Horizon at Sandy Point

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Cartoons and ink blots

Steve Ouditt's first solo exhibition in 18 years features two groups of small white-framed images; a dozen posters and a giant grafitti-like rant. On the north wall of Medulla gallery, 60 framed cartoons comprise the collection called Asylum. On the south, the grouping titled Cerebella is lined up like an identical opposing army: four rows of 15 each.

How the artist wishes to be seen? 

Proceeds to Mental Health, Steve Ouditt claims, is for the benefit of the work being done by his friend Dr Gerard Hutchinson, professor of psychiatry at the University of the West Indies. But the epistles mounted here must surely be towards the artist's own mental health. Here is an oeuvre that intends to be as articulate as if the words were written in a book; economical in scale and piercingly intelligent.  Here is the artist's internalised and edited response to daily stimuli, influences and fears, sequenced, matrixed and exposed. What is revealed, what remains hidden? What is the balance that determines mental health? How sane am I? Am I going mad?


Enter the basement vault that is Medulla - aptly named for the middle, the marrow (as in bone), the core. This gallery is surely transformed to a cave of a mind. Ouditt's external persona is militaristically orderly, serried ranks of thought; ideas allowed and squared off if not filed away. There's order inflicted here: everyone fears disorder, chaos.  The potential menace of the Rorschach inkblot is pinned down, screwed down, organised and boxed in, inked over, but never completely obliterated.

Ralph D Evader

Turn to the west wall where the dominant image is a larger than life character Ralph D Evader, the public servant who piss on the minister's tomato nursery and get his mout' buss. Consider that the artist himself is a public servant tending the art nursery (MA programme - Creative Design Entrepreneurship) at the University of the West Indies, since 2003. Who risks getting they mout' buss? Is the public servant's public role always a mask for private recalcitrance, ineptitude, indolence, maybe even insanity.

Now we come to the two armies of cyphers and hieroglyphs so meticulously composed and framed, mounted on the north and south walls. How should they be read, we wonder - right to left as we read a book? In lines of four, top to bottom? Should we just start in the middle with what catches the eye? Are they juxtaposed to evoke meaning from the sequence as well as the surrounds? All Rorschach blots for personal interpretation?

Reading from the top of one row in Asylum

Second image 

Third image

Final/ fourth image, reading down a row in Asylum

The wall that is labelled Asylum offers random thoughts about security, safety, shelter, sanctuary and sanity. How, you may well ask, does one intuit such defined statements from Ouditt's cartoons? All the interpretations are personal in the end. But here are some of my favourites: the temple, the cage, the horse, the artist in aviators, the artist among his books.

For the other wall called Cerebella, Ouditt has created some large rubber stamps that are drawings of the crenellations of the human brain. These are used to impose or underlay architectured structures and fanciful swirling colour, deep as space. Cerebella as trees, softening the hard edges of built landscapes. Cerebella as source, the big bang issuing abstractions of intense colour - ink blots of the mind.
Study of the brain? Really?

Blue Cerebella collective

Red Cerebella collective

Rorschach blot of the mind

Ouditt's meticulous selection - dare we believe from scores of other doodles and cartoons -  seeks to ensure that each piece is a stand alone, a signature piece. The serious collector might be encouraged to secure groupings - rather than singular pieces. To put it bluntly, a single cartoon gives you an Ouditt. Your selection of a grouping of four or five lets you into the artist's mind. After 18 years, Ouditt reveals a mind that's still crafty and incisive. For the moment, we may be content that the artist has come out; hopeful of the journey towards mental health.

Disclaimer: these photographs are simply for reference and are not true reproductions - all the pieces were under glass.

(WikipediaA cartoon is a form of two-dimensional illustrated visual art. While the specific definition has changed over time, modern usage refers to a typically non-realistic or semi-realistic drawing or painting intended for satire, caricature, or humor, or to the artistic style of such works. ...
The term originated in the Middle Ages and first described a preparatory drawing for a piece of art, such as a painting,fresco, tapestry, or stained glass window. In the 19th century, it came to refer to humorous illustrations in magazines and newspapers, and in the early 20th century and onward it referred to comic strips and animated films.)

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