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Martin Rowson: Hung, Drawn And Quartered
AS ONE of the increasingly popular spoken-word events staged as part of the Assembly Rooms’ Fringe programme, Martin Rowson’s talk deals with the history of the cartoon and caricature from cave painting up to the present.
On the way Rowson — cartoonist to the Morning Star and Guardian among others — highlights the contributions made by his heroes through the ages, including Willima Hogarth, James Gillray, David Low and Ronald Searle.
He lets us in on some of the secrets of the cartoonist’s craft and it is fascinating to see the distinguishing aspect of a cave-painted rhinoceros — its horn — exaggerated to bring out its essential “rhinocerosness.”
Rowson’s at pains to emphasise that the increasingly bland marketing of today’s politicians has led to cartoonists creating elements to undermine them — John Major’s underpants, Tony Blair’s staring eyeball and Nick Clegg as Pinocchio included. It seems that Labour PM Harold Wilson got it right in the 1970s when he adopted the public use of a pipe — privately he smoked cigars — because if you’re going to be lampooned at least give cartoonists an innocuous feature to concentrate on.
Intriguing too is the level of personal animosity a cartoonist has for his subject, or should that be victim?
Driven by Anne Widdecombe’s insistence that political cartooning is “just good fun” Rowson maintains: “No it isn’t. We really are out to destroy you.”
While that does go some way to explain the viciousness of some contemporary cartoons, Rowson’s included, one is left wondering if this is a general trait of cartoonists or, in this case, whether it’s the personal being rationalised into a generality.
Hung, Drawn... is a relatively short piece and there is much more, surely, to come on this topic from Rowson (pictured).
But it’s hugely informative — he tells us that the word “cartoon” only took on in its current meaning after its usage in Punch magazine in the 19th century, for example — and as one would expect from such a brilliant satirist it is certainly a thought-provoking exercise.
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