Tag Archives: exhibition

Raiders of the Lost Art: the singular MuBild exhibition of Frith Powell

2 Nov
FP painting

“Playing Field of a Circular Argument”, by Frith Powell

I saw two art exhibitions at the weekend: the magnificent collection of 50 Cézanne portraits and self-portraits at the National Portrait Gallery, and an astonishing retrospective of the work of Oxford-based artist Frith Powell.

Cézanne was termed “the father of us all” by Matisse and Picasso, yet he was at first ridiculed by art critics and achieved recognition only later in life. Though he first submitted work to the Paris Salon in 1863, the first (and last) of his paintings was not accepted until 19 years later.

It made me wonder how many great artists are currently hiding in plain sight, unheralded by their contemporaries.

Later this weekend, I got my answer. One, at least, is living in Oxford.

Stepping into the Barn Gallery at St John’s College, one feels something akin to what those Victorian explorers hacking through the jungle must have felt when the undergrowth suddenly gave way to a lost civilisation. Frith Powell’s major exhibition, “The MuBild of Arte Normale and the Singular Apprenticeship of Fabio Penitenti”, is not just an extraordinary body of work, previously unseen. It feels like a whole new lost branch of art.

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“MuBild” translates as “nothing art”: “Mu” being Japanese for “nothing”, with “Bild” German for “art”. The term “Arte Normale” stems from a meeting in the ‘90s between the artist and Time Out’s then Art Editor, Sarah Kent, which in fact I helped engineer. Frith Powell says that Sarah looked at his paintings nonplussed, saying that this was not “normal abstraction”.

Indeed it’s not. This “nothing art” is like nothing else. It’s an attempt to make abstraction real: to give symbols and figures from Frith Powell’s id solidity and form, in an alternative language whose rules and syntax seem all clearly thought out but are tantalisingly not quite divinable to the outsider. The connection is made overt with a horned symbol that recurs in many paintings, but which Frith Powell has also given physical form in white marble. The sculpture is exquisite, a thing of beauty and mystery, alternately suggesting devil’s horns, a crown, or a plucked tooth.

Frith Powell himself says that “the essential challenge for me, as an abstract painter, is in creating what could be called a ‘fiction of reality’, something that looks as though it might be real, at first sight, or is at least highly suggestive of reality, but on closer examination is seen to be unrecognisable. Other.”

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“View from the Common Road, Beckley” by Frith Powell

Though the paintings vary in style and medium, having been created over several decades, the whole is astonishingly coherent. Only one work stands out like a sore thumb: “View from the Common Road, Beckley” is a detailed landscape in pen and ink, the perspective perfectly proportioned, the trees just right. One wonders if it is included as a definitive rebuke to the uncharitable viewer who might be wondering whether Frith Powell chooses abstraction only because he lacks the technical skill for representation.

And this is just one half of the exhibition. The other is “The Singular Apprenticeship of Fabio Penitenti”, which is a collection of sculptures and objects housed in glass display cabinets. The fact that this exhibition is just five minutes’ walk from Oxford’s ethnographic Pitt Rivers Museum gives it extra piquancy. These objects are like the artefacts of some lost tribe – some functional, some religious, some sexually charged.

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“Woodland Deities”, by Frith Powell

The anime director Hayao Miyazaki would appreciate the series of “Woodland Deities” carved from funguses in the remote forests of Northern Scandinavia, or the twisted branches that have been turned into fantastical flutes, or the faces found in or struck from pebbles. Conversely, Frith Powell (or rather his craftsman alter-ego, Fabio Penitenti) has returned civilisation to nature with three acorns that, if you look closely, were carved from Champagne corks, or spiralling Christmas trees fashioned from tin lids.

Also striking (and very funny; much of the exhibition is playful and raises a smile) are a gigantic spoon carved from a massive block of wood, that has a strong whiff of Christian iconography; and the “Poet’s bird feeder hat”, with bird seed stored in its brim for anyone wanting to play St Francis of Assissi for the day.

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Part of the Singular Apprenticeship of Fabio Penitenti

In the interests of journalistic balance, I must declare an interest: I was at Oxford with Frith Powell’s wife Louise, also an artist, and have known the couple, on and off, for three decades. But I have seen only the odd piece until now. If I hadn’t been impressed, I would have written nothing. It is as a critic, not a friend, that I say this is an exceptional body of work, all the more astonishing for having been hidden from the light for so many years – Frith Powell is now 70.

Will art critics make the trek to Oxford? Are any editors still interested in unearthing fresh talent rather than chasing the clicks of the more established names? Perhaps not. But take my word for it. If you are in Oxford between now and November 16, do visit the Barn Gallery at St John’s College.

Remember that even Cézanne was once unknown.

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“I’m not beautiful”: Audrey Hepburn at the National Portrait Gallery

16 Jul

Catalogue_coverIt’s telling that Audrey Hepburn, subject of a new exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery and one of the world’s most photographed and adored women, did not think of herself as beautiful.  Her son Luca Dotti said recently that the best Audrey could say about her looks was that she had “a good mixture of defects. She thought she had a big nose and big feet, and she was too skinny and not enough breast. She would look in the mirror and say, ‘I don’t understand why people see me as beautiful.’”

If even Audrey Hepburn can’t see herself as beautiful, where does that leave modern women, with another half a century behind them of commercial propaganda pushing unrealistic beauty standards? But what’s interesting about the exhibition is how Hepburn used what she had. Seeing so many portraits of her by so many of the world’s top photographers, you begin to notice a pattern. She holds her head up, to diminish her nose; elongates her neck; uses her ballet-dancer-trained poise to graceful effect.

“She was very much in control of her own image,” the exhibition’s curator, Helen Trompeteler, told me when I interviewed her for Where London magazine. “Edith Head [the celebrated Hollywood costume designer and model for The Incredibles’ Edna “E” Mode] talked of fittings with her which took hours – Hepburn knew exactly what worked for her and how she wanted to appear. She worked closely with photographers, knew what angle was best for her, saw all the contact sheets.”

Where LondonBut there’s more to it than that. Because she didn’t feel she could rely just on her looks, Hepburn always worked hard, and was, quite simply, nice to people. “Obviously she was extremely talented and beautiful,” says Trompeteler, “but she was modest about her achievements. My personal fascination with her is that in the ‘50s and ‘60s, when the roles of women were changing so dramatically, she was able to respond to that and create a distinct look for herself – that timeless Hepburn look that has so much currency today.”

Hepburn ended her days working tirelessly for disadvantaged children around the world on behalf of UNICEF, a charity which had helped her family, along with many others, in a Holland starved and ravaged by the second world war. Did the film-going public fall in love with her just for her looks, or for her personality? I think the latter.

The photographer and essayist Cecil Beaton, who later won Academy Awards for his costume designs on Gigi and My Fair Lady, attempted to convey her appeal in an article in Vogue in 1954: “She is like a portrait by Modigliani, where the various distortions are not only interesting in themselves but make a completely satisfying composite… She is a wistful child of a war-chided era, and the shadow thrown across her youth underlines even more its precious evanescence. But if she can reflect sorrow, she seems also to enjoy the happiness life provides for her with such bounty.”

Or as Cary Grant more succinctly said, after filming Charade, “All I want for Christmas is another movie with Audrey Hepburn.”

Curiouser & curiouser: Alice in Wonderland exhibition

15 Jul
Bryan Talbot's Jabberwock, from Alice in Sunderland

Bryan Talbot’s Jabberwock, from Alice in Sunderland

Come down the rabbit-hole with me, to the Cartoon Museum’s Alice in Wonderland exhibition. It opens today in celebration of the book’s 150th anniversary, and the press launch was last night.

The most striking part of the show is what a gift Lewis Carroll’s creation has been to political satirists. Not all are wildly original: there are five books in a glass case all weakly punning on the title – Adolf in Blunderland, Malice in Kulturland, Wilson in Wonderland, Alice in Wonderground and Alice in Plunderland! They might have added Russell Brand’s TV show Ponderland, and the current kids’ TV fantasy spin on that, Yonderland.

They are in good company, however. There are two Punch cartoons by the definitive Alice illustrator, John Tenniel, parodying his own work: Alice in Blunderland (1880) derides the erection of the Temple Bar Memorial, and Alice in Bumbleland (1898) attacks the bill to divide the County of London into 28 metropolitan boroughs. I guess you had to have been there.

And there are a few really clever ones. My favourite might be the Vietnam War-era cartoon by Robert O. Bastian, with Lyndon B. Johnson as the Duchess and Chairman Mao as the Cheshire Cat. It’s captioned: “Speak roughly to your little boy, and beat him when he sneezes/ He only does it to Hanoi because he knows it teases”!

An honourable mention, too, to Victor Weisz of the Evening Standard in 1961, when strike action by teachers led to school closures: “That’s why they are called lessons,” he quotes from the Gryphon, “because they lessen every day.”

The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party is, of course, a gift to political illustrators, but the best use of Humpty Dumpty must be Les Gibbard’s in 1988. It portrays the ovate Mr. Dumpty toppling at the feet of Edwina Currie as Alice, after Currie’s comments about salmonella had wrought havoc in the British egg industry.

The ad industry co-opted Alice, too, particularly Guinness, who have a series of poorly pastiched poems on posters around the Cartoon Museum, of which one good line stands out: ‘Off with its head!’ cried the Queen. ‘Nonsense!’ replied Alice. ‘Guinness keeps its head.’”

The rest you’ll have to find out for yourselves. Look out for Ralph Steadman’s striking Patty Hearst trial illustration, and the great comic writer/artist Bryan Talbot tackling Tenniel head-on in his wonderful graphic novel Alice in Sunderland.

Kudos, by the way, to the magician in a Mad Hatter’s hat who performed close-up tricks. I was also rewarded with a story for gallantly giving up my seat to a lovely lady who turned out to work for the Museum. The seat in question was a toilet seat, for which I had been first in line, at which she directed me to the upstairs loo: “It’s said to be haunted, so most of the staff refuse to use it.”

Intriguing. Clearly JK Rowling was on to something with Moaning Myrtle.

Pushing the boundaries of comics with Igor Goldkind and Al Davison

10 Apr

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I am about to embark on such a day-and-night month of work that it would turn a lesser man into a gibbering loon, so blog posts will be few and far between. But before I scale the Cliffs of Insanity, I’d like to bring to your attention two fascinating projects from auld acquaintances on the comics scene.

First up, Igor Goldkind.  Igor was the silver-tongued PR for Forbidden Planet and Titan Books back in the days when editors insisted on writing the headline: “Biff! Baff! Pow! Comics Are Growing Up!” (Sometimes they still do.) He it was who popularised the term “graphic novel” in order to make national newspaper critics feel they were not soiling their hands in writing about Watchmen, Dark Knight or Maus; he who introduced Wendy James of Transvision Vamp to Alan Moore’s works, leading to her single Hanging Out With Halo Jones – and to a weird afternoon I spent in the then notorious comics haunt Bar Munchen hanging out with Igor, the diminutive popstrel Wendy, and two incongruously vast and hulking Easter Island-type bodyguards.

But I digress.

Igor has now turned poet. But rather than release a slim, elegant, and easily overlooked booklet of verse, he has challenged himself to push the boundaries of what an enhanced ebook can do in order to house his whirling words. Is She Available? is a comic, in the way that a film is a book. In other words, it’s not a comic at all, though it does feature illustrations by 26 luminaries including Bill Sienkiewicz, Glenn Fabry, David Lloyd and Liam Sharp. Some of the illustrations move, in semi-animated style. Some of the poems speak to you – literally – in Igor’s own voice. Some are set to avant-garde jazz music by Gilad Atzmon. The whole thing is designed by the Don of Font, Rian Hughes, whose typographical word-sculptures make an extraordinary complement to the poetry.

Pretentious? Certainly. If it’s pretentious to dare reach for the stars, when you could so easily settle for a poet’s garret. It’s really quite an extraordinary thing. You can download Is She Available?, published by Chameleon, for $9.99 at http://is-she-available.com/. The full range of features is currently available only on iOS devices – iPad, iPhone or Macs – though a Windows-compatible version is in the pipeline.

A large panel from Muscle Memory by Al Davison

A large panel from Muscle Memory by Al Davison

And secondly, Al Davison. Al is an extraordinary man. His graphic novel memoir of growing up with spina bifida, Spiral Cage, and his reboot of the Theseus myth told from the point of view of the monster, The Minotaur’s Tale, are two of the finest works in the comics field. Having been told he would never walk, he became a karate black belt and martial arts instructor. Now more often confined to a wheelchair, he is working on a searing sequel to Spiral Cage, supported through Patreon, about his childhood, including how his father tried, repeatedly, to kill him as a toddler.

You can read the story so far, free online, here.

But if you’re near Coventry, go see for yourself. This Saturday, Urban Coffee Co at Fargo Village, Coventry is hosting the live event Muscle Memory: The Instant Retrospective Exhibition, 5.30-8pm. Painting live, Al Davison will also be telling stories of his life while the audience can bid for each work in a simultaneous live auction. After that, the completed exhibition will run for four weeks.

Behind Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty — my interview with the V&A’s curator

17 Mar
Alexander McQueen at the V&A

The Romantic Gothic room at the V&A’s Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty exhibition

First, do read my review of the extraordinary Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty exhibition at the V&A. And now, to put it in context, here is an edited version of the cover feature I wrote for this month’s Where London, the excellent events magazine distributed in four and five-star London hotels. In it I interview the show’s curator, Claire Wilcox, who often used to meet Alexander McQueen at the V&A.

London Fashion Week, the year 2000: Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman and actress Gwyneth Paltrow take their places in the front row of a warehouse space to see the latest catwalk collection by Alexander McQueen. As the models strut past, a simple mirrored box in the centre of the stage reflects the audience’s faces back at them. At the show’s climax, the box falls apart to reveal, replacing the audience’s faces, a grotesque, obese woman, naked but for a fetish-style gas mask, and surrounded by moths.

‘The two most terrifying things in the fashion lexicon,’ as the model herself wrote in her diary: ‘ample flesh and moths.’

‘It was a great thing to do in the fashion industry,’ said Alexander McQueen later, ‘turn it back on them! God, I’ve had some freaky shows.’

Alexander McQueen at the V&A

The final room at the V&A, and Alexander McQueen’s final collection: Plato’s Atlantis, with the notorious ‘armadillo’ shoes

McQueen was never one to take the easy route. Growing up in east London as the son of a cab driver, McQueen had made dresses for his three sisters, and never wanted to do anything else. The only O-level he got was in Art, so he left school and apprenticed at a Savile Row tailor, where he stitched secret insults into the lining of a jacket for Prince Charles. His graduate collection at the prestigious Central St Martin’s, where he was invited to take an MA in Fashion Design when they recognised his talent, was entitled Jack The Ripper Stalks His Victims. His first proper collection was entitled Taxi Driver, and inspired by the violent Martin Scorsese movie. His first catwalk show was entitled Nihilism. They got stranger after that.

‘Each time he’d say, “how am I going to beat that now?”, and push himself harder and harder,’ says Claire Wilcox, the curator of the V&A’s Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty. ‘His shows were extraordinarily theatrical.’

McQueen won British Designer of the Year four times; he was made chief designer of Givenchy at just 27. So the fashion world was stunned when, aged 40 and depressed at the death of his beloved mother a few days before, and the suicide of his great friend and mentor Isabella Blow before that, he took his own life.

Alexander McQueen at the V&A

The Romantic Gothic room again, at the V&A’s Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty exhibition

The Metropolitan Museum exhibition that followed in New York a year later broke box-office records. Martin Roth, director of the V&A, recalls how gripped the city was when he flew over for just one day to see it. ‘This immigration guy stopped me and said, “What is the purpose of your visit?” I said, “I’m going to see Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty.” And he said, “No.” I said “What do you mean, no?” He said “No. It’s sold out, I’ve tried twice for me and my wife!”’

The V&A has expanded the Met show by an extra third of physical space, and added 40 more garments and accessories to the 200 previously on display (see my review). One welcome change is a new gallery right at the start entitled London: ‘I thought it would be a good idea to understand more about his early days in London when he was broke,’ says Wilcox. ‘This city does produce some great designers. It’s a real cultural melting pot. There’s a marvellous education system here, and a real independence of spirit.’

The vast Cabinet of Curiosities room at the V&A’s Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty exhibition

Wilcox is reminded of a quote from McQueen to illustrate this. She goes off to ask someone to look it up, and returns slightly breathless: ‘What McQueen said is, “Clothes don’t come from a notepad. It’s eclectic. It comes from Degas and Monet and my sister-in-law in Dagenham.”’

And the ’80s were a fantastic time for street style. ‘After punk,’ says Wilcox, ‘you got that new wave of historicism in Westwood and Galliano, the club kids like Boy George dressing up, the emergence of magazines like iD and Dazed & Confused — it was rebellion mixed with historicism and theatre and a devil-may-care attitude.’

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Duck-feather dress by Alexander McQueen

Wilcox first met McQueen 20 years ago, and often saw him at the V&A. Surprisingly, for those who think of McQueen only as a rebel, she says he loved bird-watching. Feathers inspired him, not just for their beauty but their engineering, and he drew a lot of his colour palette from the animal kingdom. He also loved museums, says Wilcox, having been taken to the South Kensington museums every Sunday as a child. ‘He noticed everything – he wouldn’t talk much, he would just look; and when he looked at clothes in our archive he understood their construction immediately. I learned a lot from him.

‘There are many stories about his prowess with scissors. It’s said that after he joined Givenchy as Creative Director, the staff took fright at the speed and confidence with which he cut their fabric.’

And that’s what is sometimes forgotten about McQueen. His shows were controversial and spectacular, with models being spray-painted by car-factory robots or gigantic trees made of fabric twisting upward from the catwalk; as he told Time Out when we interviewed him for a cover feature, ‘I don’t want to do a cocktail party, I’d rather people left my shows and vomited. I prefer extreme reactions.’ Yet the clothes themselves were strong enough not to be overshadowed.

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Alexander ‘Lee’ McQueen himself, shot in 1997 by Marc Hom

McQueen had a supreme mastery of line and cut: however outlandish and science-fictional his creations were, they always flattered and enhanced the female form, turning skinny models into fashion superheroines. ‘I want to empower women,’ he said. ‘I want people to be afraid of the women I dress.’

Wear and dare: inside V&A’s Alexander McQueen show

16 Mar
Alexander McQueen's It's Only A Game catwalk show, 2005

Alexander McQueen’s It’s Only A Game catwalk show, 2005

The V&A’s blockbuster show Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty is like an art exhibition, a film, a theatrical performance and a fashion show all rolled into one. It’s even better than last year’s Bowie exhibition, and those who know what a rabid Bowie fan I am will know what high praise that is. Even just hanging on a fetish-masked mannequin or simple wire frame, the clothes have life, and conjure up fantastical visions of alternate worlds. To my surprise, I found myself close to weeping at one point.

My companion said “yes I know, it’s so sad he killed himself when he was so young,” but it wasn’t that. It was the way the clothes hung, how they were cut, the hard or jagged or geometric shapes made from soft fabrics, the transformations of dresses into birds, the weird juxtapositions like the dress inspired half by American football gear and half by a kimono, the sheer astonishing radiant beauty and riotous inventiveness of them that pricked forth tears. Does that make me weird?

I’m kicking myself for never going to one of McQueen’s shows, even while I was Editor of Time Out, even when we put him on the cover. [For the strange story of the Time Out golden-shower shoot, see my review of the Isabella Blow McQueen collection.] The V&A has the next best thing: video footage of the shows. There go his catwalk Glamazons stamping through water, standing in a ring of fire, spellbound in a blizzard, getting spray-painted by robots, trading places like chess pieces on a giant illuminated chequered board.

The V&A has pulled out all the stops in giving these powerful clothes a suitably dramatic setting. The Romantic Gothic room is hung with vast, ornate gilt frames; the black walls of the Romantic Primitivism room are made of bones and skulls, like the Paris Catacombs; the Romantic Nationalism room is all mahogany wood panels, befitting the Imperial grandeur of the bright red, military-inspired clothes.

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McQueen’s ‘Alien’ shoe from 2010

Any other clothes would be overpowered by these surroundings, but here are jackets of ponyskin with impala horns jutting from the shoulders, costumes made of gold-painted goose feathers or black duck feathers or synthetic bouffant black hair, fanciful shoes with platforms a foot tall or with designs inspired by the Alien movies (right). You couldn’t overpower them with a nuclear bomb.

There’s even a whole room devoted to an ethereal, floating Kate Moss, created for one of McQueen’s shows using the 19th-century theatrical illusion of Pepper’s Ghost. She appears from a wisp of smoke, coalesces into evanescent life, long hair waving and organza gown billowing like Ophelia sinking peacefully beneath the water, and is just as quickly returned to the spirit world whence she came.  All things must pass, as McQueen was keenly aware, and fashion is the most transitory of the arts: it shines brightly for a single season and then, like a butterfly, it is gone.

In a similar vein, March and April are already mostly booked out for this fabulous exhibition – whoever you need to bribe, threaten or screw to get a ticket, do it quick.

Click here for my interview with the curator, Claire Wilcox, which formed the cover feature of this month’s Where London magazine. You may find it useful, as if there is one criticism to be levelled at Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, it’s that it is not good at putting McQueen’s work into the wider context of his life and times. 

Meet the men behind manga: Gekiga exhibition launches at London Cartoon Museum

23 Sep
Gekiga

Gekiga at the London Cartoon Museum. Note the paucity of speech bubbles or narrative captions

We all know manga. It arrived drip-drip in the West in the ‘80s, most prominently through serialisation of the samurai epic Lone Wolf And Cub with covers by Frank Miller, and now spills across endless shelves of Forbidden Planet – everything from riotous fantasy to the exploits of super-chefs or teen tennis prodigies – as well as filling our cinemas in its animated form. But before manga arrived in the West, before it even existed in its present form in Japan, there was… Gekiga.

Gekiga is the bridge between Japanese post-war kids’ comics about wide-eyed robot children, and the astonishing variety in style and subject matter we see today. It sprung from an intuition on the part of three friends and occasional rivals that those who had grown up with comics were ready for something more adult. Ordered to share a bedsit in Osaka by their publisher to increase productivity, Masahiko Matsumoto, Yoshihiro Tatsumi and Takao Saito stayed up late into the night discussing a new visual language, based on the cinematic vision of Osamu Tezuka, the “Father of Manga”, and a new kind of storytelling, rooted in real life rather than fantasy. A new genre, they decided, needed a new name. The one that stuck was coined by Tatsumi: “Gekiga”, or “dramatic pictures”.

Those early pioneers are not well known in the West. The Wikipedia page on Gekiga does not even mention Matsumoto, whose work The Man Next Door thrilled and inspired the other two to raise their game. So it was wonderful, and not a little moving, to see Matsumoto’s son last night at the London Cartoon Museum, launching a two-month-long exhibition dedicated to Gekiga.

Tomohiko Matsumoto

Tomohiko Matsumoto, son of the originator of Gekiga comics, and cartoonist Takayo Akiyama, who translated for him

“These stories are less humorous and more realistic,” explained Tomohiko Matsumoto through a translator, “which appeals more to teenagers than children. Before, it was all fantasy – a lion starts talking to you, or people come out of a rocket. My father invented the manga which formed the basis for Gekiga in 1956, then two years later Tatsumi created the name, and worked in the same concept and style. Other cartoonists begin to experiment with Gekiga, and it starts to become more normal and popular, and that is the start of manga culture as you now know it.”

I collared Matsumoto after his speech, to ask him about the influence on these pioneers of Tezuka, who created Astroboy and Kimba The White Lion (which formed the template for Disney’s The Lion King). “Good question,” said Matsumoto smilingly in English, before continuing through the translator: “Tezuka used to live on the West side of Japan, near Osaka where my father was. He gave my father a drawing, and to Tatsumi too. [The drawing given to his father, of priceless historical significance, is up on the Cartoon Museum’s wall.] They admired his work greatly; their goal was to become cartoonists like him. But when he moved to Tokyo, and started doing shorter stories, where he needed to explain the action with speech bubbles, they felt it narrowed down his expression. So they needed to create that expression for themselves.”

So successful were they that the pupils became the masters: Tezuka himself would later derive influence from the more realistic Gekiga style, most notably in Message to Adolf.

Samurai Gishiden, by Hiroshi Hirata

Samurai Gishiden, by Hiroshi Hirata. Frank Miller, eat your heart out!

The exhibition at the London Cartoon Museum brings together over 50 pieces of original artwork and reproductions from rare manga, most never displayed before in Europe. Most interesting are pages from Tatsumi’s autobiographical manga memoir of the period, A Drifting Life, which conveys the challenge and excitement of developing a new literary movement; a series of intoxicatingly bright and pulpy noir covers; and two extraordinarily powerful black-and-white Samurai illustrations by Hiroshi Hirata, which could grace the wall of any art gallery.

As to Tomohiko’s revered father, Masahiko Matsumoto, he will finally get the British publication that in life eluded him. Four stories from the work that started it all, The Man Next Door, are being published by Breakdown Press this week – 58 years after it was written.