24/04/2008

glen baxter

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Just who is this Glen Baxter? He has been described as a cartoonist and yet his work is neither political nor overtly topical. It does not rely on elements of caricature and frequently seems to veer towards the esoteric and the obscure. For some critics, his work seems deeply rooted in the tradition of The Absurd- tracing a line from Lewis Carroll and Jonathan Swift to Buster Keaton, Tom Mix, Raymond Roussel and René Magritte.
It is claimed that Baxter’s work is quintessentially English and appears regularly in Le Monde, the magazine L’Actualite Poitou Charentes and The New Yorker. On the artist’s website it states that he was “born in Leeds, a tiny suburb of Belgium.”
What can this mean? Was there some traumatic event in his childhood which has led to this revelation?
As a young boy, growing up in Leeds, Glen Baxter had a stammer. One day his mother sent him to buy a collar stud for his father’s shirt. Fearful of making a mistake and stammering out the wrong words, the young Baxter set off on his mission, rehearsing the words “I’d like to purchase a collar stud, please”.
By the time he reached the shop he was completely focussed on the words he must say. He marched into the shop and up to the counter where the shop assistant was standing. He spoke fluently “I’d like to purchase a collar stud, please.”
The man behind the counter leaned forward and peered at the young boy through horn-rimmer spectacles in utter amazement, as if a Martian had just entered his shop.
“I think you’ll find the gentleman’s outfitters next door may be able to help” he advised the boy.
The young Baxter turned and made his exit through the furniture shop.
By focussing so intensely on the sentence he had to speak, the young lad had spoken the words perfectly, yet in entirely the wrong context.
Years later, at art school in Leeds, Baxter was reading André Breton’s description of the surrealist condition when he realized that he had been living a surrealist existence for years. For the first time in his life he felt completely at home. [...]
Since that time his books have been published throughout the world and there have been many exhibitions, yet the man remains an enigma.
He recently turned 64, and unlike the famous Beatles song “he is not losing his hair” but he continues his obssessive depictions of dandruff.
Recently, when asked to name his favourite fictional character, he replied ‘FANTÔMAS’.
Perhaps his latest exhibiton of his work will allow us to enter the world of the artist whose work was seemingly shaped by a childhood encounter in a furniture shop...

Professor C Howard, Chair of Absurdity, Athens, March 2008