Aidan Hughes (also known as BRUTE!) is an artist whose style is characterised by bold, hard-hitting lines, strong action, and a heavy influence from what would appear to be World War II propaganda posters. Hughes' most famous work is likely that which he did for the covers of industrial/metal band KMFDM's albums and singles but there's more to BRUTE! than KMFDM album art.
Propaganda. Harsh. Bold. Striking. Violent. Action. Red. Strong. Blunt. These are most likely the words to come to mind when thinking of the art of Aidan Hughes. Hughes believes that all art is propaganda and, by calling his such, is merely cutting to the chase.
[Aidan Hughes' art] is as pure as a stamp or a logo or a flag, without all the bollocks that usually accompanies art these days. It is intended to hit you instantaneously, as your car races past or as you are shunted past it on escalators. [Those at BRUTE! Propaganda, Hughes' art and design shop,] want to leave a trace image on your eyeballs for the rest of the day, not leave you pondering endlessly on the socio-political symbolism inherent in the work. We don’t care if you like the image or not. It's not for us to do anything except get your attention. The rest is down to you.
--Aidan Hughes in an interview with website ZAP! POW! BANG!*
Hughes goes on to say that he also refers to his art as propaganda because of his belief that he must work through art to further it. In the late 1980s, Hughes worked heavily in the advertising and television industries where he gained a great appreciation for others working in the industry to promote their products as best they could. Hughes has more admiration for an ad man's use of imagery, slogans, and typefaces to pound his message across than for more vague works, shrouded in symbolism, that one would typically find in an art gallery. Hughes more comfortably aligns his work with that propaganda than works created by fine artists.
The artist/propagandist initially creates most of his work with Japanese brush pens, then uses computer graphics programs (a somewhat common description of materials used to create the art on his website is "photoshop and ink") to fine tune the details of a piece and add splashes of colour. BRUTE!'s artwork is characterised by lots of solid colour in large amounts and heavy dark lines. The subject matter of many of Hughes' work tends to be action-oriented, involving fighting, weaponry, harsh embraces, and intimidating-looking characters. Despite these themes in his work, Hughes maintains that he doesn't use negative imagery. The pain found in his works is in the countenance of the characters and while guns and dead or unconscious bodies aren't an uncommon sight here, what is uncommon is any actual blood or bodily injury (though there is occasionally some). Hughes thinks when his work is described as violent, it's not what's actually depicted in his art that's violent but the "explosive nature" of his style.
When asked of what he thinks his favourite and most important pieces are, Aidan Hughes states that his love for his works "Light" (depicting an unconscious woman being carried by another with a dead man in the background), "Crash" (from the perspective of the driver of an automobile with a man recently shot on the windshield while another man with a gun stands victoriously in front of the car), and "Postal Rampage" (a giant postal officer, armed to the teeth and crazed, standing over a city in flames and terrified citizens) over most of his other works and claims that his recent "Honor the Brave" (depicting a fire fighter pulling an injured man from the smoldering World Trade Center towers) as his most important. Hughes' has received a lot of feedback from various people concerning "Honor the Brave," including suvivors of the WTC disaster, and says that this type of response means more to him than reaching some "disaffected Goths in Portland."*
Hughes has recently created a series of works revolving around the WTC and War on Terror, which is no surprise considering his statements that he would like to work for a country's War Ministry (creating propaganda, obviously). Hughes opinion of the propaganda that has come out after the WTC terrorist attacks is that it's "about as inspiring as an 80's Pepsi ad"* and that a more direct approach would be far more respectable.
Hughes was born in Merseyside, England and, after being trained by his landscape artist father, eventually teamed up with a local poet named Malcolm Bennet in the early 1980s. Hughes and Bennet performed a series of performance art pieces which brought them to share the stage with the likes of such musical acts as Durutti Column, Joy Division, Alan Vega, and Cabaret Voltaire. Hughes success really began in 1984 though, when he and Malcolm Bennet formed é Publications to print BRUTE!, a pulp-styled series of stories and graphics that acted as commentary on the political and cultural situations in England at the time. BRUTE!'s greatest success came in the form of compliation paperback editions; some of which, according to Aidan Hughes' website, have now become so expensive as collector's items that neither Hughes himself nor his partner Bennet can afford to buy them.
While working on BRUTE!, Hughes' art style attracted the attention of companies and television producers interested in using his art style in advertisements. Soft drink giant Pepsi, the Royal Bank of Scotland, music labels Warner Bros. and TVT Records, alcoholic beverage providers Bulmers and Coors, and Blitz magazine were all clients Hughes picked up during this time. In 1985, BRUTE! picked up KMFDM as a client and has created the covers of all their releases, save Nihil and Agogo, since then. In addition to the cover art, Hughes also directed and produced the music videos for KMFDM's "A Drug Against War" and "Son of a Gun." Despite being a client of Hughes' since 1985, KMFDM have reportedly only met the artist a couple times due largely to the two living on opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean and Hughes' preference to only travel when it's really required.
In 1988, BRUTE! ceased publication and Hughes and Bennet created "ROCKY!," a short animation to be used as a station ID by MTV. Hughes' various works up until the point had attracted the attention of television producers in London, leading to Hughes being offered (and taking) the opportunity to create a series of short films based on some of the characters in BRUTE! for the BBC, as well as more short, station ID-type work for MTV. Aidan Hughes has since been hesistant to do station identification-type work, once having a short animation he produced redone in a manner he ended up hating at the behest of the television station for which he had produced the piece.
The late 1980s also saw Aidan Hughes writing screenplay treatments for $150 per treatment. Hughes grew sick of this work, particularly having to write within the budget a film would be alloted, and so, at the suggestion of a friend, wrote his own screenplay without any thought to the cost of producing the film. The result a story about the end of the world caused by a "homeless weirdo living on the streets of New York" which Hughes claims would have been one of the most expensive movies made. Many ideas from this screenplay eventually found their way into a video game in 1993 when ZOMBIE Virtual Reality Entertainment, taking a liking to Hughes' work in KMFDM's "A Drug Against War" music video, aided Hughes in creating a first-person shooter characterised by Hughes' artwork called ZPC. ZPC, released in 1996, didn't incorporate everything from Hughes' screenplay. New elements were brought in by Hughes to keep his screenplay and ZPC separate entities.
Since then, Aidan Hughes has kept busy with more art in his usual style, much of which is on display (and some of which is for sale) on his website, BRUTE! Propaganda (http://www.bruteprop.com/). Recently, Hughes has done a series of works acting as propaganda relating to the terrorism that struck the World Trade Center, hailing heroic firefighters and other rescue personnel for their efforts as the WTC burned and promoting the resulting War on Terror. It's difficult to ascertain from Hughes' love of propaganda if he actually supports the War on Terror or is merely revelling in the chance to create some actual war propaganda.
Knowing much of the e2 community's strong support for Linux (or, at least, hatred of Microsoft), many noders may be interested in checking out a piece Hughes created for KMFMS depicting Tux coming down upon Bill Gates with a baseball bat. The image can be found both on Aidan Hughes' and KMFMS' websites.