‘Ghosts I Have Known’ Browns, Coventry 2012

From 7th February 2012. Admission free – during opening hours!

Browns Independent Bar, Earl St., Coventry. [tel 02476 221100]


My paintings of these dolls are in between autobiography and fiction.
The ventriloquist doll is a fake human being, it is a fraud, it is
artifice, like a three dimensional caricature or cartoon that comes
alive. Thus a painting of a ventriloquist doll is a fiction of a
fiction, a copy of a copy, a fraud of a fraud, that is, a painting of
a painting. Dolls are not sculptures of people, dolls are like
fetishes or idols. Children speak with them, we give them
personalities, even magical and supernatural capabilities. Dolls are
tribal fetishes – totemic ancestral familiars.

The ventriloquist act apes the parent-child relationship, that of the
carpenter and Pinnochio,  of  Dr. Frankenstein and his monster. the
ventriloquist dummies Johnny and Tommy are the naughty boys who
mischievously interrupt and mock. Less malignant and tyrannical than
Mr Punch or Ubu, more Puck like. The ventriloquist relinquishes
responsibility for what the dummy says; its nothing to do with them.
Like the Shakespearian Fool or Holy Fool, the dummy is an ‘all
licensed’ critic. He is also licensed to tell the truth and
consequently the dummy gets the blame for his irritating truth, the
unsolicited opinions and his insults, concealing the true author of
this rhetoric.

These laughing ventriloquist’s dummies and the automatons Jolly Jack
Tar are echos  of carnival, where carnival is lawlessness and comedy
is liberty. The carnival festivities and comic spectaculars had an
important place in medieval life. They were the peoples expression of
all that was not official during which laughter reigned supreme. These
feasts offered a completely different, non-official, anti-dogma,
anti-protocol, anti serious spectacle. An extra political aspect of
the world of human relations which Baktin described as a ‘second
world…a second life outside officialdom‘. Here the drunken Jolly Jack
is the ‘Lord of Misrule’, but these fools are more than social
critics, they are the purveyor of free speech. The fool knows the
truth as he is a social outcast.

  JY Jan 2012.




1   Tommy [the Suitcase Act]

2   Tommy [the Suitcase Act]

3   Tommy [the Suitcase Act]

4   Annie [Ghost of my Grandmother]

5   Echo

6  Jolly Jack

One Response

  1. Istaban says:

    Great new site john! I look forward to reading more as the art lessons accrue. I love that installation photo with the ‘sitter’. I wonder, has anyone else discerned the art historical reference (or homage) that is ‘Tommy [the Suitcase Act]‘?

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