What do Takashi Murakami, Quentin Blake, Gerald Scarfe, Dave McKean and me have in common? They have all created both potentially offensive images and children’s books. Whilst that is the only time I shall ever put myself in the same sentence as those world class artists, the comparison feels justified as I am trying to prove an important point here. It’s nigh on impossible to produce art for years on end without occasionally running into a spot of bother for something that you’ve made or for the reason why you made it and, frankly, if you don’t upset the odd person, you really aren’t doing your job properly.
It is with a strange sense of pride that I admit that I had a telephone call from the police some years ago because some of my work had caused offence to a rather corrupt individual. I wasn’t happy at the time because I had only just got out of hospital from having a heart operation but, through the filter of time, I regard it now as a rather impressive achievement. My edgier work falls into two main areas, subjects that are obscene , by which I mean the great evils of the world like corruption, war, genocide, abuse etc and the more personal stuff. When I hear of a person or persons locally who have been getting away with something awful, be it illegal or immoral, I feel it my social duty to comment on it. There is much injustice in this world and I see much in my local neighbourhood and if there is some way I can put the boot in (metaphorically speaking) on a shitty person or two, I will happily do it. I don’t actually name and shame them, but it people already have a clue as to what I’m drawing about, the story of their horrible acts is there to see.
I have on occasion had people come up to me and ask me to tone down my art or my opinions on some subject or other… It rarely ends well. It is rare to see an artist who does what they do for the money, and when they do, they usually get a nasty shock when they look at their bank account. One of the few perks of making art for the most meagre of livings is the level of personal expression that goes with it, if someone tries to take that away…. Oh dear! Not good!
I recently had a rather sad conversation with a friend of mine, they feared that if we ever fell out, I would do some horrible, spiteful, images of them. I was hurt at the time they said it and by some strange irony we have since had a falling out; six weeks later I still have no desire to do a cruel drawing… I never would. Someone would need to be an utterly disgusting human being to deserve the Chris treatment and my own personal upset rarely comes into it, more a need to balance the scales of justice slightly so the world feels a bit less wrong.
There is a great deal of social responsibility in placing images in the public arena, I would like to think that I get it right most of the time. That said, I’m far from perfect and I do occasionally regret something that I’ve put out in public with too much haste. I can get so excited by a concept that I just have to do it. “Oh the cleverness of me!” As Peter Pan would say. Sometimes, “oh the stupidity of me!” Would be far more appropriate.
The one thing that I’ve found that is guaranteed to cause maximum upset isn’t sex, violence or blasphemy, it’s when you show unpleasant people what is lurking beneath their public facade. When a toxic person sees their own Dorain Gray painting that lurks in the attic room of their soul, they don’t like it. Unless you happen to be a politician, in which case you would probably buy the original and hang it in your hallway so everyone sees it… Go figure!
There is one thing that you can rely on with me and it’s this; If you tell me not to do something, particularly if there is a threat attached to that demand or even worse, a guilt trip. Whatever it is, I will go out and do it, and then I will do something even worse, just to prove a point. You have been warned!