Art and Anarchy in the UK
In anticipation of the UK’s biggest comics exhibition to date, Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK, the British Library has unveiled at 9.30am on March 14th 2014 a brand new artwork by Tank Girl and Gorillaz co-creator, Jamie Hewlett, featuring a sassy new female character.
Running from May 2nd to August 19th 2014, Comics Unmasked traces the history of the British comic book and explores how comics and graphic novels have uncompromisingly addressed such subjects as violence, sexuality and drugs, breaking social boundaries with the innovative form that marries literature and visual art.
Hewlett’s exciting new commission shows a moody, caped female, equipped with hipflask and knuckle duster, in an alley way after vanquishing a generic super hero, shown dazed on the floor (with St Pancras station just visible in the background). The new artwork, which will appear on the exhibition poster around the country and from today as a six metre-high graphic installation in the Library, aptly represents the key ideas around sedition that are at the heart of the show. A second image (below) has also been produced, creating a digital two-panel comic to celebrate the exhibition.
Comics Unmasked particularly highlights the trend set internationally by British comic creators, whereby comics are used to subvert and challenge stereotypes. The exhibition features original artwork and video montage of Jamie Hewlett’s most celebrated creations, Tank Girl and Gorillaz, alongside other exciting examples of original British comic art.
Jamie Hewlett, comic artist and designer, says: “There is no national institution better than the British Library to showcase such an extensive collection of British comic art. I’m thrilled to be part of this exhibition, and to celebrate the history of British comics.”
Co-curator of the exhibition John Harris Dunning says: “The new artwork from Jamie Hewlett perfectly encapsulates what we are trying to communicate with this exhibition of seditious British comics from the last few centuries, including rare and unseen discoveries from the Library’s collection as well as once in a lifetime sneak peeks at original artwork and writers scripts. Jamie’s work defies categorisation, playfully challenging the status quo as it crosses over into many worlds, including comics, visual arts, film, sculpture, music and theatre. It really illustrates our point that comics are not only an extraordinary medium in themselves, but have also had a huge and ongoing impact on British culture in a number of different arenas.”
Due to the explicit nature of some of the exhibits, the British Library has issued a parental guidance warning for under 16s. Tickets for the exhibition are now available to book online and the first dates from the accompanying events programme have been announced on the Library’s What’s On website, including Tank Girl and the Aftermath with Jamie Hewlett and Alan Martin interviewed by exhibition co-curator Paul Gravett. This takes place at the British Library on Friday 27 June, 18.30-20.00. Tickets priced £8 (£6, £5 concessions) are available from the Box Office.
There will be an extensive programme of other events, featuring many of the most renowned comics artists and writers, both British and international. Those on sale now include Bryan and Mary Talbot (2 May) and a European Graphic Novelists event (15 May). The exhibition’s full programme will be announced soon at the Comics Unmasked website and is part of the British Library’s season preview video below. Prepare for sensory overload!
Jamie Hewlett’s new poster designs have been widely reported, stoking anticipation for the exhibition. The story made page 2 of tonight’s Evening Standard (below).
Posy Simmonds and Paul Gravett were interviewed about comics and the exhibition on BBC Radio Four’s Today programme on April 24th, 8.20am - listen here on Audioboo… or below: