Colin Self: rebel with a caustic wit
In his new exhibition, One Thousand Sketches, the British pop artist mixes political subversion with a sense of funDetail from A Canary and Tangles! (Daddy Colin Self and Coleen) xxx by Colin Self
For an exemplary artistic life in modern Britain, it's worth visiting Colin Self's exhibition, One Thousand Sketches, at James Hyman Gallery in London. It is full of the joy of the outsider, the fun of rebellion – both political and artistic.
- Colin Self
- One Thousand Sketches
- James Hyman Gallery,
- Until 18 December
- More details
In the early 60s Self was part of the pop generation of British artists who competed with Americans in their appetite for modern life: but British pop art often had a political edge, and like the movement's visionary founder, Richard Hamilton, Self criticised the establishment. In works such as Leopardskin Nuclear Bunker No 2 (1963), now in the Tate collection, he used savvy sarcasm to confront the masters of war. Pop art was never just about soup cans and celebrities. The bomb was one of the icons of modern life that transfixed it – and at a time when folk song was usually seen as the style of protest, Self showed how a pop iconography could be turned against the cold war.
He continues to be a dissident. His drawings at James Hyman Gallery mix Disney-like cartoons, erotic longings, intimate portraiture, notes for mad projects and Marxist revolutionary dreams. What is lovely about this exhibition, though, is the sense of fun. Here is someone who enjoys his job. Humour never seems to desert him, even when he's angry. All the sketches come from unexpected directions, all flowing into each other like pages in a visual diary. Boundless creativity, steady introspection and honesty shine through to make this a testimony to decades of artistic and political subversion.
Artists of Self's generation had a different attitude to drawing and artistic tradition than the superficially comparable pop generation of 90s Britain. Self, like Hamilton, possesses positively Old Masterish skills. But married to a fascination with modern images, his passion for drawing makes a rich and comic art for our time.
More from Jonathan Jones on art on
Art and design
5 Apr 2011
6 Apr 2011
8 Apr 2011
13 Apr 2011
23 Jul 2008
16 Feb 2009
30 Jun 2009
5 Apr 2011
Comments in chronological order (Total 11 comments)
9 December 2010 2:07PM
Colin Self is talking tonight - Thurs 9th Dec, 6.30pm - at James Hyman Gallery, 5 Savile Row, London W1S 3PD (www.jameshymangallery.com).
9 December 2010 2:19PM
Now Self is an artist who has too often been ignored. I empathise with his politics more than his political works, I much prefer his works that aren't didactic and seem more private and personal. However, whatever he does, he's an underated artist and has been out of the public eye for far too long.
9 December 2010 2:41PM
Self, like Hamilton, possesses positively Old Masterish skills.
Here's a link to the drawings. Could you pick one (or a few) and describe in more detail how they reflect "old masterish" skills? Say perhaps by relating them to the easy grace of a Reubens, or the vitality of a Rembrandt, or the intensity of a Goya? I'd be happy if you could even relate it to more modern masters, like Kollwitz, Schiele, or Dix, or even (by more than just being "fun") the cartoonists like Disney or Max Fleischer.
I really am curious about this.
9 December 2010 3:26PM
I really am curious about this.
The exhibition is called 1,000 sketches, not 1,000 drawings but the man can draw and I mean really draw. However, I can't find many of his most accomplished drawings on the internet, if any.
9 December 2010 3:42PM
What an exquisite sketch, The energy flows that it almost pushes you away.
9 December 2010 5:21PM
I've always found Richard Hamilton's work about as interesting and appealing as a dog turd, I'm afraid. In fact, every square inch of it strikes me as loathsome. Or every square inch I have seen of it.
This Colin Self seems entirely other and better.
9 December 2010 7:39PM
Artists of Self's generation had a different attitude to drawing and artistic tradition than the superficially comparable pop generation of 90s Britain. Self, like Hamilton, possesses positively Old Masterish skills.
I think JJ is suggesting (and If he is I totally agree) that the sketches look like exploratory drawings such as the Old Masters employed - they don't look like 'Works on Paper' such as a contemporary artist might make.
9 December 2010 10:44PM
This is great! I am really enjoying looking at these. Generally I find the quality of the blog posts here to be of very low quality, and I am drawn to read the comments more than the articles! I watched your video discussing Gerhard Ricter's work recently and I was disgusted. It was as if you had just read the blurb on the back of one of his catalogues.
You should try posting more stuff like this on artists not so widely written about Jonathan! Be honest and just write your unvarnished opinions backed up with art history, context and discussion rather than all the usual hyperbole and lazy pseudo criticism. x
10 December 2010 6:05PM
Thanks for the links PP- always worth chasing
Comments on this page are now closed.LoadingLoading
Sorry, commenting is not available at this time. Please try again later.
Friday, 15 April 2011
Colin Self: rebel with a caustic wit | Art and design | guardian.co.uk