WHAT’S a girl supposed to do when she’s invited to preview an art exhibit described as ‘rampant with ruler-rigid boners, luxuriant pubic fuzz, winking buttholes and nipples so pert you could sling a wet towel from them...’?
Zip up her magical coat of unflappability and take a discerning look, it would seem.
The artist creates comics for adults (gay, lesbian, straight, bisexual, transgendered): all in the similar candy-bright colour of a 10p Beeno, just with the pornographic detail of XXX pay-per-view.
As part of Manchester Pride’s Fringe Festival, I was to get entangled in the fetish-ridden mind of Canadian illustrator, Maurice Vellekoop, via the back-street Northern Quarter event space Twenty Twenty Two.
Curated by Bren O'Callaghan, Cockadoodle: The Erogenous Art of Maurice Vellekoop takes unabashed visitors on a colourful willy-wonder tour of Vellekoop’s homoerotic fantasy lands (there’s bum-fun business in the office, changing rooms, underwater, space...) complete with cartoon beef-cakes with generous endowments.
It’s all as if top-heavy cartoon hero Johnny Bravo moonlights as a gigolo – an image you won’t forget in a hurry.
As I left all lurking remnants of Catholic school girl guilt behind and climbed on board (or simply walked inside), the exhibition’s barefaced smuttiness was unleashed like a sex-starved beast on the unsuspecting.
It’s all delivered in Vellekoop’s noted vivid graphic comic style that’s gained commissions by the likes of Vogue magazine. The artist creates comics for adults (gay, lesbian, straight, bisexual, transgendered): all in the similar candy-bright colour of a 10p Beano, just with the pornographic detail of XXX pay-per-view.
“Laughter is the usual response from my exhibition and that’s expected,” shared the lively Vellekoop as he made his rounds to chat to the browsers. This is his first solo exhibition European debut and the artist had been embracing Manchester’s open-minded sensibilities.
The month long exhibition, consisting of wall-to-wall art works, is (for want of a better and more mature word) very funny. In spite of myself I did laugh and point at one image of man getting pummelled from behind by a tiger in a work entitled ‘Z for Zoologist’.
Z is for Zoology
The image forms part of Vellekoop's ABC Book, where he has alphabetised a series of bizarre sexual scenes.
Giggles ensued. So much for being unflappable...
Some images will prove themselves as boundary-pushers, and the comics get progressively more taboo as you scan the walls. Me and a wide-eyed companion turned a corner to find a sixteen-scene story concerning a North Korean transsexual air-hostess partaking in mile-high mischief with a handsome Iranian male.
To some degree, Vellekoop’s wit, whimsy and humour provide a safeguard to more of the riskier scenes. The juvenile comic-book silliness serves a purpose of distracting the straightlaced from all the willies and helps prise the door open to a far more open mind.
In his own words, he considers his illustrations as a 'lighthearted celebration of sex'.
“I don’t restrict myself while creating – and that's easy to do when creating alone in my bedroom. The fear comes after when I’m about to unveil to an audience. But then, no I don’t fear a response anymore,” shared Vellekoop, still smiling.
Cockadoodle allows you to 'dip your toe' in a sexual sanctuary where shame is outlawed and apologies aren’t made for being on the kinky side of taste and decency. Vellekoop's art, in O'Callaghan's words, 'takes steps to provide an alternative vision of sexual identity, no matter the cake-mix or flavour, where viewers can find humour, solace, solidarity and an opportunity to explore an unapologetically sex-positive sense of self'.
Still, I was far from at home at the exhibition and I found it hard to shake an underlying feeling of unease. While erotic art has been proven to stir both arousal and public discourse, I did consider whether all the willies were a shock tactic or simply the artistic expression of someone completely bereft of any sexual repression.
Suprisingly, Vellekoop’s favourite of his commissioned illustrations, Death of a Bird, is non-sexual.
“I’m from a very magical town - very close-knit, rural, nothing much around - and a woman, a neighbour, had passed away one Christmas. I drew that in her memory. I think a young Maurice would be most proud of this.”
I'd assume he'd also be proud of the comic strip he drew addressed to his younger self. Entitled 'Dear Maurice Grade 9' he consoles his teenage self with promises of a more self confident future and acceptance.
With glimmers of sincerity, Vellekoop's work might be excused as erotic art rather than simply glorified pornography. Might be. At times the kids comic style of the illustrations referred to above leaves a very sour taste, is somehow disturbing.
By the end of the Cockadoodle, I even purchased a comic: The World of Gloria Badcock.
It follows the escapades of a glamorous, bisexual magazine 'editrix' and her gay companion Dr Cornelius as they travel back in time to the eve of the French Revolution.
I'm going to read it on the morning commute, held high, turning back the pages as I read so everyone else can read a page - no shame at all.
You can find L'Oréal Blackett on Twitter.
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