Blackpaint 153

Sigmar Polke

Obit in the Guardian.  Like Gerhard Richter, in the sense that his work was so diverse it’s hard to get a handle on it all.  I remember an exhibition at the Hayward, I think, maybe five(?) years ago; he was using lots of hard resins that gave his work a mirror effect.  There was one of a Taliban or Al Quaida horseman like a cartoon.  I’ll have to look into him more closely, now that he’s dead (seems to go like that to me, that an artist acquires status by dying).

Rude Britannia

The exhibition, and watching the BBC4 programmes, brought to mind an interview I saw recently, of Martin Rowson.  I’d thought of him (along with Scarfe and Steadman, but maybe even more than these two) as the natural heir of Rowlandson – the similar name seemed fitting too.  Of all modern cartoonists, he seemed to be the one willing to go the farthest, in terms of public figures up to their necks in shit, or tongues up backsides.

I was surprised, then, when he said (I think) that the Danish cartoons of Allah shouldn’t have been published, or should have been censored, on the grounds that they were an attack on the weak in a society by the strong.  He then said that, later, when the furore and the murder(s) and the deaths of rioters had occurred, the cartoons SHOULD have been published then, because the events had caused the pendulum to swing the other way.  I hope I’ve got this right; quite a complex position.

I was intrigued to hear a cartoonist like Rowson speak in favour of censorship of material which attacks religion, on the grounds that the attack constitutes an attack on the adherents, and the adherents are vulnerable.  Is he equating the Danish cartoons with, say, anti-semitic cartoons in 30’s Germany?  I was also surprised to hear that he’d toned down a cartoon at the request of an editor – he’d moved a politician’s – Blair’s, I think – he’d moved  the tongue a little  further away from a backside (Bush’s no doubt).  So – savage, but not  so savage.


Saw Andrew Graham – Dixon last night, on Vasari.  He spent some time on Pontormo. and showed two huge paintings by the same, on the spot in some church in Italy (wasn’t paying that much attention, I’m afraid).  I sat up at this, however, because they didn’t look anything like the Pontormos that I’ve seen in the National Gallery.  If I remember rightly, they made up a series of paintings relating to Joseph at the court of Pharaoah – the dreams, the execution of the butler and freeing of the baker – or was it the other way round? 

Anyway, what I remember mostly was the colours; a rich pinkish red, grey and rich pale blue were dominant.  The colour in the paintings that AGD was talking about looked completely different.  I wonder if its to do with the cleaning process; the NG cleaned up all its early paintings about ten years ago, I think.


AGD said that M. was the first artist to portray God (the Judeo-Christian version), in the Sistine Chapel.  Not according to Wikipedia, which gives a number of forerunners to Mich in this respect.  See tomorrow.




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4 Responses to “Blackpaint 153”

  1. Martin Rowson Says:

    Just for purposes of clarification (someone’s just directed me here, and I always try to be helpful), my point about the Danish cartoons is that the COMMISSIONING of them was an act by a right-wing newspaper continuing to pursue a decades’ long campaign against immigration. In this regard, the act of commissioning broke the golden rule established by the American journalist H L Mencken, which is that the purpose of journalism (and satire) is to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. In this case, Jyllands Posten was merely making the lives of a beleaguered, poor and powerless section of Danish society, many of whose members doubtless clean the toilets at their offices, even more uncomfortable than they were already.

    What happened later changed the rules of the game, as the powerful started kicking around the cartoons as a political football, but that’s a different story.

    And of course I’ll tone down a cartoon if my employer asks me to, if I think the request is reasonable (the editor in question, Stephen Moss, said he had a hangover and Blair’s tongue was making him feel physically queasy) although in the past I have resigned from newspapers because of editorial interference. But getting a slightly modified message across is infinitely better than getting no message across at all because they don’t run the cartoon.

    Anyway, when I give lectures, showing Blair’s tongue before and after Moss’s intervention makes for a very nice little animation…

    best wishes

    Martin Rowson

  2. blackpaint Says:

    Thanks for the reply. I think there is a difference between attacking or satirising a religion and attacking its followers. All great religions have adherents who are rich and powerful, as well as poor and vulnerable. It seems to me that Islamic fundamentalists have secured, or are in the process of securing, special consideration by virtue of violent reactions to any perception of a slight.
    Having said that, I am aware that, as a cartoonist, you are at the sharp end – I wouldn’t fancy the responsibility of poking even mild fun at fundamentalist religions of any stamp.
    As for the self-censorship issue, I would like to request, as a reader and a fan, that you ignore hungover editors in future, and extend any appropriate politician’s tongue fully up the appropriate arse, as half measures, in my view, are offensive in themselves.
    Once again, thanks for the comment,
    Best Wishes,

  3. Martin Rowson Says:

    I’ll do my best, though there’s always the paying me bit that can, ultimately, concentrate the cartoonist’s mind if s/he isn’t entirely dependent on her/his fans’ charity…

  4. blackpaint Says:

    Can’t ask for more. This blog will always be available to you for the odd controversial cartoon, by the way – can’t pay at the moment, but when I sell the book and film rights, you would be in for a cut of the profits…

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