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A Review By: Space In Text

The following review of the Unmasks Corruption exhibition and book appeared on the Space In Text blog on 8 November 2009.

Is nobody angry anymore?

With today being both the 20th anniversary of the Berlin Wall being taken down, as well as Rememberance Day, images are brought to us, from other places in time and space, about what made (and makes) us angry. We are reminded why we should not stand by and let objectionable events take their course, and why memory is important (so we know not to make or allow the same mistakes again). We can choose not to know, not to remember, not to act, but at least we are afforded that choice, something important in itself. The thing most instrumental, in us being allowed to make this choice, is the exposure of original information. This we can then take, or leave. In this vein, Ctrl.Alt.Shift Exposes Corruption is a charity, the purpose of which is to remind us where corruption lies the present day.

This week at the Lazarides Gallery on Greek Street in Soho, Ctrl.Alt. Shift aims to fulfil some of this purpose, by bringing together the work of a number of writers and illustators in a series of sequential art pieces, posters and three dimensional artworks. The list of collaborating writers and artists is drawn from around the world, and from various levels of experience. Alan Moore, Pat Mills, Peter Kuper, Dave McKean and Brian Talbot are here, as is the New York musican Lightspeed Champion (Dev Hynes, who will also be hosting Ctrl.Alt.Shift’s Music and Comics Night), Asia Alfasi and Dan Goldman.

The event is also a showcase for younger artists, including Lee O’Connor (see earlier post on this blog: The Ayatollah’s Son) and Julia Scheele. To put original artwork up, that would otherwise have the benefit of digital reproduction, is brave. The work is vulnerable here, but it generally stands up well. Lee O’Connor’s artwork in particular is not diminished by blow up experience: anyone, not just anyone who draws who draws will see the skill demonstrated in his drawings.

Subject matter ranges widely and would appear to have been handed out by the exhibition organisers (the charity itself: the Lazarides Gallery is playing host). Themes include: the recent Iran election; Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians (this cartoon strip came close to making me cry); the prevalence of prescription pharmaceuticals in American society and the dearth of them where they are required in China. A book, edited by Comica’s Paul Gravett, with John Dunning and Emma Pettit, is published alongside the exhibition (and which is available from the Lazarides Gallery) and gives an opportunity for the issues to be looked at in depth and in a less intense manner.

In short, this exhibition is worth a visit. The medium of the storytelling is quite accessible and allows the stories to have more reach. The gallery setting is picking up quite a bit of passing trade, due to it’s convenient situation just of Oxford Street and informal aspect (it is more often the home to ‘street art’, which itself sits outside the art mainstream and has a different following). Some of the artwork is very affecting, although it’s a mixed bag in terms of impact. That may not be due to the creators, but down to who got to illustrate which area of the corrupted world.

This aside, Ctrl.Alt.Shift’s show is a pretty successful take on what is quite a difficult brief: how to inform without preaching; involve without hectoring; provide a polemical show without being overtly hair-shirted. It’s hard to say this is enjoyable, but it IS enjoyable to see (much original art is on the wall and you can see- and marvel- on what it took to make this).

Take the time to look at the work and read the lettering, buy the book (which contains additional material, for example Luke Pearson’s prize-winning King Listpin); and remember this is a charitable exercise for a deserving purpose. Then think what you can do.


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My Books

1001 Comics  You Must Read Before You Die edited by Paul Gravett

Comics Unmasked by Paul Gravett and John Harris Dunning from The British Library

Comics Art by Paul Gravett from Tate Publishing

All contents © Paul Gravett, except where noted.
All artwork © the respective copyright holders.