In North Korea, poster artists work in state-run collective studios. The largest is Mansudae Art Studios in Pyongyang, which employs around 1,000 artists working in different disciplines. Poster artists interpret briefs from government departments using hand-painted typography and idealised images of citizens.
The examples in Made in North Korea: Everyday Graphics from the DPRK, made from 1975-2008, are based on agriculture, fishing and industrial manufacture. Rather than encouraging consumption of food and goods (as in commercial advertising) they encourage production for the benefit of ‘the People’.
A hunt for the eggs hidden in the posters brought us up close to the hand-painted surfaces, and to a story of technical skill and distinctive composition.
Early posters reflect the influence of Korean traditions and Soviet-era Russian art: more recent designs employ bold colour, stylised shapes and dynamic layouts unique to North Korea.
Once a design is approved, painted duplicates or reproduction prints are made for distribution to public spaces across the country. Artwork is also copied by hand onto billboards and, more recently, printed onto backlit screens.
Click on the images to read translations of the text.
See What's On in April at House of Illustration.
“In 2002, during the making of the BBC documentary A State of Mind, I was part of the film crew recording a woman at her local shop using ration coupons (each district has the same type of state-run staple commodity shops). At the meat counter the allocation was one chicken and five eggs per month for each family member.” – Nick Bonner, co-curator of Made in North Korea: Everyday Graphics from the DPRK.
Find out more and book tickets for Made in North Korea: Everyday Graphics from the DPRK here.