Home Somerset rules The art of breaking the rules at Somerset House magazine

The art of breaking the rules at Somerset House magazine


i grew up with The Beano. It was a weekly breakfast table meeting, arriving with the Times and the Radio time. But in the deepest suburbs, it never really spoke to me. There were no enthusiastic Dennis the Menace characters among the dead ends and commuters. Even then The Beano felt like it was of a different and earlier age. An era of rationing and sites of homemade bombs, go-karts and gobstoppers. So I guess it might not be The BeanoThe fault of this program devoted to its 83 years of history left me a little cold.

Because there are a lot of good things here. The comic has hosted visionary and notable artists and writers – Leo Baxendale (who created The Bash Street Kids and Minnie the Minx), Dudley D Watkins (Lord Snooty) and Davey Law (Dennis the Threat). These people – many of humble origins in Scotland and the North – forged a whole new comic language that took tropes of “funny” Americans and mixed them with the humor of the British music hall of the class. worker, before making everything suitable for children. .

Problem is, language is meant to be studied, not glued to a wall, so Somerset House’s obviously lovingly curated show instead dilutes its impact. Instead of blowing up entire tapes so that they can be read in a gallery, he chooses to put the original art on walls and in display cases, and adds lots of colorful kid-style TV backdrops to brighten it up. . It’s also quite dark, which doesn’t help. The curators have also added works by contemporary artists that pay more or less homage to The Beano – or at least its sensibilities – with varying degrees of success. There’s googly eyes from Ryan Gander, custard tart from Olivia Sterling, and a mystifying LS Lowry pastiche populated by comic book characters, which I enjoyed a dad trying to explain to his little one. child.

A bit like when I was a kid, I feel like The Beano looking for an audience and a little failing to find it. In the era of Jacob Rees-Mogg, is the best comparison for Lord Snooty really Gilbert and Georges? I’ve never been chased by a park warden, afraid of having the slipper or wanting a mountain of mashed potatoes with sausages sticking out horizontally. I understand what these things are, however, and what they represent, and I did that as a child. I hardly ever say / think that, but just for once, it would have been nice if this show had been more aimed at children.