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Let the atrocious images haunt us: Encounters with conflict and connection in visual art making

Rouse, Alison



In the relative comfort of my UK living room, a passive spectator of TV news, I watch fleeting images of appalling suffering and devastation emanating from the war in Syria. The coverage of the bombing of Aleppo (2015) is heart-rending. I turn to art in response, to slow the disappearance of visual images and to counter my sense of remove. This begins as self-activism, drawing/painting-as-inquiry, in combination with journal writing. As the work progresses, portraits burst out of the sketchbook and claim space to speak for themselves, demanding a place in the wider world, their own artivism. What they communicate to each viewer will vary—a commentary on war, on a country’s response to migration, or a call to action for what might be different? The inquiry moves through personal and cultural layers of a creative process to question what art does, and what it fails to do, in the context of this project and activism. Art’s potential, through the acts of looking and making, to affect is central to the sequence of encounters (connections and disconnections), which are examined here.


Rouse, A. (2021). Let the atrocious images haunt us: Encounters with conflict and connection in visual art making. International Review of Qualitative Research, 14(3), 547-559.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 1, 2020
Online Publication Date Sep 15, 2020
Publication Date Nov 1, 2021
Deposit Date Nov 4, 2021
Publicly Available Date Dec 2, 2021
Journal International Review of Qualitative Research
Print ISSN 1940-8447
Publisher University of California Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 14
Issue 3
Pages 547-559
Public URL


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