Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Cartoons and culture

A Giles cartoon published in the Sunday Express in 1967.
From the Culture Cartooned exhibition, courtesy of the British Cartoon Archive

The question "What is culture?" was raised recently in a high-profile promo campaign for the BBC's re-launched Culture Show. An exhibition of cartoons from the 20th Century that takes a light-hearted look at culture may provide the answer. Or it might just be a good laugh.

Culture Cartooned is at the Royal Museum and Art Gallery in Canterbury until Saturday 26 July and includes original artwork and prints across a range of cultural themes, from the visual arts, ballet and cinema to sport and the Olympics. This is the broad variety of activity that comes under the government’s definition of "culture".

Exhibition highlights include cartoons by Giles about Arts Council grants and sporting prowess; perceptive observations of museum and gallery visitors by WK Haselden and Keith Waite; Reg Smythe’s Andy Capp commenting on films; and the pocket cartoons of Mel Calman and David Austin. Some of the cartoons question what we mean by heritage, while others show our ambivalent attitudes to sport and sportsmen, or art and artists.

The show is at the Royal Museum and Art Gallery, Beaney Institute (first floor), 18 High Street, Canterbury. It is open Monday to Saturday from 10am to 4.45pm. Admission is free. Culture Cartooned is organised by Canterbury City Council in partnership with the British Cartoon Archive at the University of Kent.

On the subject of the Culture Show, the extended version, screened on Friday night, included a great animated film by Johnny Kelly which will be of interest to cartoonists and anyone involved in any creative endeavour, as it's called Procrastination.

Canterbury Royal Museum & Art Gallery

The Culture Show

The PCO: British cartoon talent