Take the transgression of colouring outside the lines and add the Chapman brothers’ mastery of technique along with their dark ventures into the surreal and fantastic and you can begin to approximate Jake and Dinos’ My Giant Colouring Book, which is at the Thelma Hulbert Gallery.
Who would want to just join the dots when a world of imagination can be found between them?
The Chapman brothers first came to prominence as part of the YBA (young British artists) movement of the 1990s. They featured in the Royal Academy’s seminal 1997 exhibition Sensation, showing a sculptural version of Goya’s disasters of war. They returned to Goya’s work in 2003 when they caused outrage for painting their own ghoulish imagery over an original set of etchings.
My Giant Colouring Book returns to this method of working, this time appropriating join-the-dot drawings from a children’s picture book. The naïve innocence of the illustrations triggers a wild outpouring of fantastical imagery far removed from the original dot formations.
This series of 21 etchings, published by The Paragon Press, London in 2004, offers a fascinating introduction to the imaginations of two of Britain’s most inventive and subversive artists.
Many of the Chapmans’ favourite themes are found here, often with a dark undercurrent. Monstrous creatures and hallucinatory scenes emerge, bristling with grotesque humour, and rich in allusions to art history: from medieval images of hell and damnation to Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism.
The subjects include sabre-toothed owls, psychedelic grinning cats and bears trapped in the belly of the Loch Ness monster. In describing the series, Dinos Chapman said: “(They) are about how wrong you could make an image.”
• My Giant Colouring Book is at the Thelma Hulbert Gallery from Saturday, May 28 to Saturday, June 25
(image: Copyright Jake and Dinos Chapman and The Paragon Press, London)