Monday, 19 April 2010

Spotlight On: Derek Bauer

Here's a little heads-up for anyone interested in great dip pen and ink caricature work and may not be aware of the great artist that was Derek Bauer. I say 'was' as he is sadly no longer with us.

About fifteen years ago I was moochin' about Oxford centre and was in the Blackwells book shop for art (which is situated in Broad street, slap in the centre of town) just looking at all the beautiful heavyweight tomes of the old masters as well as all the cool street art books and graphic design compendiums, just trying to soak up some inspiration without parting with any hard-earned cash (it was back in the dark ages before reasonable wage-earning and search engines). They'd used a table to pile up some remainder books and rifling through them I discovered a little soft-back with a tantalising cover just 7" by 9" called 'S.A. Flambe And Other Recipes For Disaster' by Derek Bauer. The S.A. in the title referred to South Africa and the cartoons and caricature work within were all concerned with the incendiary situation that had recently 'come to an end' with the multi-racial democratic elections and the inception of Nelson Mandela as the head of the ruling ANC. I had little idea of the finer points of South African politics but as it had been constantly in the news I knew the central characters. Opening the pages I was instantly hooked to the freaked-out drawings that made Ralph Steadman look sober and refined (if that's possible.)

 ©cartoon Derek Bauer 1989

©cartoon Derek Bauer 1989

The book was a collection of Derek Bauer's Weekly cartoons for the Johannesburg newspaper 'The Weekly Mail' and every one was rendered with beautiful technique using spot-on caricature work allied with devastating political punch lines. And boy, did he punch hard! Images of emaciated towns folk, destroyed limbs, skulls, politicians as hideous dinosaurs, acts of road kill and even mindless rugby violence were all employed by Bauer to make his salient points hit home. If you wanted funny then he could draw lightning caricatures of Ronald Reagan rallying in tennis with the Ayatollah (the beleaguerred world used as tennis ball) or if you preferred the more truly shocking then he hit you with an 'in memorium' showing the blood-spattered body of Steven Biko on his cell floor (see below). He honed cross-hatching to a fine art while keeping it utterly loose and used the effect of 'mask and splatter' to deadly effect. His acid-dipped nib slashed at his victims making his boss Anton Harber remark "there are not many people who can make an editor worry about defamation in a caricature."
He even managed to presage the Danish cartoon scandal by drawing a fizzing bomb hooded by an arab head scarf, though making a different point. But don't think Derek Bauer was partisan: violence, hypocrisy and the failure of the human condition (of all political and 'racial' stripe) were laid bare on his pad.

 ©cartoon Derek Bauer 1989

I checked the price tag and was shocked at the paltry sum of 50p that was being asked. I would gladly have paid much more for the slightly creased book and it proved to be the most profitable fifty pence that I'd ever spent. Over the following months and years I cribbed shamelessly from the style I found within the covers and it was never found far from my drawing board. Inevitably, as time passed it was referred to less and less as the art of other amazing artists vied for my attention and S.A Flambe was left up on the shelf with only nominal consulting and dusting.

  ©cartoon Derek Bauer 1989

  ©cartoon Derek Bauer 1989

It was only with the rise of the web many years later that It dawned on me I should google Derek Bauer because I'd never heard anything about him since my purchase and general knowledge on the man remained slight. It seemed odd to me then (as it still does now) that I never heard or read about him being referred to by other artists or saw his work reproduced anywhere: why did he only seem to exist in my little world?

So after a quick search on line about a year ago I was incredibly shocked to find he'd been killed in a car accident in 2001.

 ©cartoon Derek Bauer 1989

That somebody so skilled and fearless with a pen should be cut down so young and not get the recognition he should've had seemed scandalous and sad. I was further frustrated to find little info on the web and few visual offerings. All the personal info I have to go on regarding Derek Bauer is the short introduction which his editor gave in the book, remarking on the provocative nature of the guy who would marry "drawing skill with emotional disturbance".

If anyone can point me towards a comprehensive site or a blog about Derek Bauer then please get in touch.

Double update! Just discovered the new official site for Derek Bauer - check it out here.

2 comments:

  1. MAY WE SEE THIS COMICS CREATOR PERSONAL PHOTO

    ReplyDelete
  2. Don't have one to show, Ahmed.

    ReplyDelete