Friday, 20 June 2014

Gormenghast to Gommorrah - The Chapman Brothers


So, the sorcerer's apprentices turned wizards. Not so much Arthur and Merlin, nor Harry and Dumbledore but more Fuschia and Lord Groan, more Gormenghast or Gomorrah than Hogwarts or Camelot. From painting the colour onto large penis' for him and him they went out into the wild world on their own. Following on, if that was what they had intended and I suspect they didn't, from Gilbert and George would have been a bit like Marilyn Manson following on from Alice Cooper, rather a pointless exercise. They didn't. Konstantinos and Iakovos Chapman trod a path equally as unique as the two elder statesmen of art but in an, even more, grotesque fashion, a more shocking and ultimately challenging way.

Konstantinos, or Jake as he is known, was born in 1962 in Cheltenham. His brother, Iakovos was born four years later in 1966 in London. I find that fact interesting. UKIP recently shot themselves in the foot when asked why they didn't fare so well in London during the European elections. Their response was to suggest that London is filled with well-educated, muti-cultural, wealthy people. Rather discourteous to other towns and cities in the UK but still true. Education together with a diverse culture gives an investment that equates to wealth. Something that UK politicians would do well to remember. This truism is reflected in The Chapman brothers. Such a background as theirs produces highly individual, creative spirits.

I first saw the brothers Chapman with my wife way back in 2002/2003. Then the Saatchi gallery was located on the Southbank near to Tate Modern. It was a lovely day out floating into one gallery then another whilst walking along Bankside sidling up to the silver Thames. I remember walking into the foyer and seeing these glass boxes filled with tiny plastic figures. At first, you couldn't detect anything much as the cabinets sat back slightly and one had to move in close to really see what was there. What was there was grotesque, alarming, disgusting but utterly captivating? Figures with two heads appeared to march about a carnal house, an encampment, an internment camp filled with bodies strung up by wire, headless corpses, bloodied and shattered scattered about A dreadful meat carnival of death with mutilated naked beings dead, dying, fighting and killing. I had never been so horrified or enchanted before. No work of art had managed to capture my attention in quite the way this piece(s) did. It was electrifying.

Art that shakes you, exhilarates and vitalises you but also makes you think is rare. This did that and in spades. My head spun. So did my wife. We spent the rest of our time in Saatchi's talking about only one thing - these miniature figurines hacking life out of each other, brutalising each other. And what was it with Ronald MacDonald? Our minds, hearts and very fibre buzzed with the effects caused by seeing this work. Isn't that how all art should be? No, II don't think it is. I think art should have a wide range of appeals and of ways to make you think and to appreciate life.


Courting controversy is sometimes something that manipulators of mass media engage in. I don't think this the case with these guys. I get a distinct sense of them being somehow dissatisfied with the way things are. Their expression of their concerns, of how the media, giant corporates, a large business in general but also political parties are all in thrall to the same perverse machinations  that govern all our lives. The beast roars and we whimper. The beast growls and we shiver. The beast lays down in slumber and we rest uneasily. This is the modern world. This is how it is when seeing through the eyes of the many even if the many are seen as the few.

One of the themes running through their work is the corruption of innocence We see large corporate designer wear worn by children who are made to look like sex objects. This is a reflection of the manipulative manner in which advertising agencies couple the insouciant attitude of parents, of adults, who not only tolerate young children being made to look sexual but actively encourage and then, the irony is not missed, are the first to bridle at a whiff of paedophilia. This hypocrisy is brought into sharp focus by the Chapman brothers.

Innocence corrupted by the desire for wealth when the only way to make money, one very huge way certainly, is to sell arms to the current enemy. Films portray Islamic sub-cults as being a case of Nick Fury and his agents of Shield versus Hydra. One mans terrorist is another mans freedom fighter. but we sell to the highest bidder with little concern for the consequence as long as the cash sheet balances. Of course, I may be wrong. These are mine and mine alone feelings. This is how the Chapman brothers art makes my intuition react.

Whatever the meaning as conceptualised by the brothers was, once an artist commits to creating something, at the moment of completion, their 'child,' their work leaves their charge and interpretation becomes that of the witness, the observer. I for one like the brothers art. I have little time for what is called Britart as it seems less a real movement, like Dada or even Stuckism, but something made up by the press. The Chapman Brothers stand outside that amorphous entity and stand very much on their own four legs creating arguments and dividing opinion as they go.

Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.


Cara H said...

That first image is Lovecraftian horror incarnate.
I always marvel at your ability to find these fascinating artists and musicians that it's very likely most people haven't heard of.

LeeKwo said...

The beast roars and we whimper. The beast growls and we shiver. The beast lays down in slumber and we rest uneasy. This is the modern world. This is how it is when see through the eyes of the many even if the many are seen as the few/A great read and I knew nothing about the Chapman brothers but I will certainly check them out/You have a wondrous knowledge of all thinks bizarre and fascinating/Thanks for sharing it/Kwo/

Follow by Email



A Utility Fish Shed Blog

A Utility Fish Shed Blog