Thursday, 28 August 2014

When the Cat Explodes

We have already met Erik Petri on this blog as the cartoonist, who drew the dictums, suggestions, injunctions and contradictions that poured out, when Plantu gave a masterclass this spring in Copenhagen.

Erik specializes in transforming professional meetings and conferences into drawn serials filling the walls of the conference room. Erik is a rarity, who analyzes in serial form, transgressing the cartooning and comics fields.

Tomorrow he celebrates his first 10 years as a freelancing visual artist, and he has allowed us to get a glimpse of one of the places, where it all began, a small café from back then in 2003, when he was a student at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA.

And here we come to the exploding cat. As the Commencement Speaker 2012 at the University of the Arts i Philadelphia, PA, Neil Gaiman underlined:

 -Whatever you do, you have the ability to make art. You learn to write by writing, so when things get tough, transform it by your word, your voice, your vision:


As an aspiring visual artist, Erik gave Neil Gaiman's piece of advice a double take. Each drawing is An Unwritten Novel (to quote Virginia Woolf) on the aspiring artists at the other tables at the Zona Rosa Caffe in Pasadena. These are drawings on concentration, aspiration, frailty, insistence, reading fingers taking in and shutting out. And Tom, the barrista.

To this end Erik has made glorious mistakes with Neil Gaiman's words and at places used layers of paper, glueing in new pieces to rework a detail. This creates a tactile effect, planes of strong color colliding and adding energy or softness, underlining each personal story we cannot help try to dissect with him. And encasing all of them is the clearcut contouring, which has since become Erik's trademark.

May they all have made interesting, glorious mistakes. Broken rules. And may they all then as now make good art.

Oh, and Zona Rosa Caffe is still in existence and immediately recognizable from Erik's drawings, although the photos of today underlines the difference the artist makes. There is no one there to nail the life within each of the coffee drinkers.

Congratulations, Erik, and here's to the next 10 and so many more years!

The artworks shown are courtesy of Erik Petri and must not be reproduced without his permission.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

"He who thus considers things in their first growth and origin...

... will obtain the clearest view of them".

Aristotle was right. Those are the days, when a drawing puts all written analyses to shame:

Khalid Wad Albaih, Shredder, August 26, 2014.

The Wanted Dead or Alive icon, which was claimed as the cause for the subsequent measures and with a disastrous outcome. The reasoning, the action taken and its consequences into the one drawing.

This is international political history of the first fifteen years of the 21st century.

The khartoon shown is courtesy of its artist and must not be reproduced without his permission.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

At the Opening and Closing of a Week

Below are not drawings on James Foley. This is his portrait and how his family and colleagues wish us to remember him:

James Foley (1973-2014), journalist, photographer

No, of the following drawings the one directly below was made about four days before his murder. It is a portrait on those claiming to be fighting on behalf of a religion in its entirety. Using the black and white elements of ISIS'/Daesh' flag, Khalid Wad Albaih has nailed the true nature of the status they claim for themselves, literally cutting it to its bone:

Khalid Wad Albaih, ISIS Killing Islam not fighting for it, August 15, 2014.

Yesterday Angel Boligán published his analysis on the situation in Ferguson, Missouri, where the killing of the one unleashed the frustrations of the many, only to be met with a severe reaction from the police. In both drawings the armed one is taking over the paper to a degree that the beaten one is relegated to a corner in Boligán's drawing.

His police officer is a mountain of many-layered lights and shadows. While Khalid's IS-murderer has a wavering contour to simulate the rugged lines of the lettering on the flag, accentuating his active killing, Boligán has created an officer of immobility, but all the more so not one of calm. The police officer constitutes all the dark layers of what should not be in a democracy.

And yes, his captive is dressed in Guantánamo-orange, which we saw yet again this week at another continent. A color, which is on us too, since the police is facing us all. We are part of the impossibility of the classical composition of setting up a meeting to let a exchange take place. I cannot help add another situation this week, when the police in Malmö, Sweden interfered when two demonstrations - one extreme right-wing and the other its counteraction - were nearing each other. As it turned out, the police became the aggressor, as described by the author and film director Lukas Moodysson in the daily Sydsvenskan today:

"And yet the violence was not the worst. The worst was the lack of contact. The silence. I did not hear any of the police officers say a single word.

I believe in dialogue and openness.
But how does one talk to someone, who doesn't answer?
How do you talk to anyone, who slams a shield in your head? How can you talk to someone, who doesn't care if you live or die?

Why did they behave like monsters? I am sorry, but I cannot come up with a better word. (No, I am not saying that the police are monsters, I am just saying that they behaved like monsters). They were distanced, inhuman, like automatons.
Why did they not answer a single question?"

Angel Boligán, FERGUSON, August 23, 2014.

The artworks shown are courtesy of their artists and must not be reproduced without their permission.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

On the first anniversary and the 100th

William Roberts: The First German Gas Attack at Ypres, detail.

August 21 marks the first anniversary of Assad using poison gas aganst his own population. 

Gas as a weapon in war was used for the first time in August 1914, the first month too of World War I. It was tear gas employed by the French. Which was mainly an irritant gas, but sadly the next step was taken in April 1915 with the first poison gas. This time chlorine, the very same one Assad would apply in the next century.

Europeans are a sordid lot, who have invariably tested weapons of the worst kinds on each other. Poison gas has by no means been the most lethal of weaponry in terms of the number of its casualites on the battlefield. But being a silent killer, its mental impact has been all the greater. Those, who had been exposed to it, might be taken ill as late as 30 years after the fact, choking and frothing as if drowning from within. We took a look at The Black Duck and his poison gas at this blog last year, in which I included the masterpiece by William Roberts. In 1918 he portrayed the panic and pain of exposure, a motif of no centre, giving the beholder a feeling of being about to be run over. The canvas is of a magnitude to occupy the entire vision of the beholder, and the colors of nausea cooperate to create a sickening sight.

The three poignant words the old Lie by Wilfred Owen belongs to his poem on witnessing a fellow soldier succumb from the gas. Words from 1917/18 to be recognized by the very young of Syria today. Below is the latter part of his poem. Wilfred Owen himself did not live to see the end of the war:

William Roberts: The First German Gas Attack at Ypres, 1918.
Oil on canvas, 304x365,8 cm. National Gallery of Canada,  Ottawa.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning. 

William Roberts: The First German Gas Attack at Ypres,  detail.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning. 

William Roberts: The First German Gas Attack at Ypres,  detail.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori

William Roberts: The First German Gas Attack at Ypres, detail.

The statement of the Solidarity with the Syrian Revolution can be read in its entirety here. They have created a day of remembrance all over the world, and the final section of their statement reads thus on the situation and importance of the Syrian revolution:

e Syrian revolution is at a crossroads, and Syrian revolutionaries are in desperate need of support as they fight on several fronts. A victory for the various counter-revolutions would make permanent the largest ethnic cleansing of our century, leave the country in ruins, and critically destabilise the region and the world. A victory for the revolution, however, would unleash long-repressed social and political aspirations throughout the Arab world and beyond.

Monday, 18 August 2014

"Pardon me, I was distracted for a moment..."

Fadi Abou Hassan, Syrian Blood, August 15, 2014.

"... for a moment Daesh distracted me from you, but I now return to you, Bashar al-Assad, you two are the two sides of the same coin and forever inseparable. It is one continuous war".

Words by Fadi Abou Hassan written for his cartoon above, which two days later had company in the cartoon underneath. A revolution in which al-Assad did not deserve having a face, seeing that the revolutionaries' wish for dignity and respect could never be portrayed by him. Now, he is reflected in the extremism. 

And what a magnitude it has grown to. Even when trying to get to the roots of it, the danger of extremism is read in the fact alone that both drawings are meant to be read from right to left.

Fadi Abou Hassan, Extremism, August 17, 2014.

The cartoons shown are courtesy of Fadi Abou Hassan and must not be reproduced without his permision.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014


As much as we talk of the freedom of thought, it is another matter to portray, what it means or entails without denoting it as this or that. More often than not the easy way out is taken, showing its opposite, the regressor instead.

And then, in the midst of bloodshed this summer, to which comes the flooding of his own country, Sudan, Khalid Wad Albaih is asking us to pause and think for ourselves. With an invitation to take the jump and actively dissect, what is being said around us.

The freedom of thought is all the more basic than the freedom of speech in that in a democracy we are allowed to say everything short of libel. But it is one thing just pouring out, another to actually open one's brain to oneself. The brain is piece of calligraphy, never fully readable, always revealing a new layer if we so dare. Many details to a single form and yet in its key state never an confined one.

Khalid Wad Albaih, Khartoon! Brainachuting... Think -
Use your brain, don't believe everything you're told
,  August 9, 2014.

The khartoon shown is courtesy of its artist and must not be reproduced without his permission.

"We master the reverse gear better than anyone, trust us!"

Fadi Abou Hassan, ISIS... Between Past and Future, July 23, 2014.
- The Arabic version is of course mirrored,.
A little over half a year ago, Yahia Boulahia sent us, the depraved apostates, a special greeting for the new year.

We have seen the Islamists personifying Anger, being Bearded, and Dynamite-Clad in their Self-Righteousness, dressed as well as undressed. Lately they have intensified the quest for that perfect neverland called the past.

In the west we used to call it Arcadia, only these months have been less about the ideal situation than a focus on the road to it, killing off as a means to get there. The bloodshed constitutes their demarcation line, blocking the future.

Doaa Eladl, Daesh, June 22, 2014.

Daesh or عش: nest, the smoke of the gun barrels included to the correct spelling.

Dodo, her father and their cat are trying to nestle together as well, but compared to those creating situations of violence everywhere, they are wide-eyed in their terrified search for a way, a balance, a piece of calm to analyze the what and how. Their eyes reflect the situation of the cartoonists themselves, too. In direct opposition to the squinting Islamists.

The crumbled papers each equals a pile of sculls. 

Doaa Eladl, Iraq... Syria... Libya.... Gaza....?? July 19, 2014.

Khalid Wad Albaih, Too many problems in the world for a cartoonist,
August 13, 2014.

And now as at any other time, we are all inhabitants of Schizoland, when it comes to helping thy neighbor

Nadia Khiari, The refugees from Libya are leaving their country for Tunisia, August 1, 2014.
Each cat supports a cause, declaring brotherhood and understanding from a safe distance,
while the sign to the lower right says:
- Libya, we each have our own shit to deal with!

The artworks shown are courtesy of their artists and must not be reproduced without their permission.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Nature onto paper

In an outline to a sadly never finished article on drawing, Ib Andersen laid out, how we all know what a cat looks like. That is until we are to draw it.

It is easier to describe it in words. Then again, he continued, in our minds the notion of a cat is so much more manifold compared to how vague we are, when we try to transform our understanding of it into words. It may have stribes and it does have a tail. It may even be cuddly.

So we need to verify and study a cat at hand. Studying it is the keyword here. It is a matter of going back to reality with a sufficiently critical eye, observing closely and calmly what is before us. Rather than beginning with the idea of drawing a cuddly thing and end up with what Ib Andersen called a "banal misfit", we might actually end up with something cuddly, just like a real cat.

What makes this doubly interesting is that his words were not merely an aspiration or proclamation, but his actual method of working. Using his eyes as a tool to record and then transfer onto paper, what his eyes had detected, laying out what can be known. A constant strife to stay at his best and never slacken, never draw on the old imagination of something.

And so, he drew the ears vigilant even while sleeping, the tail curled up on the legs, while dense pen strokes create the texture of the fur. The softness of the one texture meets the wooden surface of the table underneath and yet this tells a story of its own; we almost feel its worn, weathered cracks that are soft to the touch. Which adds up to the fact, that this is of course a composition, carefully orchestrated along a diagonal axis, with the red of the port mirrored in the snout and the paws. The inclusion of man-made lettering accentuates the cat as a fragment of nature.

Ib Andersen, Cat, Fredensborg, 1941.

Today, his son and daughter-in-law, Povl Valdemar Andersen and Bodil Elisabeth Rasmussen have a cat, or rather a personality of its own. Misling is the reason why I now know that we have three species of bats inhabiting the massive tree right outside our windows.

In other words, Misling is a scientifically oriented cat, and it seems right that she was the very one to prove how close Ib Andersen came to creating life in a drawing.

It is the actual cat to the left

Photo: Misling Andersen Rasmussen, June 2, 2014.

Misling is studying Ib Andersen's signature and since we have had quite a number of hits on the blog on the question of his signature, here it is. It is from a drawing, we have already seen around these parts. His signature is recognizable on the flow of the pen. It is not a tag, nor does it come with a special flourish. It is a notation, stating his name with the same precision with which he created the rest of the drawing:

The artworks, detail thereof and photo are courtesy of the family of Ib Andersen and must not be reproduced without their permission.

Friday, 1 August 2014


Let us mark today, the centennary of the declaration of World War 1 with the poet who gave us the three monumental words the old lie on the gracefulness of dying for king and country, the poet Wilfred Owen.

He was killed in the last week of the war and below is the preface he never got to see himself on print. Words on the necessity of the artist because his words are needed, which are sadly no less relevant today. His words are accompanied here with the light of hope's stubbornness and the insistence of revelation by Juan Zero:

Juan Zero, From the series Free Syria 2, February 19, 2013.
Shown courtesy of Juan Zero.


By Wilfred Owen

This book is not about heroes. English poetry is not yet fit to speak of them. 
Nor is it about deeds, or lands, nor anything about glory, honour, might, majesty, dominion, or power, 

except War.
Above all I am not concerned with Poetry.
My subject is War, and the pity of War.
The Poetry is in the pity.
Yet these elegies are to this generation. 
This is in no sense consolatory. 

They may be to the next. 
All a poet can do today is warn. 
That is why the true Poets must be truthful.

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