Artist Interviews: Matters of the Art

Beginning May 2015 Diplomat magazine have asked me to write an art column called ‘Matters of the Art’.
We begin the series of interviews with renowned satirical cartoonist, illustrator and artist Gerald Scarfe.



Gerald, have you ever wanted to be a politician?
Gerald Scarfe:
I would absolutely loath to be a politician, it’s such a dull job, I can see it’s a necessary evil but it’s not for me.  The sorts of things I like to draw about are of much bigger problems like greed and hate, war and pestilence, I am reflecting on the world around me. I wouldn’t get very far as a politician.

 If you were Prime Minster what would you change?
There are many things I would like to change; the obvious example is more equality and so on. It’s too big a subject to talk about in such a short interview or maybe I’m just tired. So you see I wouldn’t make a good PM as Prime Ministers are not allowed to get tired. This exhibition I am doing on Mrs Thatcher brings to mind that she needed only four hours sleep, I need seven or eight, so I fail on that ground alone.

Spending years in hospital for your asthma did you ever want to become a doctor?
No I am scared of hospitals and even now visiting my brother in hospital is not something I enjoy. I admire doctors, they are doing a proper job I am doing a crap silly job. I am reflecting on the world around me, they are doing essential work to ease the pain of the world in a true way. Doctors and nurses and people who make bread, that’s a real job everyone, else has a crap job, a pretend job.

Your work features a lot of heaven and hell. Was this again reflecting on world events?
My work started to get noticed in the 1960s. I wasn’t conscious of what I was doing at that time, but I was just drawing what I did naturally. I don’t draw much of heaven. I drew the sets and costumes for the opera Orpheus in the Underworld. I loved designing the Underworld. The same with Disney’s Hercules where Hercules goes down to the Underworld and meets Hades. I enjoyed drawing Hades because he’s the ‘baddie.’ Somehow baddies are so much more interesting to draw than heroes.

Do you watch horror films?
Hammer Horror but to be honest they bore me stiff, I generally can’t be bothered. If it’s the usual “boo” it’s so tedious, same old scenario, it’s just boring and lazy. Whereas, something like The Shining, that’s creepy and makes you think. Horror is not my bag.

How do you feel about the violence in video games that the younger generation are exposed to?
A couple of my grandchild watch pretty horrific things. I am computer illiterate so I don’t play video games. Whether they cause violence or not is a debate that is still ongoing.

What do you think to the amount of sex that our younger generations are exposed to?
When my granddaughter Ella told me that she had taken the “Seven Deadly Sins” (written by Gerald in 1987) into school to show the class I was horrified. I said, “Ella you shouldn’t have done that, you are used to my drawings and some may not understand”. She said “don’t worry, I didn’t take lust”. She protected me by not showing them lust. We have the world we have; I don’t know how we protect children. At one time to sit in a room with my parents where someone on the television said, “fuck”, I would have fallen through the floor. Now I sit there with not only my children, but also my grandchildren and films are full of it. It’s just another word. This is out of my hands till I’m Prime Minister.

Did you enjoy drawing Maggie?
I didn’t agree with her values, but she was amazing material. I could turn her into anything acerbic or cutting, like a dagger or a knife, probing and vicious.

On reflection, what advice would you now offer to the young you?
Now I would say “what are you so nervous about? Get on with it, and don’t waste time.” So much time is wasted. For example, I have well over 100 Mrs Thatchers for my latest exhibition. What the hell am I doing drawing Mrs Thatcher for 22 years? What a waste of time. I didn’t alter her; I didn’t make any difference or change the world.

Gerald Scarfe’s latest exhibition: Milk Snatcher, The Thatcher Drawings until 7 June at The Bowes Museum, Bernard Castle, Dl2 8NP

Gerald and J9