Rude Britannia room guide: The Absurd

Romeyn after De Hooghe Arlequin sur l Hypographe a la Criosade Lojoliste1689
none
John Tenniel Illustrations to Through the Looking Glass and What Alice found there The Walrus the Carpenter and the Oysters 1872
none
Angus Fairhurst The Problem with Banana Skins Divided Inverted  1998 sculpture of a banana skin
none
David Shrigley Im dead 2007 stuffed cat standing on its hinde legs holding a sign saying im dead
none
Shaun Doyle and Mally Mallinson Death to the Fascist Fruit Boys 2010 two male cartoon figures with fruit and vegetables for heads and hands are attacking a cone of chips which has a face, legs
none
Spirit Flask 1800 carved or moulded drinking flask in the shape of a human head
none

The Oxford English Dictionary definition of ‘absurd’ reads ‘Out of harmony with reason or propriety; incongruous, unreasonable, illogical … plainly opposed to reason, and hence, ridiculous, silly’.

Much comic art since the seventeenth century could be in fact classed as absurd, involving disconcerting dislocations of scale, the humanisation of inanimate objects and animals, and baffling uselessness. Rather than adding up to a coherent British tradition of absurdist humour, the works brought together here may suggest the rich variety of absurd comic art – mixed with elements of melancholy and regret.

Harry Hill has been our guest curator in this space, and has added some of his own special touches to the installation.

See also

Tate Etc

Occupational therapy British Comic Art II

Harry Hill on his paintings, Tate Etc issue 19, Summer 2010
Tate Etc

Who farted? British comic art

Rude Britannia: British Comic Art:, Tate Britain’s forthcoming exhibition exploring the riotous history of humour in British visual culture ...