October, 2008, My Giant Colouring Book , The Chapman Brothers And Others
Richard Crowe reviews
MY GIANT COLOURING BOOK
THE CHAPMAN BROTHERS AND OTHERS
At Campbell Works
27 Belfast Road
This conceptual project is worth seeing but you might have difficulty getting there. If you are heading up Stoke Newington High Street (towards Stamford Hill) Abney Cemetery Park is on your left. Turn into Belfast Road which appears on the right just after the park. Look out for number 27 but the numbering is crazy and you will have to go beyond Nos. 26 & 28 and find 27 a stones throw further ahead on your left.. You are looking for a former Brewery called Campbell Works.
This is a project which includes a number of artists working on the theme ‘My Giant Colouring Book.’ the Chapman brothers provide the title and general conceptual impetus. The brothers are famous for defacing works of the ‘Fine Art Masters,’ thus at one level they are pouring conceptual scorn on ’High Art.’ In these etchings they take children’s ‘dot - to - dot’ and colouring book cartoons as starting point, thus substituting ‘high art’ for children’s ‘low-art’ mass-productions. This is a new take on the old debate. Having defined their territory they infuse it with images from their collective unconscious. Subversive, hallucinogenic, macabre, surreal, monstrous, gothic, disturbing – these words have all been used to describe their oeuvre.
The brothers defiantly retain the boisterous spirit of their shared childhood. One is reminded of the Brontë children whose vitality was carried through to their adult creations. Such shared experience informs, strengthens and resolves the adult imagination. But here we have the irrepressible impetuosity of more recent childhoods and adolescences – a pair of impetuous, irrascible, exuberant, irreverent, rebellious, mocking, subversive hyper-brats! They defiantly and unashamedly celebrate the ebullience of their youth! One of the etchings on display shows two monstrous heads whose foreheads are sewn together – a frankensteinian doppelganger? – and surely a portrait of their collaborative consciousness.
Their 21 etchings are displayed in a room with a specially designed low ceiling – at child height – thus forcing adults to take a child’s view. I was bent double and ‘brought down to size.’ This is a space where children are given centre stage - to the detriment of adults – and the usual order of society is reversed.
The exhibition also challenges the hierarchical gradation of art makers from the obscure through various degrees of prominence to the famous. Other established artists working on the project are: Shaun Doyle, Mally Mallinson, Harriet Murray, James Unsworth, Neil Taylor. Their work clearly shares something in common with the Chapmen. Child artists are also working on related themes in adjacent rooms; and visitors are encouraged to collaborate.
The central theme questions traditional ideas of artistic authorship and elitism. But why are the ‘famous’ separated from the ‘unknown? Why the rigid separation – the artistic apartheid?’ Surely the children should be allowed to work on the Chapman’s etchings? I say to the organisers: ALLOW THE CHILDREN TO DEFACE THE WORK OF THE FAMOUS CHAPMAN BROTHERS - as they themselves deface the work of the Masters!
The entire exhibition is to be put up for auction at 9 pm on 12th September 2008.
Noah Becker: Editor-in-Chief