Monday, 1 June 2015

Gee Vaucher

Gee Vaucher: outspoken feminist, pacifist, animal-rights activist, and an artist whose work is some of the most iconic and visually distinctive of the post war era. Although her most famous paintings are reminiscent of Salvador Dali in their technique, intricacy and dreamlike surrealism, there's still no mistaking her work for anyone else's. 

Vaucher's technical prowess at hyperrealist painting using only black gouache is unbelievable, literally so, because the typical reaction to seeing her work for the first time is disbelief that you're looking at a painting and not a photo montage. Probably adding to the confusion is the fact that during the same period that Vaucher was in her hyperrealist phase she was also producing some very powerful Dadaist photo collages.

At its inception punk and hardcore was rock taking a long, critical look at its jacked-up, piece of shit self in the mirror, and what followed was a process of deconstruction, annihilation and reformation. The resulting changes were not only evident in punk's music, fashion, social attitudes and politics, but also in its graphic design. Along with Raymond Pettibone's work for SST and Winston Smith's for Alternative Tentacles, Vaucher's work for CRASS and Exitstencil Press (not forgetting David King's equally iconic cross & serpents logo) was absolutely emblematic of that change.

That these three artists are still so frequently copied in punk design today could be said to be a fitting tribute to the importance of their work. I won't be so charitable however. That so many are satisfied to regurgitate and emulate this stuff that was so fucking incendiary to us three decades ago is to me indicative of the cancer that eats at the heart of punk. What was once about experimentation, subversion and pushing the boundaries is now all too often just about copying to be cool. 

Take a look at Gee Vaucher's work again. Then rip it the fuck up and find inspiration to try something new.

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