Tuesday, 18 January 2011

The People You're Not

Hi peeps! A belated happy new year to you all! There has been a good reason for my tardiness in posting recently and it's one I've not really told anyone about, but, ooh it is good!

Just before Christmas I was invited to take part in an exhibition at the Cornerhouse gallery in Manchester, which was draw enough in itself, but the idea for the work was proposed by Harry Hill. Yes, THE Harry Hill, he of TV Burp fame and such. Being a fan I jumped at the chance to participate. Here's the scoop, it's complex so pay attention:

Last year the Cornerhouse hosted an exhibiton called Unrealised Potential, an inventive show where artists submitted ideas for unmade work which was then put up for sale at £50 each and contractually had to be realised within a two year period. The show blurred the line between artist, public and curator allowing anyone to buy the ideas and fulfil the brief as they chose.

One of the ideas was put forward by Harry Hill, a little known artist in his own right, and consequently bought by art producer and curator Bren O' Callaghan. The idea was a simple title; To re-create George Cruikshank's The Worship of Bachus using known alcoholics.

That is where I came in, I am one of seven artists realising Hill's idea. But how? Have you seen Cruikshank's The Worship of Bachus? It's huge and contains hundreds of figures.
Bren came up with the clever solution of looking at the seperate tableaus within the work and re-creating them in the style of Victorian toy theatres. It was the layers of perspective that inspired him; just like the layers of set and scenary within a toy theatre.

What I especially like about this idea is that it hits upon themes I am interested in. Cruikshank was a lethal satirist (paid by some well known figures of his time NOT to draw them!) Burlesque took hold in the music halls of Victorian Britain and started life as saucy satire, mimicking and mocking the upper classes. This was the beginning of the bawdy knowing humour found in burlesque right through to today. (The stripping element came a bit later when it transferred to America). A toy theatre is the perfect platform to reference the burlesque aspect of the project.

Detail of The Worship of Bachus showing The Wedding Supper by George Cruikshank

The tableau I have concentrated on is The Wedding Supper (or Til Decree Nisi do we Part) a romantic scene... with booze. The twist to the theme is that of a celebrity wedding, the likes of which you find in OK Magazine and Hello! The comely bride, bridegroom and guests replaced by a sozzled Kerry Katona, Shane McGowan Tommy Cooper and the Queen of camp herself Liza Minellii to name but a few!

My drawing of Kerry Katona as a glazed Cinders

Not only were we re-creating the characters, we were given free rein to re-design the background and set. Mine is panto themed and I chose to set the event in Widow Twanky's laundry, using undies and socks as gay bunting. But the clothes are soiled; you know the saying of airing your dirty laundry in public? Well that's what these celebs are doing. Right from the go, the introduction of gin, champagne and beer has corrupted the idea of true romance turning it into a media circus instead. My procenium arch features Venus doing her best to spread the love, but being hampered by the drunken antics of her cupids.

Detail of the pencil sketch for my take on the toy theatre's procenuim arch

I have really enjoyed working on this project and putting together a scene of debauched fun. I've loved referencing the boozy antics of some well loved and maybe not so well loved characters. The joy will be seeing the finished thing actually constructed as a giant toy theatre alongside the other artists' tableaus. The complete set of six theatres will grace the Cornerhouse from Jan 29th until Feb 27th

To find out more and see some of the other artists creations see Bren's blog, which has covered the process of this project from the start.

Also as I was writing this an article has been published in The Art Newspaper about the show, check it out!

The People You're Not

70 Oxford St
29th Jan - 27th Feb

Private View 6-9pm 28th Jan

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