When 70s Erotica Meets the Art of the Tarot

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HoneyArtwork by Jamie Hewlett, courtesy of The Saatchi Gallery

Celebrated comic artist Jamie Hewlett makes his fine art debut at The Saatchi Gallery this week. Here, he tells AnOther about the multifaceted show and the imminent return of Gorillaz

Propelled by curiosity and an intuitive desire for the new, artist and designer Jamie Hewlett has set his sights on the world of fine art. Cult comic Tank Girl and virtual band Gorillaz are just some of the incredibly successful projects co-founded by the Horsham-born maverick, but it’s the white cube that has recently titillated his fancy. 

The Suggestionists is his first foray into the gallery context, a three-strand exhibition appealing to pause, nuance and enquiry. Honey is a selection of fake movie posters embodying the subtle visual language of 70s adult cinema, and Tarot features 22 large Tarot cards intricately modelled against The Way of the Tarot by film maker Alejandro Jodorowsky, whilst Pines presents hyper-realistic illustrations of the pine trees that enamoured Hewlett whilst in the South of France. At first, this trio of projects seem fairly disparate in subject, but all are united by an invitation to look beyond the surface.

It’s a brave call in a culture where transparency and speed preside over scrutiny and imagination, though Hewlett trusts the audience are willing to delve into his world of suggestion. Below, the artist discusses the root of his fearless attitude, what sexiness truly means and why it’s best not to over-explain everything.

On the problem with under-estimating audiences…
“I do think we live in a culture were everything is over explained to us and maybe we don’t use our imagination much anymore. That became the idea behind the exhibition – the idea of suggestion, looking at a piece of work and then using your own mind to imagine what it means. I wouldn’t suggest that the consumer is lazy, that would be foolish – I just think maybe we assume that everything needs to be crystal clear so people can understand it. That’s incorrect…I think people can make up their own minds about anything.”

On sexiness…
“The Honey movie posters I created for the exhibition, which are supposed to be loosely based upon 70s erotic cinema, are pieces that might have been considered risqué 30 or 40 years ago…but its nothing compared to erotic imagery now. Internet pornography is all very gratuitous and in your face, there is absolutely nothing left to the imagination. I don’t find that very sexy. I like the old erotic movie posters where the design isn’t necessarily very good, where the visuals are badly collaged and there’s mis-registered colour. The centrepiece is usually a beautiful woman, perhaps showing a bit of nudity but nothing too much. I think that’s much more sexy, seductive, suggestive and exciting.”

On creating without the screen…
“I spent about 15 years doing Gorillaz and I ended up having to work with computers a lot. After that, I really just wanted to draw again on a piece of paper and create single pieces of artwork that didn’t require screens. It kind of turned into a bit of a nightmare with Tarot … I made a lot of mistakes so making those took around two years.

However, it was a discipline that I needed to reintroduce into my work. One of the fun things about being an artist is the challenge! Can I do this? Can I still do that? Can I try this?” 

On doing whatever he wants…
“I think it came from immaturity and a lack of professionalism. For instance, when we were doing Tank Girl I was around 22 at the time, smoking a lot of hash and getting drunk all the time. I had a punk rock attitude to it and it worked. With Gorrilaz, both Damon Albarn and I believed no one was going to tell us what to do. We wanted to be creatives, which meant that we could be chaos. Honesty, I don’t want to fucking do it any other way. I think there is always an audience if you’re doing something good and honest – you cant pull the wool over peoples eyes.”


The Suggestionists runs at The Saatchi Gallery from 18 November to 2 December, with limited edition pre-exhibition prints available here.