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Posts Tagged ‘steve bell’

…get stuck in with a bit of French revolutionary iconography.
Martin Rowson, The Guardian, 15 May 2009

A particularly bloody and rather good cartoon from the ever-gothic Martin Rowson. I like how this cartoon highlights both the ludricrous heights to which the expenses furore has risen – and, moreover, the fact that while abuse of public funds is never a good thing, the controversy is serving to act as a distraction from the far more sinister machinations of high capitalism (which has assumed the role of the tricoteuse at the foot of the guillotine).

Funnily enough, Karl told me that the day this was published there was a chap on News 24 describing the uproar over the expenses scandal as being akin to the storming of the Bastille. Naturally I won’t go into why that analogy is so totally and utterly wrong, as we’d be here til Christmas – instead I’ll just file all this stuff away for future research on the idea of the French Revolution in British popular culture in the past century or so…

Meanwhile, Bell continues to mix cartoons and photography in a fascinating way.
Steve Bell, 13 May 2009
There will be more on cartoonists taking photographs (or, if you wish, photographers drawing cartoons) on here soon, but for the moment I’m bemused by the reactions to Bell’s Israel-related cartoons. As an aside, I think the empty podium in the image on the right is great.

Naturally, it’s a divisive and contentious issue so it’s only natural that those who comment on the cartoons (The Guardian having provided its cartoons page with a user comment section) should have rather clear-cut and often quite extreme views on the situation and, indeed, on the cartoon commenting on it. While it is fairly clear where Bell stands on the issue of the Middle East, his cartoons on the topic – as his work so often does – offers commentary that is both prescient and unsettling.

Personally, I am of the opinion that what sets really, really good political cartoonists apart from the rest – those who deal in the ‘big head, tiny body’ area of caricature – is that unsettling quality that they can bring to an image. Good political cartoons make you think. That’s why, for me at least, the rather more unanimous positive reaction from the comments section to Bell’s cartoon concerning potential punishment for expenses-abusing MPs (which appeared in the Guardian the next day) is so interesting.

Cartoons that we can all agree on and have a good laugh at = good.
Cartoons that provoke thought and might cause discussion = bad.

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Steve Bell, The Guardian, 7 May 2009

The ever-brilliant Steve Bell (in spite of what the occasional moaners about his ‘toilet’ humour in the comments section on the Guardian site might say) has, once again, pushed the boundaries for editorial cartooning with today’s image.

His cartoon is a response to the attempts by pro-Israeli lobbyists to put a halt to changes in the White House’s Middle East policy. Bell himself explains the basis for the image thus, as part of the body of comments made on the cartoon:

Just a point of information. Moeran is quite right. This is a photograph I took of the Qalandia, or Kalandia checkpoint on the north side of Jerusalem. All Palestinian inhabitants of the northern West Bank (should they be fortunate enough to get a pass) have to come through this thing in order to get to Jerusalem. Thus a large proportion of the working population in the Arab part of Jerusalem are detained for at least an hour, morning and evening, longer, or for much longer depending on the whim of the security forces. As you can see it is not a pleasant place to be. It reminded me of a meat processing facility. There are checkpoints like this all over the West Bank, though perhaps not as solidly built as Qalandia.

I do not want to get into the politics of this image one way or another in this discussion of it. What interests me here, rather, is how Bell takes his frequent habit of reproducing – and d├ętourning – photographic images in his cartoons to the next level, by using an actual photograph (which, as the quote above demonstrates, he himself took) and subverting it in order to make his point. Curiously enough, the sheer reality of the image, in all its photographic starkness, reminds me of a justly famous and equally political lithograph – Daumier’s ‘Rue Transnonain, 15 April 1834’, drawn in the wake of the brutal suppression of a riot in Paris.
Daumier, Rue Transnonain

As I noted above, Bell’s detractors may (without reason, I feel) criticise what they perceive as his reliance on ‘toilet humour’ (‘scatological’ is just that bit better a word, isn’t it?) – but to me he consistently takes his cartooning, and the very idea of what constitutes cartooning, in different, intriguing directions. Today’s image is another clear example of that.

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