At its best, art taps into the soul’s inexpressible longings. It transcends language, expressing through color and form the subtler emotions which defy discrete categorization. In this new series, I will explore how art articulates the Big Freakin’ Moods which so define everyday life. Our first installment: the works of Quentin Blake.
Best known for his longtime collaboration with Roald Dahl, English cartoonist Quentin Blake has illustrated more than 300 children’s books in his long and prolific career. His drawings, characterized by their expressionistic lineart and delicate washes of watercolor, are equal parts irreverent and tender, surreal and mundane. Perhaps it is this quality of the absurd which makes Blake’s work so useful for capturing the various emotional stages of discovering that one’s joke website, created for the amusement of five friends, has taken off overnight and captured an audience of thousands. Or perhaps I’m projecting.
1.) #Mood: HappySad
Michael Rosen looks happy (but sad). Is his vacant smile a commentary on performing neuroses for an uncaring audience, perhaps? A visual representation of affected millennial nihilism, made little more than commodity by the post-post-ironic blogosphere? Is it possible to be happy, if that happiness is not expressible in listicle format? Michael doesn’t know.
2.) #Mood: Parenthood
As The Niche’s resident crone and reptile enthusiast, I find much of myself in this mysterious woman. Just as I devote unsolicited concern to the gaggle of 20-year-olds driving the creation of this site, she pours maternal warmth into a perplexed and unresponsive lizard. Despite the little reptile’s reticence, she clutches it near to her as if to say “I will protect you from the perils to come, whether you ask me to or not.” We are one, she and I.
3.) #Mood: Men Discussing Things
This is an obvious one. What embodies our preoccupations as a group if not a tall, balding man and a short, balding man, contemplating in-depth the interpersonal concerns of giraffes and pelicans? Prescient as always, Quentin.
4.) #Mood: Bird Blogger
A bird reviews his written work and begins to dissociate. I have nothing more to say about this piece.
5.) #Mood: The Creative Process
As an artist whose career has carried into the digital age, Blake no doubt understands the irristible drive to produce, produce, produce. The Content, represented here by live reptiles and amphibians, is forcibly disgorged from our bodies like a hideous birth. Beholding the fruits of one’s creation, one can’t help but wonder, “Am I, like, responsible for this toad now?”
6.) #Mood: Flames on the Sides of My Face
Two androgynous figures confront their audience, demanding to be witnessed. Despite their projected ease, their flame-wreathed faces betray profound inner turmoil. Are they aware of what they reveal of themselves? Is their confession sincere? With this work, Blake once again captures the paradox of performing mental illness in exchange for pageviews.
7.) #Mood: Inspiration
Lester is gentle with himself. We would do well to emulate him.