Currently on show in the Droichead Arts Centre is an exhibition “Lost For Words” of original artworks by Gee Vaucher. Most well known for her covers and record sleeve designs for the band Crass and it’s associated label Crass Records. Thomas McCarthy legs it down memory road.
This is a rare opportunity to see some of the most iconic and amazing art that sprang out of the protest movements of the sixties, the punk era and up to the present day where the same shit is still happening and history is simply repeating itself in different locations across the globe. Gee’s art deals with such issues as ‘The Troubles’, war, religion and the American nightmare. They had Thatcher then, Cameron now. 1984 came and went, we’re now living in the super surveillance society and seemingly resigned to it. As one Crass song quips “It’s just the same old shit covered in a layer of talcum powder”
I remember as a fifteen year old getting the letter that said a parcel was waiting for me down at the post office. Like the kid in the old Hazelbrook Farm ad, I raced down town after school to get the package. I knew what it was, cos I’d been waiting for it.
I’d sent off the princely sum of a fiver all the way to England to get a copy of The Feeding of the 5000 by Crass. I ripped open the LP shaped cardboard envelope, inside was of course the amazing record and massive black and white fold out sleeve containing Gee’s artwork. A feast of images and typed propaganda, anger and blasphemy.
I went home and listened to it on the old stereo my aunty had given me with a real record player on it that never played things at exactly the right speed I eventually realized after doing tapes up for my mates.
The exhibition is great and features pretty much all the stuff you’d want to see if you’re already familiar with the Crass artwork. But also well worth a visit if you’ve never heard of Miss Vaucher before in your life.
Her brilliantly detailed photo realistic paintings demand closer inspection. It’s hard to tell without looking closely which are paintings, photo collages or a mixture of both.
Gee gave a talk in the Arts Centre the morning after the opening and I caught some of it. One man who was drinking a morning flagon asked her if she believed in Anarchy and Revolution and she dismissed the idea and expounded on the amazing power of non violent peaceful resistance.
Citing some examples of this at its best she reminisced about the ‘big days’ of action at Greenham Common Nuclear Weapons base in England in the sixties, when up to fifty thousand women gathered and broke down the fences with the police overwhelmed and powerless to stop them, unsure of quite how to handle so many determined and feisty women of all ages.
She also recounted how Crass gigs began to be frequented by violent National Front type boneheads and how on one occasion at least, the crowd spontaneously drowned out their Seig Heil chants with Peace and Love chants, or surrounded some violent types in the moshpit slowly but surely taking their blows and elbows until the offenders were tightly trapped in a massive group hug until they were pacified and by the sound of it immobilised too.
I was meant to interview Gee, but let’s just say on the day there were more sore heads than one and we didn’t get time to do one. Her work more than speaks for itself and the great thing about most of it is that it’s not that cryptic, there’s no obscure hidden meanings in it, they are like political cartoons, in the tradition of Surrealism and John Heartfield. Dada and Punk.
This art is designed to make you sit up and pay attention, shock you and make you laugh in a sick way. Most of the art on show was originally designed for album sleeves, magazines or other forms of cheap mass communication, not to be puzzled over in an art gallery by high minded snobs.
Also featured are some more recent works from A collection called Animal Rites, which are strange collages of human faces on animal’s bodies and they are quite Monty Pythonesque and funny. There’ll be a performance of poetry by ‘Crass’ founder Penny Rimbaud accompanied by musician Louise Elliot to close the exhibit.
Nexus are planning a billboard project with an open submission competition in which artists are to create work in response to the title ‘An Ideal Revealed.’ For news of future events, check their facebook.
The exhibition runs till the 21st of April and is well worth a visit. Find our more about the Nexus Art Centre here.