-length rom-com” last year, Comrade Kim Goes Flying. “We wanted to show contemporary China as it could have been, if it had continued with Maoist ideology.” [Source]

Nick Bonner is a filmmaker and the founder of Koryo Tours, which has been leading tour groups to North Korea since 1993. See a Danwei profile of Bonner from 2005. Dominic Johnson-Hill is the founder of Beijing-based Plastered8 T-Shirts.