Bitch in Slippers

Posted in Grown-up Art, Unwarranted criticism on April 7, 2012 by brunswick

Bitch in Slippers
Anne Noble, Lloyd Jones & Sarah Maxey
City Gallery, February 24th – April 6th 2012

This exhibition (which has just closed* at City Gallery) is titled after the practice of naming the huge industrial vehicles operating on Antarctic bases after various wives and girlfriends – a practice discontinued briefly after this particular somewhat-hilarious-yet-appalling nomenclature was applied to a bloody big crane, giving any woman in the area a pretty good indication of how things worked in the harsh, mostly-male environment of Ross Island.

The exhibition is made up of several sections, including a catalogue of impressive portraits of the vehicles used on McMurdo Station, photographed by Noble in 2008, and an epic text called Dear Misty, hand-lettered by Maxey along an entire wall of the gallery and addressed by Jones to a vehicle he obviously thought quite a lot of, in the same way that Robbie Burns liked haggis.

*Sorry about that.

Storyboard Still from an Abandoned Music Video #2

Posted in Lovely pictures, Sound & Vision on April 6, 2012 by brunswick

Chimichanga by Eric Powell

Posted in Graphic Novel review on April 5, 2012 by brunswick

by Eric Powell
Dark Horse, 2011

A delightful all-ages work by The Goon’s Powell, showcasing the adventures of Lula, the tiny Bearded Girl of Wrinkle’s Travelling Circus, who acquires a giant green ogre from a flatulence-prone witch. Lula has the gee-whiz indefatigability of Little Orphan Annie and the whiskers of Rasputin, and faces every obstacle with gumption and a colourful G-rated vocabulary.

The eccentric story rips along thanks to the exuberant and skillful digital artwork, although younger readers might be put off by Powell’s barely-restrained fondness for the grotesque and the surprising amount of (cartoonish) violence.

Ever Green

Posted in Grown-up Art, Unwarranted criticism on April 4, 2012 by brunswick

Ever Green
A Light Box Project
Courtenay Place, April 3rd – August 6th 2012

Another frustratingly conservative exhibition in Wellington’s highest-profile public art space. There’s nothing technically wrong with Dieneke Jansen and Jenny Gilliam’s photographs of native shrubs, which have been carefully arranged so it looks as though they’re growing inside the enormous panels along Courtenay Place. It’s good to finally see an exhibition which considers the unusual proportions of the light boxes right from the start, instead of just awkwardly cropping an existing photo. Unfortunately the photos are not particularly interesting, and using the Latin names of the native shrubs as titles just looks pretentious.

The artist statement says the exhibition seeks to “engage with concepts of nature as a social construct and the mediated ways in which urban dwellers experience it”, which is all very laudable except for the fact that Wellington is not exactly a soulless urban concrete desert – the panels are already surrounded by bloody trees, and the fact that the real trees will lose their leaves in winter while the photos stay green is not quite enough to blow my tiny mind. If you want to experience evergreen nature in that particular part of Courtenay Place, it’s fairly easy to turn to the right and look at Mount Victoria – it’s teeming with it.

I understand that street art needs to be accessible, but too many of the Light Box exhibitions have played it safe, producing work which challenges and enlightens no-one. Compare it with the fine and daring sculptures in the City Gallery’s The Obstinate Object exhibition and you’ll see what I mean.

Storyboard Still from an Abandoned Music Video #1

Posted in Lovely pictures, Sound & Vision on April 3, 2012 by brunswick

One-panel cartoons are fun once in a while.

Posted in Jitterati, Lovely pictures on April 2, 2012 by brunswick

The Scribblings of a Madcap Shambleton by Noel Fielding

Posted in Graphic Novel review, Sound & Vision on April 1, 2012 by brunswick

The Scribblings of a Madcap Shambleton
by Noel Fielding
Canongate, 2011

The Mighty Boosh was one of the most art-designed British comedy shows in years. Just as the “look” of Monty Python will always be defined by Terry Gilliam’s gleefully violent cut-outs, the Boosh’s memorably colourful, angular cartoony design style was seen in everything from the homemade costumes (Polo mint accessories and broadly-applied face paint) to the show’s title sequence.

This book is a collection of Noel Fielding’s non-Boosh artwork, mostly large acrylic canvases with the occasional surreal short story thrown in. Would it have been published if he weren’t on the telly? Probably not, but it’s still lots of fun. Some of it’s a bit like a Level 2 NCEA art portfolio, particularly the fannish portraits of the Stones and Ramones, but this is taken to amusing lengths in an installation featuring a terrified Fielding cowering in bed surrounded by portraits of Roxy Music’s Bryan Ferry.

The last Boosh project to date was Journey of the Childmen, a draggy behind-the scenes documentary from their 2008 tour which revealed a depressed and drugged-out Fielding. The job clearly wasn’t fun anymore, a decline which can be seen by comparing their two tour DVDs. It’s good to see that he’s regained his enthusiasm in Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy, a brightly coloured high-sugar low-budget romp with several Boosh regulars (including his rather game brother Michael). It’s like playing Candy Land while trapped inside an energy drink with a walrus.

The drink for when lemons aren’t sciencey enough.

Posted in Unwarranted criticism on March 31, 2012 by brunswick

100 Plus

Unusually for a sports drink, this is quite refreshing, with a pleasant lemony taste. It’s made in Malaysia and has the amount of salt and sugar (about 6 teaspoons) you’d expect in an isotonic drink. The zeros in the logo are interlinked, which under new British laws “protecting” the Olympic brand is probably enough for a death sentence.

The ad copy on the can is remarkably free of hyperbole, although there’s a little diagram of a splayed man (with a blue torso and red legs – has he been dipped in lava?) with a raindrop wireframe behind him. You can almost hear the Tron: Legacy soundtrack. Science!

Huntington, West Virginia “On the Fly” by Harvey Pekar

Posted in Graphic Novel review on March 30, 2012 by brunswick

Huntington, West Virginia “On the Fly”
Written by Harvey Pekar, artwork by Summer McClinton
Villard Books, 2011

This second posthumous collection of Pekar’s work contains anecdotes and interviews culled from the time after the extraordinary quasi-documentary American Splendor brought him international fame and speaking engagements across America. A famously bad traveller, Pekar suffers every inconvenience of airports and hotels, but takes the opportunity to talk to several interesting people about their lives. This is what he always did best, although it’s sheer hyperbole to say his work “transformed comics from escapist fantasy into social commentary with voice balloons”, as claimed on the back cover. He certainly broadened people’s perceptions of what comics could be, but escapist fantasy in comics will always be with us, and why should that be a bad thing?

The content of the book is as strong as ever as Pekar talks to a famous limo driver, a friend who battled to restore a vintage diner and then lost it, and a cartoon archivist couple. The longest section is devoted to a single trip to a book festival in West Virginia where he meets a bunch of interesting creative people, buys shoes, worries about his per diem cheque and does a film cameo. The artwork is a bit scratchy and wobbles a bit when it isn’t based on a photo, but at least the unfortunate behind-the-scenes trouble with Pekar’s legacy doesn’t seem to be affecting the quality of his posthumous output.

Night of the Incompetents

Posted in I can write stuff as well, you know on March 29, 2012 by brunswick

Anita and I never did work out what Daniel’s story was – he was lean, blonde and friendly, on pain medication for minor injuries sustained in a recent car crash, and obviously batshit crazy. He probably shouldn’t have been drinking the beer cans which spilled out of his black bags when the bus driver set them down on the platform at Waikanae, or the large Red Bull. Bursting for a slash, he had zoomed off as soon as the doors opened, and when he stumbled out of the bushes a few minutes later, the bus had gone.

The evening had taken a turn for the worse. At first we thought the train back to Wellington was merely late, but then we discovered it had been replaced by a bus which we may or may not have missed while waiting down the other end of the station. Half an hour later in the cold, a bus dutifully pulled into the carpark, and after the grim driver had set down Daniel’s forgotten bags, we tried to get on.

He stopped us. “There’ll be another one along in a minute.” And left.

When Daniel re-emerged, he approached his bags in wonder. “Are these my bags? This isn’t mine,” he concluded, tossing aside the empty cans. Anita gave him a baleful stare, and continued marching up and down the platform to keep warm. He gave me an unpleasantly damp and warm handshake, and all the demons invigorated by the competing substances racing through his veins spilled out happily from his mouth.

He concluded from my hat, beard and diction that I was Scandinavian, and opened one of his bags to show me his gun. “Beautiful, isn’t it?” he drooled. “Ever seen one of these before?” He pulled it out and aimed it right at my leg. “Give me your money” he demanded in a menacing voice.

Well, how else would you say it?

Then he fired.

Continue reading