As I discussed in a previous blogpost, this is a category 2 cartoon. That is, it’s a cartoon that first explains the artwork or artist, and then goes on to make a joke. I do this when I feel the artist’s work is not well known enough in the wider world. This, I guess, is my least favourite mode as I have to educate the reader about the joke’s premise before I can move onto the punchline. However Jeremy Deller is an important and enjoyable artist, as I discovered at his retrospective at the Hayward gallery.
Deller often throws together different segments of society into some project and sees what happens. Often it’s a delight – one that make you feel a bit more positive about human nature. Like his video of a traditional, uniformed brass band playing acid house anthems to a club full of dancing ravers. Just great. Everyone is into it. Or he will shine a light on some obscure sub-culture, but in a way that highlights not the weirdness of their obsession but the pleasure it gives them. It’s a safe bet that in a hundred years social historians will be salivating over Deller’s work. I’m simplifying what he does of course, but his obvious delight in humanity is very infectious. You can check out his stuff here. Anyway, I had previously been asked to do a cartoon on him, and, as I always intended to do something on the Venice Biennale, the time was right. Deller represents Britain in this year’s Venice Biennale.
The artworks depicted are 2 murals he had painted in the British pavilion. For those who don’t know, Roman Abramovitch is the Russian oligarch owner of the Chelsea football club. His “yacht” apparently took up half of Venice during the last Biennale. “Chelsea tractor” is a perjorative term for expensive 4 wheel-drive vehicles that are never driven off-road but used for things like dropping the kids off to school. Different cities in the world have different slang for these, often named after an affluent suburb – in London they’re Chelsea tractors, in Melbourne it’s a Toorak tractor.
When I discovered there was a “Chelsea” connection between these two murals I ran with it. The cartoon shows Chelsea football players squaring off with characters from English history. Ashley Cole wrote a very ill-advised autobiography at the age of 25 in which he infamously recounted his shaking fury at only being offered £55,000 a week from Arsenal during contract negotiations. When you read the details he had a point but it certainly wasn’t going to endear him to your average football fan. Jane Austen is thwacking him with a copy of Pride and Prejudice. Fernando Torres, a striker who has had a dry patch of goals, misses the famously immobile Stephen Hawking. My favourite is Jose Mourinho, the former and once again manager of Chelsea. When he managed Real Madrid he gouged the eye of a Barcelona coach during a sideline fracas. Here he’s doing it to King Harold, who copped an arrow in the eye at the Battle of Hastings, as depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry.
In the final panel I had Jeremy Deller dressed as a masked Dick Turpin, replete with guns. The drawing always tickled me but I thought it might confuse things so, sadly, I left him as he was.