Friday, 6 February 2009
222: Liz Atkin: My mother made me a homosexual - If I give her the wool would she make me one too?
From a 1980 exhibition
Liz Atkin illustrates the famous piece of graffiti.
From that period in the late 70s and early 80s when a certain brand of contemporary fine art liked to take hip politicised graffiti and illustrate it in some fashion. By the mid-80s artists gave up on even attempting to illustrate and you end up with galleries full of half-assed conceptual slogans which would disgrace your typical writer’s workshop rendering obsolete the creative artist’s skill and deliberative work. But that’s another argument.
From what little I’ve seen of Liz Atkins works she is driven to draw people in whose caricatured faces are evident “marks of weakness, marks of woe”. The oddly distorted face of the homosexual with slightly pursed lips isn’t necessarily an obvious gay caricature, merely how Atkin tends to draw a face. The most famous practitioners of this general style are probably Ralph Steadman and Gerald Scarfe, but from the 1940s – 1970s there was a fantastic body of English fine art illustrators. Books of work for the “Radio Times” and several volumes edited by Paul Hogarth give a good overview of this recently forgotten tradition. Anyway, back to the matter in hand. Her work is a combination of collage and line drawing. I’m afraid this isn’t a terribly clear copy. The background is a knitting pattern, with a little representation to show what the completed figure will look like. The main figure is your homosexual, either completed from the pattern, or else suggesting that all homosexuals are alike. And in the bottom left, a diary of sexual conquests, hence the pressing need for more homosexuals. But fundamentally, a good, right-on lefty piece of socially committed art.