Celebrating the 80th anniversary of The Broons and Oor Wullie, Dundee Contemporary Arts is hosting a unique group exhibition in partnership with DC Thomson, in which six artists have each created playful responses to the publisher’s extensive comic archives.
The exhibition features brand new work by all six artists – Rabiya Choudhry, Rob Churm, Craig Coulthard, Malcy Duff, Hideyuki Katsumata and Sofia Sita – including murals, prints, drawings, paintings, installations and videos, as well as archive material from 80 years of the celebrated Dundee publisher and their beloved characters.
Rabiya Choudhry‘s work for the exhibition is loosely based on her family and inspired by DC Thomson’s riotous comic strip “The Numskulls“, about the team of tiny human-like technicians who live inside people’s heads and run their bodies and minds. Choudhry has created her own comic creation called “The Coconuts” for a new set of paintings.
“[They] never really left me since I was a kid,” she told The Skinny. “I’ve always thought about the Numskullswhen I’ve made work… those wee voices in your head saying this is amazing or this is terrible. So they’re always characterised by these little people.”
Glasgow-based artist Rob Churm is influenced by comics and underground zines and he’s chosen to work with the Jonah strips that appeared in The Beano in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and which were notable for their ingenious storytelling and compressing elaborate action sequences into a one-page cartoon. He’s created The Pineapple, a new comic.
Craig Coulthard has taken inspiration from DC Thomson’s Commando comics and created a series of drawings inspired by these for the exhibition, with the text altered to include real words spoken by a soldier from the Great War Interviews carried out by the BBC in the 1960s, as well as information from the Ministry of Defence website on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Trauma Risk Management (TRiM).
“I’ve made a series of drawings based on original panels,” he explains. “The drawings are split into two groups of eight, loosely termed ‘explosions’ and ‘talking heads’. I have inserted new text into the drawings which deal with some of the realities of soldierly life.”
Coulthard also commissioned Ian Kennedy to create a short tutorial video on how to draw and paint explosions, which is also on show – and a new painting, depicting what he imagines the RAF Leuchars Air Show would look like if it was taking place 100 years in the future.
“The idea for commissioning Ian to make this painting came about after my first meeting with him at the DC Thomson archive,” told the Courier newspaper. “It was fascinating to hear Ian talk about the work he had done as a freelance artist, not just for DC Thomson, but also Eagle and 2000AD.
“Ian is still very much an active artist, and I thought it might be interesting to have him make a new work, alongside some of the archive material in the show, to reflect the insatiable appetite for work that is part of many artists’ lives.
“Ian talked with enthusiasm about painting aircraft and skies, and combining elements of imagination and realism in some of the science fiction work he has done.”
Artist, musician and cartoonist Malcy Duff has taken inspiration from Oor Wullie and produced a brand new comic for the exhibition, named Pineapple, that can be read within a new sculptural installation inspired by Wullie’s famous bucket.
Hideyuki Katsumata, whose solo exhibition at DCA last year was one of the organisation’s most popular to date, revealed he has a fascination for DC Thomson’s cartoon characters while in Dundee. The Tokyo-based artist has created a large mural and numerous smaller drawings using characters from his imagination to converse with the DC Thomson universe.
Sofia Sita is an artist and illustrator based in Dundee who has exhibited locally and in her home country of Italy. Inspired by The Broons, Sita has created a mural celebrating The Dundonians – a happy and heterogeneous family of DCA visitors who submitted their photographs to be included as drawings in the exhibition.
DC Thomson Archive Manager David Powell introduced each artist to the collections, “In some cases, their research has been almost forensic,” he notes, “looking in minute detail as to how pen lines were drawn, brush marks made and even the physical dimensions of the original art work.”
Concurrent with the exhibition are a number of events. Earlier this week, for example, Malcy Duff read from his comic book The Pineapple in the Pineapple Reading Area, and Rob Churm read excerpts from The Exhaustion Hook, together with a live audio visual improvisation. (The Exhaustion Hook is an ongoing comic book project that layers Rob’s drawings with scrips, dream diary entries and interviews).
• DCA Thomson runs until 19th February 2017, Dundee Contemporary Arts, 152 Nethergate, Dundee DD1 4DY Tel : 01382 909 900. Open daily 10.00 – 18.00, open late Thursday 8.00pm. Admission is free. Further information here on the Dundee Contemporary Arts web site
With thanks to Jeremy Briggs