Tuesday, 21 October 2008

A fragment of an underdone potato

There’s more of gravy than there’s grave about you

Ebenezer Scrooge is one of the most iconic fictional characters, so much so that his name not only evokes the spectre of miserly self-interest but has effectively fallen in to the canon of common parlance as an utterance of denigration. For this we love him.

I recall well a scratchy crackling record that we would play as children on my parent’s gramophone (literally) every festive season. Hearing this atmospheric recording is one of my earliest memories and has given me a life-time attachment to this old humbug and his ghoulish tale of morality and destiny. As such Robert Ingpen’s freshly-released artwork for the new publication has superbly tapped into the essence of this story. His page and double page spreads are a fantastic evocation of a Dickensian world through which glide Scrooge and the spirits of Christmas past, present and future.

These pictures display Robert’s enduring interest in things scientific and architectural . He is in his element. The watercolours display a virtuoso handling of architectural and perspectival drawing, and coupled with the impressively detailed research into our nineteenth century metropolis, its architecture and fashion we are presented with an unrivalled almost theatrical presentation of Victorian London. As with all great illustrators there is more. With his imagination Robert has infused an eerie other-world quality which gives the artwork such vibrancy. It is immediately engaging and draws the viewer into silent contemplation of this by-gone era. The spectral luminosity of the unfortunate Jacob Marley is all too real. If Munch’s Scream is an evocation of existence then Ingpen’s seated Marley is its opposite. The seemingly quivering figure is a horrific vision of a ghastly unresolved fate, reminiscent of Bacon’s Screaming Pope currently on view at Tate Britain.

But there is humour too. ‘I fear you more than any spectre’ moans Scrooge in the presence of the ghost of things to come. Yet when confronted by his own cold and lonely death we see Scrooge cringing from behind the ghoul, peeking around like a child as the pale light illuminates the increasingly inevitable amongst the gathering gloom. This is one of my own favourites for sure.

In almost fifteen years of The Illustration Cupboard this is surely one of the best books I have had the pleasure to work with and exhibit. It has been enormous fun for us all here at the gallery. The artwork does not disappoint and I warmly invite and encourage any and many to visit. See for yourself or share this with those who, like me, will gain and enjoy a lifelong friendship with this loveable curmudgeon - the wonderful Ebenezer Scrooge.

1 comment:

Sue Eves said...

In almost 10 years of seeing the Illustration Cupboard exhibitions, this is the best yet!

I shall enjoy reading this edition of A Christmas Carol all the more for having seen Robert Ingpen's paintings.