That's Art! Andy Holden

14 Jan 2019

Peanuts books have been a constant presence in Andy Holden’s studio. He first made paintings with fragments of cells from 1950s Peanuts paperbacks in 2006. Holden’s new film installation for the exhibition Oh! My friends there is no friend, 2014–2018, examines friendship and how it is shaped by the media we consume.

Good Grief, Charlie Brown! #8 - ANDY HOLDEN

The film is comprised of four cells, echoing the layout of a Peanuts strip, linked by a voice-over delivered by a CGI bootleg of Charlie Brown.

The first screen features an isolated, melancholic Charlie Brown in various dramatic, romantic, stock footage landscapes. He narrates reflections on the nature of friendship, through references to philosophy, popular culture and first-hand observations. The second screen is a collage of clips from popular Hollywood films and music videos in which various forms of friendship are depicted. The third, which also provides the soundtrack, is a tour film of Holden’s band the Grubby Mitts on their Politics of Friendship Tour, the last tour the band undertook before the original line-up, friends since they were 12, finally called it a day. The fourth screen is a document of ‘The Beagle Room’, a friend’s bedroom which contains an epic collection of Peanuts toys and merchandise, collected over a lifetime and housed in her own private museum.

Also on show in Good Grief, Charlie Brown! is a series of painted bowls formed from melting old discarded 78rpm gramophone records of 1950s love songs. Onto these the artist has collaged images of Charlie Brown that he has hand-cut from Peanuts paperback books from the same period: sentimental and decorative, they explore the 1950s as a transitional point in the history of modernism, looking backwards and forwards simultaneously.

Andy Holden, Optimism of the Will, 2008–2011
Andy Holden, Optimism of the Will, 2008–2011

The bowls transform an outmoded medium into an optimistic new object. The work takes its title from a quote by Italian Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci, neatly encapsulating the world view of Charlie Brown – pessimistic, yet persistent in his attempts to keep trying.

Laws of Motion in a Cartoon Landscape, 2011–2016, is Holden’s ‘grand thesis’, an hour-long animation that declares that the world is now a cartoon. An extract from Chapter 5: All principles of gravity are negated by fear is on show in the exhibition, with the full film screening at The Cinema Museum from 21 February - 10 March. The editing style in this extract is that of a conspiracy theory; starting from the idea that the zig-zag found on Charlie Brown’s mysterious t-shirt is the clue to understanding how everything works in the cartoon world.

Andy Holden, Still from Laws of Motion in a Cartoon Landscape, 2016
Andy Holden, Still from Laws of Motion in a Cartoon Landscape, 2016

The zig-zag is “the oldest human mark ever recorded”, claims the artist as animated narrator, “carved into a shell some 500,000 years ago … it is also the pattern of the brainwave in deep sleep … the best way to cross a mountain range … the pattern we see with the onset of a migraine…” The film proposes that art history is now best understood as a zig-zag, an oscillation between irony and sincerity, truth and fiction.