Digital satire – the power of the painter

Social media is the great leveller in the world of politics and art. The internet has democratised the politician’s spin; visually reducing politicians to a laughing stock. Visual satire is now being produced on a scale never seen before in the digital arena. The combination of platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, along with editing tools such as Photoshop, enables artists to create digital works, with immediate effect. Many artists are now using digital satire as a means of expressing their creativity as well as questioning political and social injustice.


One artist who is leading the way in digital satire, is the artist, Norrie Harman. Harman is an award-winning oil painter who grew up on the outskirts of Edinburgh, in Wester Hailes, a 1970’s housing scheme. Harman’s work explores his childhood growing up in a wild, forgotten part of the city with themes of dystopia and poverty. This was beautifully explored in Harman’s exhibition, “Way Out West” in 2012, with themes of an abandoned dystopia, peppered with garish figures, painted with various items from bits of cardboard through to steel blades.

norrie harman | way out west
“Hilary Goes Shopping” – indian ink on paper 

Harman is one of the UK’s most gifted contemporary painters, having studied at Edinburgh Art College. Harman won one of the most prestigious awards at the Royal Scottish Academy whilst still a student and has rebelled ever since with paintings of dystopic unrest and abandonment.

Norrie Harman | Abandoned Garage



norrie Harman | capri garage



Harman explores these themes using his “digital sketchbook”; using the internet and photoshop to intervene with readily available imagery, sourced from all forms of media.  These digital images are then posted on Twitter and Facebook often with satirical commentary to match…

norrie harman



photo 1 (1)



Norrie Harman


These works allow Harman to blur the lines between what is real and what is art and the result is a dynamic blurring of reality.


This outpouring of digital satire culminated in a project with Bonnie Prince Bob another artist based in Edinburgh. This project was Jim Murphy, Saviour of the Union, a piece of political satire, created by Norrie Harman and Bonnie Prince Bob. Harman intervened with some of his favourite paintings, as the visual storyboard for Bonnie Prince Bob to present the now infamous satirical account of James Francis Murphy, Labour politician.

Harman explained that he re-appropriated renaissance paintings for the Jim Murphy piece, using photoshop and a painter’s touch for detail. An excellent example of this is the re-interpretation by Harman of “Narcissus” by Carravagio.

Norrie Harman


Narcissus is a painting by the Italian master Caravaggio, painted circa 1597–1599. It is housed in the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica in Rome.


norrie harman


Harman positions Jim Murphy as the figure of Narcissus, staring into the reflection of Tony Blair.


Since then, Harman has continued with this practice of digital satire through both his digital work and painting. He continues to blur the lines between reality digital and painting. It is this visual blurring that excites the viewer, particularly in a digital world flooded with content. Follow Norrie Harman for more of his blurred reality.





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