Sunday, 20 August 2017

Use Your Voice

Patti Smith in Ystad, August 19, 2017. Photo by Niels Larsen.

When asked about their work, cartoonists will reject being categorized as artists. No... I am just... no, the cartoon ought not be saved... no, art is something much...

Art belongs to the beyond, to the afterworld, deserving all the noisy words.

But let there be no divide. Let us turn to she, who knows.

Patti Smith in Ystad, August 19, 2017. Photo by Niels Larsen.

Patti Smith gives us her answer in a poem:

"And in the morning light
The artist, seeing his work was done
Saw that it was good"

Do your work. Be vigilant. Be critical at our times of strife and then let yourself be heard. Find your way to express yourself. Conquer. Embrace, as she underlined yesterday from the stage in Ystad: Use your voice.

"The call of art - the call of man"

A definition beyond questions on the material used. Nor need we waste time on the afterlife of art, knowing with pain that everything shall eventually come full circle and dissolve into the light it once was.

The artwork came from the light. It was Created.  "Seeing it was good" is not just a matter of knowing your handiwork, I as a lesser soul was thinking until reading "Constantine's Dream"(from Banga 2012) from where the quotations are taken.

Patti Smith places the artistic seeing it was good within its proper frame of Genesis.

A rose, which shared the stage with Patti Smith last night.
Photo by Niels Larsen.
Among the artists of our day, there are those who know it intimately, staying vigilant in spite of their personal safety.

They know humankind and yet they love us, drawing with a lightness that encompasses it all, as if they did indeed draw with light.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

"How many will survive?"

Hélio Flores, Ex-Heroes, March 21, 2017.
Reduced to pillars, not as pillars of society, but those of long bridges:
"- We ended up a bridge"

The past week has been ripe with debate on the political implications of monuments. Statues of men of the past, who do not deserve the right to be awed in public places and the only reason for remembering them is to take to mind how they deliberately worked against their fellow men denying them of their humanity.  

Hélio Flores creates monuments of today's politicians in Mexico in his work, in some cases in the literal sense as in his cartoon above. The empty space between the two monoliths constitutes a statue in itself on their reputation carved in the emptiness, while above them the representative of The Transnationals embody the statuesque power going forward with the heavy implications he entails. 

Hélio Flores, Silvano In The Rain, May 11, 2016.
"According to (the Governor of Michoacán) Silvano (Aureoles) there is no crisis
in the (social democratic party) PRD":
"- The PRD has a shell with a life of its own and can win the presidency".

Our protagonist is Hélio Flores. He is telling us tales from within the cracks of monolithic stones and along their weathered surfaces. 

Across decades Hélio Flores has created a tale on the texture of democracy, on its cracks, lines, chipping from a mankind, whose weaknesses are as old as the ground, the stones came from. The narcissism of being the center of attention, the vanity of fighting to win, and the greed inviting to corruption have let the cracks form across centuries making them visible to the eye.

Hélio Flores, The Blank Vote, June 3, 2015.

The statuesque politicians are not the only withered ones. Their time in office has left its marks on those on whom it hurts. The latter belong to another layer of society, drawn as different species of beings just as we once had different kinds of early humans. 

They are worn from poverty and fear, often a mere half-size of those, whose face constitutes a Portrait in society. Portrait with a capital P because Hélio Flores does a sculpted face as strong as if had it been chiseled. We forget they are not sculpted in physical sense.

Hélio Flores, The Last Wish, August 31, 2016:
"May those rabid defenders of the structural reform show their face".
"- If (The president of the Energy Commission, David) Penchyna would
come to explain the benefits of the energy reform to me..."

To the total of the human condition, their texture has yet another layer to it. The printed paper of the newspaper that is the foundation for cartooning, highlighting that each and every cartoon before us is a piece of critical journalism, exposing those responsible and giving the poor and the wretched a voice. 

There are journalists with microphones outstretched, the printed word on the front page of news papers laid out, all presenting the facts of a matter to get a reaction from the Portrait. Hélio Flores cleverly brings in the many voices, never interrupting the Portrait, but leaving nothing unexposed.

Hélios Flores, Paper Bomb, April 19, 2017.
"And impunity remains so bitter..."

The exposure carries an all the greater importance in that in April this year a handful of officials were faced with corruption charges. Impunity had till then been a laughing matter, everyone acting as if they were untouchables, which of course they had been, and the road is a long one.

Impunity kills. At its strongest impunity is a deadly political factor and journalists are among its first victims for asking questions.

Hélio Flores, Veracruz, March 24, 2017.
"Veracruz, Morelos, Guerrero, Tamaulipas, Michoacán..."

Responsibility, the refusal of it and the exposure of the refusal, and next year there is a new presidential election.

There will be much need for that occasional neon color highlighting a sickness by way of a tie, along with the textures colliding with clear outlines in that tale on the collage of life that Hélio Flores lays before us:

Hélio Flores, Castaway, September 21, 2016:
"How many will survive?"
"- Wait for 2018! Then you can show you condemnation!"

The cartoons shown are courtesy of Hélio Flores and must not be reproduced without his permission.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

This Is Your Moment As A Human

Ramsés Morales Izquierdo, Traces from Charlottesville, August 14, 2017.

Ramsés Morales Izquierdo with his wife, Brigitte Mauchle
exemplifying how he initiates a cartoon
Every day brings the need for new cartoons and so Ramsés Morales Izquierdo had only just returned home from Copenhagen, when the cartoon above was made.

Steve Bannon looking back at the trails leading from him, unable to see the connection and as such his figure is the epitome of Ramsés' pen.

When in town Ramsés Morales Izquierdo gave a lecture to his colleagues in which he defined himself as a writer. As a cartoonist he is a writer of his ideas, transforming them into an image, he stated. A highly interesting point, which he developed further well into the evening, this time exemplifying his work process on paper.

The core notion is responsibility, instilled in Ramsés from his grandfather. The very grandfather, who gave him pen and paper with the exclamation mark: "Begin now!" when the small boy expressed his dream to be published in The New Yorker when he grew up. To a child dream and passion are one, as Ramsés says, recalling his reaction to his grandfather's words: "It was like gasoline".

His grandfather implanted in him a system of belief on how you are as a human, being in the moment that is given to you and answering the tough question before you - and you do it, you need to, without seeking to slip away.

Earlier in the day Ramsés had laid out the history of Cuba. Not just the past decade or two, but the length of Cuban history, stressing the grand personal responsibility of dealing with and to understand when living within a wall away from the rest of the world.

He is now living and working in Switzerland, which means a new concept of life as he puts it, except it makes of course no difference to his grandfather's dictum. Every day is begun with a meditation on what he is doing, seeing himself, visualizing his studio to create focus, listening in. He draws for two-three hours forcing him not to leave his desk except from looking up something. 

He is not allowed to do anything else until his grandfather's answer is found on paper. 

Ramsés demonstrated doing circles over and over again, while his brain is at work, testing the pencil. As he says, materials were lacking in Cuba and the need to invent is part and parcel with his working process. What he demonstrated that evening at the table, was a circling movement, which began adding in some sharp edges, distilling itself into a human head. 

Before us we have the key to his compositions. His cartoons features the person responsible, exposed to us in his or her utter lack of answering responsibly. Ramsés' grandfather's dictum has gained another layer by his grandson confronting the very one with the power to make a difference and who more often than not refuses to give an answer. Such as Steve Bannon above or the Saudi state below representing the human rights in the UN.

We see the betrayal. In steep contrast to the cartoonist, who will underline his assessment on subjects he ought not draw. Such as the troubled Venezuela right now. There is no need to give the US an excuse for military intervention.

Ramsés Morales Izquierdo, Saudi Arabia... Guardian of women's human rights...
April 25, 2017.

The cartoons shown are courtesy of Ramsés Morales Izquierdo and must not be reproduced without his permission.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Remembrance vs Reverence

Per Marquard Otzen, The Stymphalian Birds, September 5, 2011.
The man-eating birds with beaks of bronze, the creation of Ares, the god of war
 in Greek Mythology, along with the Danish Queen Margrethe II,
all of them ready to receive our fear and reverence.

"These monuments celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, ignoring the terror that it actually stood for". 

Earlier this year the Mayor of New Orleans, Mitch Landrieu had four monuments removed from public space, each of the four celebrating the Confederacy, the cause of which was lost in the Civil War. 

A movement known as The Lost Cause of the Confederacy, consisting of white supremacists had the monuments erected in the century following the Civil War, in the words of Mitch Landrieu:

Per Marquard Otzen, The Stymphalian Birds, September 5, 2011.
Their defeat was one of the hero Heracles' Twelve Labours.
"And after the Civil War these monuments were part of that terrorism as much as burning a cross on someone's lawn. They were erected purposefully to send a strong message to all who walked in the shadows about who was still in charge in this city".

His words form part of a strong speech Mitch Landrieu gave on May 19, 2017. Seeing the White House is unable to confront itself on its own rhetoric, let alone its key voters, let us listen to the Mayor after the violent white supremacist demonstration in Charlottesville. His speech is of particular interest to this blog defining how and especially why art matter:

Monuments form part of our public space and as such they define how we are supposed to see each other. They are efficient at hiding what took place by creating another presence before us. 

Monuments are not relics. They are not sacred items to be revered at all costs. Someone put them there for a reason. That reason may have a great ideal as its starting-point. Then again, it may just be a self-serving one. 

History cannot be removed, but monuments are not history. They are interpretations of it and must as such be up for questioning. Why place the Confederacy on a pedestal, when it "lost and we are better for it?" as Mitch Landrieu puts it. 

To uproot them are not an act of Nihilism nor problem-solving per se, but it is an insistence of seeing things from anew. Creating inclusion rather than continue the exclusion as is the case in New Orleans.

The removed monuments may be preserved at a cemetery for former monuments on which this blog quoted the idea by the sculptor Steffen Harder a few years back (sadly, so far in Danish only) A place with public admittance, but they are not taking up public space. They are at a place for thought and critical scrutiny. 

In their stead, there are other, far more relevant topics of art and life to have before us. Such as the anatomy of peace. Can we do this better?

Per Marquard Otzen, The Peace Dove,
December 6, 2007.

The cartoons shown are courtesy of Per Marquard Otzen and must not be reproduced without his permission.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Stone Scissor Paper

Darío Castillejos, Profound Anger, January 18, 2017.

The Mexican anatomy harbours anger so deep-rooted that the country is tearing its ribcage apart to be heard. The cartoonist is there listening in, giving it a visual presence of the sound so that we shall hear. So that we will understand.

Darío Castillejos, Corruption, September 30, 2017.

Shapes in bold volumes; foreshortenings in bold perspectives; highlights against deep shadowing: Darío Castillejos is working within the grand tradition of cartooning, reaching back from José Guadalupe Posada in the 19th century, who in turn inspired the muralists and cartoonists alike of the next generation. That is as grandiose a scale and outlook in art, which art history has ever seen, and Darío Castillejos is a worthy descendant two centuries later.

Darío Castillejos, Change of Bone.
His reaching across the centuries accentuates the deep-rootedness of the problems of our day and age. Man is all too ready to be corrupted and when we see the same problem across time, we understand how the undermining of society is not just stemming from crime as such, but from the organization of crime.

Organized crime as a means of social progression, as the chance to change one's status in society with the added glow of heroism when successful.

Corruption as a creator of mobility in society, however, is the antithesis of society or should we say, deformation of society to give it a visual expression. Darío Castillejos defines the deformation by emphasizing how no one is ever acting in isolation.

Everyone before us have grown together into new formations, which at first glance seems exactly that, a unity until he pressures our eyes to continue across the formation, forcing them to make a sharp turn, the sudden movement that leads us to see money changing hands or to the realization of who carries the burden of it all.

Darío Castillejos, Globalized Conflicts, June 29, 2016.

Those who carry it all remain outside: those at the lowest end of the ladder remain scattered, fearful of the next blow, continuing to carry the weight out of the very the very fear of what happens should they collapse. 

Darío Castillejos, Armed Intolerance, Jun 14, 2016.
Darío Castillejos creates texture as if his works were carved with a knife on the printing slate. At times they are.

His pen-as-knife juxtaposes highlighting with the density of the line. His figures are greasy in their greed or unwavering in their hide of metal while in stone as the institutions of society they loom monumentally to the side of the powerful.

Corruption is but one corner of what troubles society. Underneath its fellow troublemakers such as injustice, discrimination and violence, lie the basic components of human life in which greed and vanity have been allowed to create the pattern of society for too long.

Darío Castillejos, Justice in Crisis, 2014.

The imbalance is in every way a reality, with journalists losing their lives while doing their job. It is a struggle of the paper against stronger structures of the metal and stone, but he does so with the insistence of the importance of afterthought. Darío Castillejos lays the truth before us with the frankness of daring to look it in the eyes and sharing it with us. 

Darío Castillejos, October 25, 2014:
"The lady looks familiar to me..."

The cartoons shown are courtesy of Darío Castillejos and must not be reproduced without his permission.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

The Caveman Ruleth

We have established before on this blog that the iconography on the line-up of evolution of man proves a strong, critical and original take each and every time it is applied in cartooning. It is never a stereotype, never relying on lazy cartooning.

On the contrary it is a masterful piece of iconography and of course it is so in the hands of Bonil, who exemplifies the recent election in Venezuela to rewrite the constitution in one single take on dictator and ballot box. Maduro has reversed the country he was supposed to serve to the lost regions of pre-history. 

Atop the ballot box, he is doubly mocking democracy in his aggression toward the peaceful demonstrators in the streets of Venezuela and their lawful expression of democratic rights. Instead, he is having adversaries killed or as we have just heard a few hours ago, taken from their home.

All of it encompassed in a strong composition of but a few lines of Bonil's pen upon a background of textured calm for contrast. 

Bonil, July 30, 2017.

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

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