Last week saw the completion of a very enjoyable commission for a company called Murex. They’re an international company with offices all over the world, although I’m not really sure what they do -something about finance and software. One of the top executives, a French man, was about to re-locate to the Singapore office after twelve years in Dublin, so I was asked by the HR manager and office manager to come up with a caricature as the company’s parting gift.
Murex were looking for something personal that said something about his time here and in how much affection he is held -and about his diligence and perfectionism. I really didn’t want to do another ‘Big Head-Little Body’ caricature; and neither did they, so knowing he was French, I made discreet enquiries into his interests (secret meetings; how exciting!). Turns out, apart from all the sporting and motor vehicle interests, he has an extensive collection of bandes dessinées (graphic novels). Result.
That’s a cultural difference between us and Europeans that’s worth exploring. Graphic novels are huge business on the continent while here they hardly register at all. I get the impression that they’re seen as childish or irrelevant as an art form. The artwork in many of them is superb and the stories often serious and thoughtful. Go into the mediathèque at the Alliance française and you can see the hundreds that they have on loan.
I thought it’d be a neat idea, in view of his cultural interests and the fact that we’d had such an appalling winter, that I could portray him as a character from one of them, fleeing the deluge. Hence the Tintinesque scene. The title means ‘The Great Escape’. Of course, for every youthful, bounding adventurer, there has to be a doughty little dog; so there’s a Milou running alongside him in the pouring rain. It’s funny how a dog can be used to underline the character or emotion within an illustration. The dog’s face shows just as much determination about the adventure as the master.
The spoof publisher’s logo is reference to Hergé, the creator of Tintin. His real name was Georges Remi (Hergé’s, not Tintin’s), but he used his initials in reverse à la Parisian slang or Verlan. The executive himself is from Lille, so probably has never used Verlan in his life, but then again, Hergé was Belgian, so there. Complicated or what? Well I think such details are important, even if nobody else does…
That’s a representation of the Dublin pub The Bleeding Horse in the background, since it was the venue for many Murex company celebrations in his early days in Dublin. (The pub’s livery has changed since then. For some reason it has been painted in diarrhoea-brown hues, making it rather less inviting these days. What were they thinking?).
Phew! So that’s the story behind the picture; it was another very enjoyable adventure; all credit to the staff at Murex, who knew that there had to be something more exciting than a Waterford crystal bowl…
I’m going to sit back now, smoke my pipe and scan the broadsheets for further adventures. Wait a minute…Crikey, there’s a dastardly plot developing in Azerbaijan. Where’s my trenchcoat. Viens ici Milou!
Acrylics on Arches paper.