Ambulances, police cars and fire engines zoom past you at least once a week and every time they do you find yourself wondering, where are they going? What has happened? Even if you don’t realise it we have this morbid fascination with wanting to know the gory details of what might have happened.
Through my own studies I feel us Brits are fascinated with the grotesque and darker side of life often for our own entertainment. A great example would have to be Freak Shows which were very popular through the Victorian era for the public’s entertainment. Could you imagine getting your children ready on a morning for a fun day at the Freak Show?
Even now I find photos from Freak Shows are a rich source of imagery for new ideas in my own illustration. It’s the strangeness of it that draws me in because I don’t think there will be freak shows like them ever again.
However we can still find our dark fix of the weird and the grotesque, from publications such as the ‘Guinness World book of records’ or ‘Ripley’s Believe it or not’, both books aim to document the strange things human beings can do for our entertainment. We can even find documentaries on TV every week that tell the stories of people who have unique problems. When a documentary is named ‘The half ton man’ or ‘Turtle boy’ do these titles not remind you of a freak show on some level? Titles like these are designed to generate our interest by using grotesque metaphors.
It’s the hand in hand of the grotesque as fun and entertaining that I tend to look for when I do my work. I think it is because Britain has quite a dark humour, so there are always stories and images whether in the news or on TV that are rich for inspiration.
A key example of my work where you can see this combination is my ‘Elvis Presley- the Later Year’s’ illustration.
Elvis was and still is an iconic figure in the music industry but at the end of his career he unfortunately took a turn for the worst and he became a grotesque caricature of his former slim and healthy self. In the media you never really saw the worst of Elvis, so in my illustration I’ve created this darker grotesque side to Elvis that we never saw. He was very much a ladies’ man and so I’ve used this element to create this humorous scenario where Elvis is signing his name onto a woman’s breasts.
Being able to explore and create a darker side to objects and people through my illustration is what I enjoy the most. I see it as being able to create my own little freak show on some level for the public to be entertained by. If you where to look at a piece of my work and think ‘That’s weird…but I like it’ then I feel like I have succeed in captivating a bit your dark side.
Written by Victoria Green