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'Contains Adult Themes': Joan Cornellà at Leeds Gallery

17 December 2015
'Contains Adult Themes': Joan Cornellà at Leeds Gallery
‘Contains Adult Themes’ is a pretty accurate summary as well as title of Joan Cornellà’s artistic contribution to 2015’s Thought Bubble Festival. I suppose Cornellà felt duty bound to announce the provocative subject matter in his work, for from far away the colourful cartoons look deceptively cute. On the contrary, Cornellà’s wordless comic strips feature situations ranging from the absurd and deviant to the violent and grotesque. Walking around The Gallery at Munro House, the otherwise silent exhibit space erupts into guffaws of laughter every minute or so.

'Contains Adult Themes': Joan Cornella at Leeds Gallery Article 1

Something about the six panel time limit Cornellà restricts himself to, means he’s forced to ramp up the bloodshed and heighten the perversity of his work. In a clear disregard of the exclusionary nature of highbrow political art, Cornellà delivers his message and its ensuing punch as quickly as possible. Squinting and chin-stroking isn’t required. The cartoon style, crudeness, and playfully heavy-handed satire isn’t a world away from something Trey Parker and Matt Stone might produce. ‘Gangsta Grandma’ depicts a man shooting an elderly woman in the head before painting her face black. A policeman runs over and places handcuffs on the dead body, then turns and congratulates the killer. It’s so unbelievably graphic and the message is so bold that you can’t help but applaud just how ballsy Cornellà’s approach is. This is not an artist trying to slip a coded message under any noses.

Cornellà is quick to ground any political charge through the inclusion of prints such as ‘Jesus’ in the exhibit. Here, a smiling hispanic missionary hands a passerby a piece of paper reading ‘JESUS LOVES YOU’. An ensuing panel focuses on the missionary’s name-badge: Jesus. A visual beat. Then the reveal of the, uh, reveal. Jesus’ flies are undone and his penis is out. Looking back to the first panel, I realise Cornellà cropped Jesus from the waist down in his introduction. That big, blank-eyed smile isn’t so benign anymore. The print is provocative, but it’s also silly, and I don’t get the impression that Cornellà is trying to make a profound critique of religious organisations.

It’s an unostentatious exhibition, with each small print dangling from two bulldog clips. With art as loud as this, not much else is needed.

Daisy is a writer for Leeds Living, completing her BA in English Literature at the University of Leeds and will write about anything she can get her hands on.
Photography provided by Leeds Gallery