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Saucy McGill continues to amuse

August 12, 2010 in News

Copyright Greaves & Thomas/McGill Archive

That saucy old salt Donald McGill continues to cause a stir, nearly 50 years after his death. For the first time, the full collection of 21 postcards which were banned after an Obscene Publications Act witch-hunt in 1953, have gone on display.

They can be seen in the perfectly appropriate seaside surroundings of the recently opened Donald McGill Museum and Archive in Ryde on the Isle of Wight.

There is little option for the modern mind but to see them as cliché-ridden, pre-feminist, pre-60s snapshots of the suppressed British libido. But the sexual innuendo still has resonance. Despite the 60s and beyond, many of us Brits still have a “policeman inside all our heads” and the simple rudeness is appealing. Why do we still laugh at them? Well, because they’re funny.

Even George Orwell was a fan. A short essay of his (“The Art of Donald McGill”) in 1941, written at the height of Britain’s isolation, flattered McGill’s egregious talent and his essential Britishness, but Orwell the Old Etonian couldn’t help but warn readers that the “first impression is of overpowering vulgarity”.

Orwell points out that the viewpoint in McGill’s postcards is essentially safe and conservative – that of the aspirational working class. “They express only one tendency in the human mind, but a tendency which is always there and will find its own outlet, like water. On the whole, human beings want to be good, but not too good, and not quite all the time.”

Where the cartoonist’s view might differ from Orwell’s is that they are not “ill-drawn” – they are rather well drawn cartoon art of a certain period. Certainly better than the dozens of imitators he spawned.

Opinion: The Patron of the Arts

July 13, 2010 in Comment

Bloghorn_cartoonists ©http://thebloghorn.org for the UK Professional Cartoonists’ Organisation http://www.procartoonists.org
Bill Stott writes:

Mr Charles Saatchi has given the Nation a large lump of his contemporary art collection, and a gallery to keep it in. Can’t say fairer than that.

Sometimes, when we’re told that “the Nation” has stumped up daft money to keep Ravioli’s Temptation of St Botolph from disappearing into a foreign millionaire’s vault, I idly wonder, as a tiny part of the nation, whether I even had an opinion.

I can’t do that about Mr Saatchi’s munificence, though. It’s a gift. Although I do think there are still a few questions floating about. Don’t some of the items in the gifted collection already belong to people?

For example, I could have sworn somebody had bought Tracey Emin’s famous bed. Perhaps they were similarly kind and let it stay in the collection rather than carting it home to make a statement in the atrium, or to upset visiting relatives.

Or maybe they left it because the power of the piece depends on the juxtaposition of the objects within it (an art critic told me that, so it must be true). It would be expensive to keep having Trace pop in to rearrange everything after the Help had tidied it up a bit.

And which bits of “the Nation” will appreciate Mr Saatchi’s kindness? Presumably the artistic gurus who tell us what is or isn’t in this year.

Meanwhile, an art-form with a far wider appeal – UK cartooning – stutters along, self-helping as usual. Apart from a few notable, contemporary exceptions, it appears to be regarded by the artistic hierarchy snootily, and from a safe distance.

“What about Rude Britannia?” I hear you cry. Yes, it’s very posh. Lots of fanfare, but curated mainly by whom? There is due deference to Gillray and super stuff from Bell and Scarfe and Rowson … but how little Carl Giles, no Larrys, and how many Bill Tidys? These last drew, observed and commented on the way of the REAL world. And they were funny. That is cartooning’s Achilles heel. No matter how well drawn, coloured, observed a cartoon is, if it makes you laugh its not “Art”.

Good cartooning is as much an art-form as Ms Emin’s bed. And it relies on tiny, feisty outfits like the Cartoon Museum to keep banging on about it. What they could do with a new FREE gallery!

BBC plays Rude Britannia

June 15, 2010 in General, News

Rude Britannia Cartoon at Tate Britain. Reports at http://thebloghorn.org for the UK's Professional Cartoonists' Organisation

You can watch BBC Four’s take on the theme of Rude Britannia, which ties in with the exhibition of the same name at Tate Britain, just click the picture.

The documentary is one hour long. Parts two and three can be seen tonight and tomorrow night on BBC Four or on the iPlayer.

Profile photo of Royston

by Royston

Big summer for cartoon shows

May 31, 2010 in General, News

Rude Britannia
“A stick of rock, cock?” – the classic saucy postcard by Donald McGill, from Tate Britain’s Rude Britannia exhibition

June looks like being a great month for cartoon shows, with three new exhibitions opening in London.

The big one is Rude Britannia which sees cartoons being let loose in a gallery for “proper art”, namely Tate Britain. It opens on June 9 and runs until September 5.

The exhibition explores British comic art from the 1600s to the present day and puts cartoons alongside a wide array of rude paintings, sculptures, film and photography. Ooer missus, there’s more here.

Then there’s Creations in Bad Faith, a selection of cartoons from New Humanist magazine by PCOer Martin Rowson which is at the Menier Gallery in Southwark from 8-12 June. More details here.

Opening on June 18 is Ray Lowry: London Calling, at the Idea Generation gallery in Shoreditch, which pays tribute to the cartoonist who died last October. Lowry drew for Punch, Private Eye and the NME, and was known as the rock ‘n’ roll cartoonist.

He created the iconic artwork for the Clash album London Calling, and alongside a look at his back catalogue the exhibition will feature contributions from 30 artists paying tribute to that. More details here.

Bloghorn will have more on these shows as they happen. In the meantime, Martin Rowson can be seen talking cartoons with Laurie Taylor on In Confidence tomorrow (June 1) at 10pm on the Sky Arts channel.

UPDATE: Here’s a summer cartoon show we missed: Alex in Love