Paul Slater . Hugh, Me and Murgatroyd. Oil on Canvas.
I’m trying to get a good understanding of what absurdity is and how artists appoach absurdity. Also how do I understand and use the absurd in my own work. I am designing the poster for next years Open Illustration forum which is titled ‘the ABSURD EVENT’ ( Absurd event is an anagram of Steve Braund, head of Authorial Illustration at UCF and the events organiser.). The artist appearing at the forum are Paul Slater, Benoit Jacques, Sophie Herxheimer, Adam Dant and Peter Blegvad. So I will look at their work and attempt to identify the absurd.
utterly or obviously senseless, illogical, or untrue; contrary to all reason
or common sense; laughably foolish or false: an absurd explanation.
the quality or condition of existing in a meaningless and irrational world.
Synonyms – irrattionl, silly, ludicrous, nonsensical, ridiculous, preposterous, inconsistent with reason or common sense.
Absurd means utterly opposed to truth or reason.
Ridiculous implies that something is only fit to laugh at , perhaps contemptuously.
Preposterous implies an extreme of foolishness – a preposterous proposal.
Antonyms – logical, sensible.
“At the heart of all beauty lies something inhuman, and these hills, the softness of the sky, the outline of these trees at this very minute lose the illusory meaning with which we had clothed them, henceforth more remote than a lost paradise … that denseness and that strangeness of the world is absurd. “
Albert Camus (1913–1960), French-Algerian philosopher, author. The Myth of Sisyphus, ch. 1, “Absurd Walls,” (1942, trans. 1955).
Horses standing sideways on monliths, bare legged cowboys chasing their trousers, strngee ergonomic contraptions and vehicles, Paul Slaters paintings are most certinly absurd and indeed wierd. The absurdity is helped by his masterful painting tecnique which allows hm to render the ‘normal’ and the absurd extremely convincingly. Everything in ‘Hugh, Me and Murgatroyd’ (see above) is painted realistically and in a style we would expect to see perhaps in an established painter of horses and countryside but the horses are doing something so imposible that the level of absurdity is increased. If this image was drawn in a cartoon style it would, perhaps, have a very different effect.
My interpretation of Paul Slaters Hugh, Me and Murgatroyd.
Comparing my quick cartoon ith Paul Slater’s oil painting it is obvious that the level of absurdity engineered by the impossible situation alone is very high, both images are absurd. But the painting does bring many more levels of absurdity in to play, it is also ridiculous, ludicrous and preposterous to a much greater degree. Because we can associate his painting with so many things that are ‘normal’ from the English countryside, the upper class (not something I would normally call normal but in this case..), a summers day – that you just don’t get from a quick sketch – so this amplifies the effect of the absurdness. I would also say that the painting is quite grotesque because ofthis whereas the sketch is not.