Holy Smokes and Cereal Killers
The White Lady Gallery in Wellington Quay has been taken over by “Holy Smokes and Cereal Killers” an exhibition loaded with a mixture of cartoon illustrations and street art. I had the pleasure of meeting the Andy Hamilton, the British illustrator behind the exhibition, who explained his love for illustration, what brought him to Ireland and the inspiration behind his work.
AP: You’re obviously a very creative person, as you’ve been working as an illustrator for over 20 years. How did it all start?
AH: It all started when I was about five years old. Every week, my mum used to always bring home a comic for me (usually Krazy Comic or Whizzer and Chips) and this one time, I remember reading a story in Little Star, about an artist named Andrew. So I turned to my mum and said “He has the same name as me! Does that mean I can be an artist, too?”. And she replied, “Of course you can.” That was it. I was going to be an artist. From then on, I spent waaaay too much time reading, copying and drawing my own comics and the love of them has never left me.
AP: Your work has appeared in LA, New York, London, Rome, Berlin and now you are in Dublin, what brought you to the Irish capital and to The White Lady Gallery?
AH: I have shown my work all over the world, especially in the USA, were they seem to embrace outsider art a lot more readily. A few years ago, I met Alexa, owner of the White Lady Art Gallery, and we put on a group show for Offset. It got a great reaction, and a year or so later, when Alexa contacted me to say that she had set up a gallery in Dublin showing exclusively outsider/ underground/ street art, the stars aligned, and the show was on! I love the street-art scene in Dublin, it’s got a great humour about it, which makes me smile. Coming from a comic/graffiti background, a lot of the artists I know and love to work with are just genuinely funny characters, and that seems to fit Dublin’s scene really well.
AP: Comics strips seem to have made a big comeback, why do you think people find this art form so intriguing?
AH: The primary role of the kind of many comic strips, and the kind that I draw, is to make the reader smile or laugh in a bite-sized chunk. It’s an instant giggle from a regular friend- the more the reader gets to know your characters the more they share in the jokes… I think that’s the reason people enjoy reading them and why they keep coming back for more. And I know I’ll never tire of people telling me that my strip made them laugh.
AP: This exhibition incorporates cartoon illustrations with very traditional images that our Grannies might have above their kitchen table – where did the inspiration come to combine these paradoxical visuals?
AH: In the early ’80s, I would watch rafts of TV cartoons with highly-detailed, realistic, painterly backgrounds and then the super-flat coloured characters would be overlaid on to them. Years later, when I began to see paintings sitting in bargain bins of charity shops or poking out of skips, I would pick them up. I knew that these paintings were of landscapes that don’t exist, executed in a ‘Bob-Ross’ style, whilst watching a paint-along video. The landscapes all have so much empty, dead space. But I could see the characters that were missing from these spaces and knew that I could help them blink into existence. So I started to paint them into the landscapes.
“Holy Smokes and Cereal Killers” will be on display until the 29th of September 2013. Andy Hamilton will do live painting in the gallery as part of Culture Night this Friday, 20th of September.