Sunday, 22 November 2015

Madness Reigns Here!

- My grandfather loved those drawings!

As a guest to this house exclaimed yesterday at which I was at first a total ? since Det lille rige med svovlstikkerne (roughly "The Little Sulphurous Country" a play on words from the original title of The Little Match Girl) by Adam O. was only published this week.

Adam O. Cover of Det Lille Rige med Svovlstikkerne, 2015.

But her remark was a revelation. She merely glimpsed a spread from the book while rushing through the house, and yet it felt familiar to her. It was a revelation as to the place in the grand tradition of Danish cartoon art, which in spite of his young age is already rightfully Adam's.

He places the political enterprises of the day in full sceneries with colors as saturated as if they were still created in water color like Alfred Schmidt did and Herluf Jensenius and Roald Als before him too. Within each scenery and its coloring roam the sharply drawn politicians and the rounded outlines of the homeless and their countrymen, highlighting that strange animal that is society.

One drawing could hardly be more painfully on point right now. It was done in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo-massacre, but now 10 months later the theatre is at once an all too recognizable reality onto which Surveillance, Control and Intolerance is about to enter: "Come on lads, the stage belongs to us now":

Adam O. Det Lille Rige med Svovlstikkerne, 2015.

Adam O. Det Lille Rige med Svovlstikkerne, 2015.
- Now you can sleep safe and soundly!
The carat of a democracy is measured by the means with which it answers to the challenges with which it is met. The raised voices on every page are reflected against the responsibility they should have had towards their fellow man - with that added bizarreness performed in this country lately, when exercising one's right to freedom of speech has turned into an exercise of going all out. Forcefully so since anything less than emptying the content of one's stomach could be taken as cowardice against true freedom:
Adam O. Det Lille Rige med Svovlstikkerne, 2015.
- WOW, look at all that freedom of speech!
- Yes, baby! The core substance of our democracy!
To which (Adam's signature) mouse adds: 'think that this right there is vomit...

Adam O. Det Lille Rige med Svovlstikkerne, 2015.

Shakespeare was as always right. Something keeps being rotten in the state of Denmark; in fact the government could have saved the translation into Arabic of the "Stay away, you Syrians"-warning distributed to Lebanese dailies in September had they used the portrait above on the minister in charge. On the other hand, on the very day of the printing of the advertisement and by way of social media, Adam's drawing below made its way directly to Syria:

Adam O. Det Lille Rige med Svovlstikkerne, 2015.
- and as it was, distributed in Syria.

The reaction to the massacre in Paris was a mixed lot cartoonwise, but among the exceptional was the one below by Adam. The nihilists turning out to be mere amateurs against the Nihilism of life, since why should any Other Side differ from the one we know?

This one is of course too new to have made it into the present collection and consequently the next one is already in the making. Of Det Lille Rige med Svovlstikkerne before us, quite a handful of drawings shall be a central source to new generations, when it is time to unravel the noise that was our age.

Adam O. in direct response to the massacre in Paris.

Adam O. Det Lille Rige med Svovlstikkerne, Forlaget Fahrenheit, Copenhagen 2015.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

France Crying

Hadi Heidari, France Crying, November 14, 2015.
Published on his Instagram account.

In questioning the quality of many of the cartoons created and not least the amount of Eiffel Towers therein while first covering the Paris Attacks, there is another side to that subject, when a cartoonist is arrested for creating a drawing on the matter.

Such is the situation right now for Hadi Heidari, who was arrested on Monday as witnessed by two of his co-workers how "a young man came with a warrant. He showed Hadi the warrant and they took him quietly", according to We have followed Hadi Heidari's work before on this blog too, when he was taken to court in 2012 and later acquitted for allegedly having "insulted" war veterans. 

His "crime" - let us retain the quotes - is still the old one from his first arrest in 2009 following the Green Revolution, which prompted the next one in 2012 and now he is among the number of critical voices of the press being seized lately in Iran.

While waiting to learn more of his situation let us focus on his latest drawing on tears for the fellow man. The use of watercolor underlines the flowing of the tears all over the picture plane while the Eiffel Tower is at once a fixture to this specific situation and yet that one is fluid too by being tilted.

It is a beautiful drawing with its full frontal address in the sharing of an emotion. It is an angle not seen too often in cartoon art, or rather we know it well from Hadi Heidari; he creates direct interaction with us. Which of course emphasizes his mental strength and thus the fear with which he is being met by demagogues. 

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Paris Attacks 2

Fadi Abou Hassan, Paris Attacks 02: ISIS in France.
November 15, 2015.
- I think, I shall draw the Eiffel Tower; one cartoonist tweeted on Sunday following the massacre in Paris. A colleague of his answered back that he would then do the Seine in red.

They shall remain unnamed, since it was done with a pained grin. Let us be blunt: The batch of cartoons following the massacre has certainly not been of much quality, the excellent ones being few and far apart. Cartoonists are analysts with the need to take one step back to see other sides to the debacle in front of them. In this case the perpetrators were as yet not identified and no one wanted to jump to conclusions giving the extreme right voices in European politics a field day. It was not yet the time for anything but giving homage to those, who had been killed.

Making a cartoon that of homage is a tricky situation. Especially when it is required of the cartoonist to draw here and now and refrain from all humor, in particular any hint of ambiguity - then there is not much left of what makes cartooning a voice of its own. Furthermore this was Paris Attacks 2, as Fadi Abou Hassan so accurately titled his drawing, with the cartooning wound after the Charlie Hebdo-massacre in January very much still an open one. So a situation of an intensely OH NO and to this end it seemed a matter of choosing from a few symbols, which ended up being repeated endlessly over the weekend.

Still, the amount of Eiffel Towers about is not what makes the particular drawing a good or poor one, in spite of Daryl Cagle's emphasis of not drawing one like "the rest of the bunch" (he drew Marianne and the process he put into it is well worth a read). For one, the defining drawing this time was exactly that of the Eiffel Tower, made by Jean Jullien: Instantly conceived on his first hearing of the attacks on the night and instantly grasped and distributed by everyone on the social media, making his drawing the symbol of unity already on the night.

The Eiffel Tower is likewise to be found in the drawing by Fadi Abou Hassan. He incorporated all of them in fact; the Eiffel Tower, the Tricolore and the outline of France. This was drawn on Sunday when the who and the why began to be known and the cartooning phase could set in. The bloodied vulture is of course not an actual black-clad killer. This one is the mastermind, perching with his prey in his beak. He has a feeling of mischief-maker about him, which avoids this from being an angry drawing. He knows he is doing wrong, showing off his prize, which is the whole point of the killings. The green coloring makes for an chilling effect.

And then the following day Fadi extended the first drawing to this one on whose shoulder the vulture has a spiritual home. The two of them are adversaries and yet their actions tend in the same direction. They both cultivate a gaze of blood, while attempting to control us to look away from them.

Fadi Abou Hassan, November 16, 2015.

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

Sunday, 15 November 2015

"Your brown shirts are back from the cleaners"

When someone heftily refuses to be seen in certain others' company, there is every reason to focus on their correlation. Each of the present company speaks by way of accusational noise in which it is vital to retain the full attention of their listeners. The last thing they wish to be compared to are those who do the very same. If the listeners should discover likenesses in their verbal tactics, they might begin to think twice. 

But inviting one's beholders to think twice is the very intention of the cartoonist and Steve Brodner is letting their empty eyes and sullen features be reflected in each other to the tone of that autumnal brown known all too well not that long ago in Europe. A brown, which declared to be building new empires, but which apart from the violence turned out to be nothing but empty at heart. A fruit anyone?

Steve Brodner: Right parties everywhere:
your brown shirts are back from the cleaners
, November 15, 2015.

The cartoon shown is courtesy of Steve Brodner and must not be reproduced without his permission.

A Destination Reached

This morning the stencil, which traveled from Ukraine found a wall in Damascus.

A wall as it is, since this may just be its first destination in Damascus. It was reported back that this particular wall turned out to be of a coarse nature and so the color is not solid, making for a shimmering effect. It is as if he is not quite there and yet that is exactly what he is, what makes him all the more haunting, since this is how the actual person goes about Syria. 

He may at first seem to be placed in isolation, but the white paint underneath him barely covers the many voices, who once called out for change and for dignity. And thus the one wall tells us of the length and of the layers of the Syrian war.

Damascus, November 15, 2015. Photo from Tarek Alghorani.

For details of the stencil see more at: FREEDOM GRAFFITI WEEK Syria

Saturday, 14 November 2015

"I give the word"

At times the strongest commentary to a situation is the indirect one and following the massacre that took place last night in Paris, I immediately thought of the as yet unpublished (but oh, must it find its publisher soon) collection of poems and drawings Songs to Sissera by Riber Hansson.

Sissera of course refers to the Biblical figure, but another struggle surfaces when reading of his demise: That of the artist creating. The voluminous ink splotch, soaking the paper, running and growing to all sides of the picture plane at once controlled and yet not at all so. It seems to speak of destruction by its very massiveness before us and yet it is its very creation we are seeing.

It is the artist on whose command everything is destroyed. Or as it is, created where nothing was to be found before.

Riber Hansson, Songs to Sissera, No. 28: The Bay, November 11, 2013:
"Runt vikens grunda vatten flockas husen,
en törstig boskapshjord av trä och sten.
En dyning vaggar lyktors milda sken.
Ord korsar vattnet. Mänskor har i tusen 
år fått njuta sin idyll, där ljusen
nu tänds en sista gång. Ett enda ord
från mig och mina män gör grus och jord
av byn i natt. Jag lockar på en frusen 
hund, erbjuder den min matranson
och värmer djuret innanför min rock.
Den slickar handen lätt, en tacksam kyss.
Jag säger ordet och trumpetens ton
utlöser krigets raseri. Snart ska ett lock
av tystnad gömma friden som dog nyss".

"Around the bay's shallow waters the houses are flocking,
a thirsty herd of wood and stone.
A ripple rocks the gentle glow of lanterns.
Words cross the water. Humans have for a thousand
years been enjoying the idyll, where lights
are now being lit for one last time. A single word
from me and my men shall make gravel and soil
of the village tonight. I invite a freezing
dog, offering it my food ration
and warm the animal inside my coat.
It softly licks my hand, a grateful kiss.
I give the word and the sound of the trumpet
triggers the rage of war. Soon a cover
of silence shall hide the peace which died just now".

The words and drawing are courtesy of Riber Hansson and must not be reproduced without his permission.

Monday, 2 November 2015

That Magnificent Beast

Víctor Vélez, Inktober, Year Two, October 6, 2015.

Víctor Vélez, Anti-corruption, June 5, 2015.
- Note the Freedom of Expression in the upper right corner
taking part in the noise.

Víctor Vélez is a prominent contributor to the Anatomia Cartooniensa in which he nails the evolution of the corrupted being.

Human form, or any living form for that matter is not as long-winded in developing new attributes as science has told us. The sense of a new exploitation to be made and instantly a new form sees the day.

The accelerated evolution has a typology of its own: Claws, beacons and teeth can be recognized across the field as the main physical ingredients. Each ingredient is at once to be used as a weapon and create movement. The beacons for one have scissors as their forefathers, diving in stabbing anyone daring to try to escape.

Víctor Vélez, Tattoo, April 27, 2015.
The brain of the corrupted being has grown into a being of its own. A formidable beast clawing out from behind what could deceivingly be seen as curly locks. Víctor Vélez creates movements through its opposite, through the density of the sharp black line so tense that we sense the anger about to burst out from within the brain deformed.

Corruption is a premise within any of us, seeking any opportunity to forge ahead on the cost of what is healthy and right. Corruption is thus an inner premise and an act alike.

And yes, Corruption is a betrayal, as put by Salman Rushdie. Corruption is not just greed; it is the very act of undermining the common ground in society. 

Víctor Vélez, Anti-corruption program,
February 25, 2015.
But by seeing it is a premise within us all Víctor Vélez eludes all pointed fingers. It is not the drive itself, he is getting at. It is the lack of balance to avoid it from gaining ground: Weak government, bad government and the absence of constant, preventive measures however magnificent a new red toothbrush may seem. 

One of Víctor Vélez' strongest arguments is thus how the same physique may personalize a positive force at one time and a negative at the other.

Freedom of expression for one, or tolerance. Or rather what we believe to be the forces of good are as corruptible as any other, they may even become a weapon in the wrong hands dictating what to say and think. The declaration itself may turn into that very act of violence.

Víctor Vélez, Freedom of Expression, February 3, 2015.

The cartoons shown are courtesy of Víctor Vélez and must not be reproduced without his permission. The present cartoons along with so many more from his hand are to be seen at: Facebook:Chubasco.toons.

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