Leon Sadler at Hole Of The Fox

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Artist: Leon Sadler

Exhibition title: Bumblebee

Venue: Hole Of The Fox, Antwerp, Belgium

Date:  June 18 – July 5, 2015

Photography:  images courtesy of Hole Of The Fox, Antwerp

‘Bumblebee’ didn’t have an exhibition text, instead, Sadler had created a short, yellow comic book, called ‘A Hopeless Day With No Resolution’. The comic featured a bee applying for a job. All the characters were insect-like, but had human behavior, like humanoids in cartoons. The protagonist bee walks into the company and is asked to wait “an undisclosed amount of time” before he is called in to start the interview. When finally inside, he has to talk to a secretary, who shows no emotion, and a speakerphone, which is called a spider-phone in the comic and looks like it’s alive. Both parties talk in extreme jargon, making it almost unclear what they are talking about and giving it an excessive corporate feel. The questions posed by the company’s representatives are very hard, but the bee seems to ace every one of them, although he can’t tell for himself if he’s doing good or not. Nearing the end of the interview, he’s presented with really bad working conditions and no constructive vision for the future, simply undergoing and accepting them to maintain his candidacy in a positive atmosphere. The last thing they said to him is that they “may or may not ever contact him in the future”. He thanks them and emphasizes one last time what a valuable asset he could be for the company. When going home he calls his wife saying he can’t “indicate” how the interview went. This comic was to give a general feel for the exhibition.

The comic addresses multiple themes through its writing, drawings and design and was thereby the perfect guidebook for the show. First of all, Leon Sadler, next to being a full time artist, also has a full time job as a designer of product catalogues for a scientific equipment distribution company. It’s no surprise that he touches on the subject of the business world, since he himself is a busy bee and confronted with the often strangling nature of corporate society. Due to the political and social atmosphere in England, it is hard to fully pursue a career as an artist and feel society’s pressure of having to work full time, as opposed to enrolling in a laid out pattern, applying for jobs until you are one of the worker bees. The bee in the comic being nervous and submissively surrendering himself to the awful conditions of the company, reflects the powerless position of the modern day, middle class laborer. In fact, the text used for the comic is largely based on Sadler’s application form that he was to complete for his current job.

Leon Sadler has also been a well-known entity in the independent publishing world, creating small comics, graphic novels and artist books, and self-publishing the works of others. Almost all of his books are created at a fast pace, with a lot of energy, usually based on doodles, low grade cartoon forms and icons, the kind that appear on a bootleg euro store toy packaging, white van clipart graphics and commercial forms that have bypassed quality controls. He takes inspiration from the creative expressions made by teenagers, art made in that super heightened emotional state, halfway between child and young adult, engulfed with so much conflict. Very importantly, humour is present everywhere, even if it’s just the goofy expression of a snail, to create nuance and a certain airiness to a sometimes serious topic. Sadler has taken a step beyond the format of the booklet and has been translating his drawings into larger, autonomous works and sculptures, coupled with a ceramics class he started taking two years ago, which paved the way for ‘Bumblebee’. At the show were the results of his two-year investigation in ceramics, creating works soaked with his own particular style elements, very much focusing on presentation beyond the 2-dimensional booklet, seen in the pornographic like manner of hanging his ceramics, which involved a number of parts to cover up the screws, which were very meticulously placed on each piece. The ceramic slabs represent gargoyles, meant to scare away “evil”, and also bring to mind the cheeky faces of the ‘Troublesome Trucks’, the misbehaving worker drones from ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’, leering from the walls. These were shown next to some of his sketches and one very large drawing made with black graffiti ink on a yellow plexi board, referring to the ‘warning’ and ‘danger’ aesthetic, just like the colors of a bee, radiating with energy as you combine what you see, a couple of up to no good punks in a car, driving through nature, with the swiftness the piece was drawn, like a graffiti gangster spraying at night.

In general, Leon’s work portrays a giddy smile, free and boundless, but menacing too. It contains the naiveté of a child and uses a colorful scheme, but at the same time poses some sort of eery threat. When asked if Leon wanted to add something to the text, he said: “The overall message for the show is “Go away, I’m busy!” ;oD”.

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Turbo Diesel, 2015

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Artesan Wall Bracket (Friendship Bracket), 2015

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Troublesome #X (Dragon Lord), 2015

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Troublesome #X (Dragon Lord), 2015

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Troublesome #1-7, 2015

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Troublesome #1-7, 2015 (detail)

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Troublesome #1-7, 2015

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Troublesome #1-7, 2015

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Troublesome #1-7, 2015

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Troublesome #1-7, 2015

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Troublesome #1-7, 2015

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Troublesome #1-7, 2015

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I’m Gonna Make You Big My Friend, 2015

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Troublesome #1-7, 2015

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Artisan Wall Bracket (Punishment Bracket), 2015

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Solution-driven Snail 1 and 2, 2015

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Trojan, 2013

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Street pressure, 2015

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Self portrait as a lid for a soup bowl, 2014

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DNA SIDE, 2015

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DNA SIDE, 2015

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Various handmade booklets

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Run Home, 2014

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A Hopeless day with no resolution, Publication and exhibition text

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