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David Shenton: These Foolish Things

Exhibition preview

DAVID Shenton: These Foolish Things, part of the AIRLOCK programme, is on display at Space Station Sixty-Five from June 1 to July 27, 2013.

Shenton’s cartoons are often camp but they’re not just camp, and they’re not that awful apolitical offensive camp, but a light, knowing, meaningful camp.

Their first task is to entertain and to make the audience laugh – and often they do much more because the liberation politics that informs his work means that with the laugh there is an acerbic point – a wry observation on how we live or a satirical comment about society and a wider political context, contained in the lives and musings of plausible and likeable characters. Or sometimes it’s just a silly joke.

Shenton was published regularly in the gay press from 1976, and irregularly in The Guardian over 12 years, where he gave the world the philosophical, and sometimes obscure musings of London pigeons. His work has been in many other titles such as Solicitor’s Journal and Optician, as well as illustrating several books including Oscar Wilde’s Salom.

The central character of many cartoons over four decades is the sweet but hapless Stanley, a moustachioed gay man whose heyday was the 1980s and who goes from frame to frame trying to cope with a world that is full of surprises and delights that often leave him baffled, though unhurt. Stanley reached his zenith in Stanley and the Mask of Mystery (Gay Men’s Press 1983).

These days Shenton’s cartoons can be found on Facebook where Been There, Seen That lets us glimpse scenes observed by the artist at meetings, marches, events, and in everyday life – both in London and the seaside town of Cromer in Norfolk. He and John, his partner of 17 years – who appears in a number of the Facebook cartoons – share their time between the two places.

These Foolish Things at Space Station Sixty-Five showcases some favourite cartoons from Facebook and some of his recent drawings.

Shenton has also been found providing seasonal works bigger than lifesize on the walls of the Joiner’s Arms, Hackney Road, E2. In books, newspapers, magazines, art galleries, on Facebook and on pub walls, his work is a remarkable commentary on gay life – and more – over four extraordinary decades.

Admission: Free.

Times: Thursday to Saturday 12 to 6pm. Weekdays by appointment.

Space Station Sixty-Five, Building One, 373 Kennington Road, London, SE11 4PS

Tel: 020 7820 112