Saturday, 29 May 2010

Jake and Dinos Chapman surprise Theatr Mwldan with 'My Giant Colouring Book'

Photos: 'My Giant Colouring Book' by Jake and Dinos Chapman at Theatr Maldwn. Photos copyright Margaret Sharrow, 2010.

Yes, you read right: Jake and Dinos Chapman have a series of prints showing at Theatr Mwldan, the arts centre-cum-movie theatre in the market town of Cardigan, where the River Teifi meets the sea in West Wales. I popped in, expecting an array of local or regional painters of Welsh landscapes, and instead found myself face to face with a series of photo-etchings, drawings originally on mylar sheets, transferred through a light-sensitive process onto copper plates then printed. Most of the images are loosely based on dot-to-dot pictures in children's books, which are then subverted with ghoulish imagination that by turns shows elements of cubism, surrealism, medieval gargoyles and the simplified line drawings of colouring books. A gnome walks with a sack on his back, and an enormous... nose (really! this show is actually suitable for children, if a little unsettling at times, unlike some of their sculptural work, depending on your sense of these things). A boy in a cap has his lips pursed as if to blow a bugle, but what is in his hand is a sort of abstract expressionist whorl. Teddy bears and princesses are sewn together, Frankenstein-style, with skulls or internal organs visible. A leaf stands on two feet, bowing before a monstrous flying insect. Eyeballs proliferate randomly everywhere. My favourite was of a clichéd Dutch girl in pointed cap and apron, clutching a bunch of tulips. Behind her the windmill is exploding. Talk about blowing away stereotypes.

The original drawings were made by both brothers. Dinos says it is possible to tell his from Jake's drawings, 'if anybody was tragic enough'. I make no attempts, but there are obvious variations in style amongst the interventions, which, in Dinos' words, 'are about how wrong you could make an image. How you could use nodal points and ignore them at the same time'.

These are really engaging little pieces, with wonderful, playful drawing and a sense of fun, while still dealing with the Chapmans' trademark themes of subversion through ghoulish horror, and their usual references such as Goya and medieval art. Judging by the guest book, the exhibition, on loan from the Southbank Centre, has received a mixed response, and never an indifferent one. 'Yuk - horrible, I didn't get it. Thanks' read one. Another: 'The greatest art I shall ever see', with an addendum in a different hand, 'MUST GET OUT MORE.' While I was there, quite a number of people viewed the show while waiting for the next film to start, including one woman who continued stuffing popcorn absentmindedly into her mouth while peering intently at each in turn. Another woman said to her husband, indicating the text panel about the Chapmans' other work, 'Reading this just makes it worse!' However, for me this was a pleasant surprise, both to find in Cardigan, and to compare with some of their earlier work, which sometimes seems to have been shocking just for the sake of it. I'm with the visitor who wrote, 'Well done Mwldan!' And the one who made their own dot-to-dot in the guest book.

My Giant Colouring Book runs until 13 November 2010 at Theatr Mwldan, Cardigan. Free.

Chapman brothers' website

Jake and Dinos Chapman at White Cube Gallery, London

(some may find the content of the above Chapman-related external websites offensive - Margaret Sharrow is not responsible for the content of external websites)

25 October 2010

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