Light in the dark­ness

Car­toons in­spired by war

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - PATRICK FREYNE - WORDS BY DEIRDRE FALVEY

‘From here, you get a breath­tak­ing view of what will hap­pen in the 20th cen­tury. The Holo­caust, the Kh­mer Rouge, Rwanda, former Yu­goslavia. But also the cre­ation of the Eu­ro­pean Union . . . The peace­ful utopia that peo­ple will re­ject in the 21st.” The cap­tion, in French, for The Great War by Ni­co­las Vadot (liv­ing in Bel­gium, with Bri­tish, French and Aus­tralian her­itage), is one of the car­toons about or in­spired by the Armistice cen­te­nary, and war gen­er­ally, in the Gal­way Car­toon Fes­ti­val.

Sig­mund Freud char­ac­terised car­toons as dou­ble-edged: by at­tack­ing the en­emy and show­ing him as small, low, de­spi­ca­ble, comic, ridicu­lous, “we give our­selves the en­joy­ment of a vic­tory’’, but our laugh­ter also gives us a re­lease from con­straint.

The fes­ti­val opens to­day, and its co­in­ci­dence with Armistice Day made for an ob­vi­ous theme. As well as com­mem­o­rat­ing the end of the first World War, direc­tor Richard Chap­man looked for car­toons about the in­ter­ven­ing 100 years. He was ea­ger for car­toons “about live is­sues, from any­where in the world”. And they have been “flood­ing in”, most par­tic­u­larly from France, the UK, Italy, Bel­gium and Ire­land. It has been, he re­marks, “a cen­tury of vi­o­lence and up­heaval - much, ar­guably, as a di­rect con­se­quence of this very peace set­tle­ment. From the first World War through the Cold War to the War on Ter­ror, the planet has hardly had a quiet mo­ment. Which is why we call the show A Peace To End All Peace”.

The “ninth art”, as the French call it – comics, car­i­ca­ture, and car­toons – was ab­sent from Gal­way’s fes­ti­val cal­en­dar, and last year’s in­au­gu­ral “in­ter­na­tional fes­ti­val of funny draw­ings” started small. This year’s is a gi­ant step, with work by over 70 in­ter­na­tional car­toon­ists in sev­eral venues.

Chap­man was “blown away by the re­sponse from far-away places. Why do car­toon­ists in China or Ar­gentina or Rus­sia send their work to Gal­way? I have no idea how peo­ple in China even heard about the fes­ti­val. I thought the Rus­sian work was par­tic­u­larly in­ter­est­ing be­cause of how anti-mil­i­taris­tic it was. That is not an image we get of Rus­sia from the me­dia – even Rus­sian me­dia. Even more telling was that of all the Rus­sian draw­ings we re­ceived, not one was of Putin. That’s pretty chill­ing.”

Peo­ple think of car­toons as hu­mor­ous, but “not a lot of the war ma­te­rial was hi­lar­i­ous, of course. In­ter­est­ingly the fun­ni­est, to my mind at least, was from Ger­many, by Teja Fis­cher.”

An­other take he sin­gles out is Peace Sign by Gatis Sluka from Latvia, which “en­cap­su­lates the cyn­i­cism of the ag­gres­sor in one dev­as­tat­ingly sim­ple image. I think of it as a visual re­ply to the an­cient adage ‘If you want peace, pre­pare for war’. Those who are pre­par­ing for war al­ways claim to want peace.”

Martin Row­son’s Guardian draw­ing sees a par­al­lel – or con­nec­tion – be­tween Bri­tain bogged down in the slimy trenches of war and the in­vid­i­ous po­si­tion Theresa May’s gov­ern­ment is in over Brexit.

Fes­ti­val guest of hon­our Mar­ilena Nardi is “one of the most as­ton­ish­ing tal­ents in car­toon­ing to­day,” says Chap­man. Among her work in Gal­way is a por­trait of Mata Hari (Mar­garetha

It has been a cen­tury of vi­o­lence and up­heaval – much, ar­guably, as a di­rect con­se­quence of this very peace set­tle­ment. From the first World War through the Cold War to the War on Ter­ror, the planet has hardly had a quiet mo­ment

Geertru­ida MacLeod, née Zelle), who knew pow­er­ful men all over Europe and was asked to spy by both sides. She was ex­e­cuted by fir­ing squad in 1917 France.

A con­fer­ence and ex­hi­bi­tion in NUI Gal­way (with the French depart­ment and the Em­bassy of Bel­gium), ex­plore the im­pact of car­toons dur­ing the war, and renowned Bel­gian comic au­thor Jean Claude Ser­vais will ex­plain the creative process be­hind his comics, es­pe­cially wartime sto­ries.

Cather­ine Gag­neux talks in the con­fer­ence about the rise and in­flu­ence of car­toons, us­ing orig­i­nal draw­ings from the ex­hi­bi­tion. French hon­orary con­sul Gag­neux says wartime car­toons ini­tially aimed to boost troops’ morale by satiris­ing and ridi­cul­ing the en­emy; keep­ing up ap­pear­ances and main­tain­ing morale be­came vi­tal to war ef­forts. Some pop­u­lar Bri­tish car­toon­ists in­cluded Wil­liam Haselden (Daily Mir­ror), Joseph More­wood Stan­i­forth

(News of the World) and Owen Jeanan (Punch ); in Ger­many Thomas Theodor Heine stood out and in France Jean Jacques Waltz ‘Hansi’, Fo­rain, and Poul­bot.

Le Rire in France jus­ti­fied pub­lish­ing wartime car­toons: “In th­ese hor­ri­ble and tragic, but highly glo­ri­ous hours . . . the Rire [laugh­ter] is by no means in­ap­pro­pri­ate, but on the con­trary nec­es­sary.”

In Ger­many, says Gag­neux, car­toon pro­pa­ganda was less hu­mor­ous and fo­cused on glo­ri­fy­ing war he­roes, while in Bri­tain, the mil­i­tary’s pro­pa­ganda depart­ment re­cruited artists and writ­ers, and atroc­ity pro­pa­ganda mo­bi­lized pub­lic opin­ion against Ger­many. Car­toon­ists were con­sid­ered en­listed in in­tel­lec­tual mil­i­tary ser­vice, and Sol­dats de

l’ar­rière were asked to re­late pos­i­tive views. In the con­fer­ence NUI Gal­way’s Philip Dine ex­plores post-Armistice world order as seen in Hergé’s Tintin ad­ven­tures, while col­league Co­ralline Dupuy looks at the pol­i­tics of gen­der rep­re­sen­ta­tion in French-speak­ing wartime car­toons.

UCC pro­fes­sor Grace Neville will dis­cuss press car­toons in Ire­land af­ter 1916. The scarcity of po­lit­i­cal car­toons in the main­stream Irish pa­pers, in­clud­ing The Irish Times, con­trasts with France and Bel­gium, where po­lit­i­cal car­toons were rich and plen­ti­ful. The skilled draw­ing in 1918 Irish news­pa­per ads didn’t trans­late into car­toons, po­lit­i­cal or other­wise, says Neville. But in­ter­est­ingly, Irish sub­jects fea­tured in French and Bel­gian car­toons, in­clud­ing the trou­bles, the per­ceived Ger­man threat in Ire­land, Irish sol­diers in the war, and – from shortly af­ter­wards – the burn­ing of Cork and the death of Lord Mayor Ter­ence MacSwiney in 1920. Neville men­tions a French car­toon: “in the back­ground we see Cork city burn­ing; in the fore­ground two peo­ple are dis­cussing hol­i­days. One says that he would like to go to some­where quiet. ‘Have you con­sid­ered Cork?’, asks the other.”

The car­toon fes­ti­val cel­e­brates 100 years of Pol­ish in­de­pen­dence, in­clud­ing Pol­ish Coun­try

Dances, draw­ings by Maria Apoleika. Spread­ing its wings wider, there’s a ret­ro­spec­tive of one of Ire­land’s most pop­u­lar car­toon­ists, Graeme Keyes, a reg­u­lar in Pri­vate Eye and Phoenix mag­a­zines (he’s re­spon­si­ble for lots of their word-bub­ble cov­ers), as well as the Irish Daily

Mail. Stephen Dee’s “three-di­men­sional car­toons” in­clude minia­ture-scaled porce­lain car­i­ca­tures and his Sculp­to­ries (in Tigh Neach­tain and Char­lie Byrne’s book­shop win­dows) are an­tique wooden print­ers’ trays pop­u­lated by tiny, in­tri­cate porce­lain fig­ures to form a nar­ra­tive, like a strip car­toon.

A Peace To End All Peace is at the Black Gate Cul­tur­alCen­tre.Grae­meKeyes’sret­ro­spec­tiveis at Town Hall Theatre. Maria Apoleika cre­ates a newPol­ishCoun­tryDance­liv­eintheCorn­store, to­mor­row, from noon to 5pm (no ac­tual danc­ing in­volved!)ACar­toon­sinWW1­con­fer­en­ceis­to­day attheHardi­manRe­searchBuild­ing,NUIG,at4pm. The Gal­way Car­toon fes­ti­val be­gins to­day and run­sun­tilNovem­ber17th. gal­way­car­toons.eu

Left: The Great War by Ni­co­las Vadot, one of a cen­tury of car­toons about or in­spired by the Armistice cen­te­nary, and war gen­er­ally, fea­tur­ing in the Peace To End All Peace ex­hi­bi­tion at the Gal­way Car­toon Fes­ti­val, which be­gins to­day

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