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Leiper Fine Art Gallery, Glasgow
King’s Place Press And Media Gallery, London
Political cartoons can be a powerful force for change, whether they be the cartoonistas of the situationist international in Paris during the insurrectionary May days of 1968 or the biting contemporary caricatures of Steve Bell, Martin Rowson and Dave Brown currently showing in Glasgow and London.
An “angry brigade” offshoot of the Situationists used cartoons to reveal truths about late developing or spectacular capitalism in a nation of over-consumption.
In similar vein, the works of Rowson, Brown, Bell and others in this nation of foodbanks use humour to undermine politicians who still believe in themselves long after the rest of us have stopped laughing.
The exhibition of their works on Scottish independence I caught in London, the mirror image of the one in Glasgow, makes you laugh out loud at an issue which has been mercilessly without humour.
That’s because, south of the border, we on the left live in dread of losing Scotland and being stuck with the Tories forever. Ironically, the Tories seem to live in dread of losing Scotland too. The irony.
In the search for humour many of the cartoons lay into separatist-in-chief Alex Salmond and prick his super-inflated balloon. But they are no less sparing with the Cameroon buffoon.
Often it is their collective arses which are prominent — in one case hanging “oot the windae” and farting a comic declaration of independence. Children will love this exhibition.
In another, Cameron the English windbag is being played like the bagpipes by MacEck, as Bell tags him.
This is from a cartoon strip skit on the Macbeth — the “Scottish” play — by Bell, where Salmond is confronted by three political witches only those closest to the debate would recognise.
They shout in unison: “Airse is Face and Face is Airse”, a beautiful commentary on Salmond’s many about turns. “All Hail MacEck, Thane of Sheep’s Airse!”
The involvement of Catalan cartoonists with their own separatism issues completes the stunning line-up.
It’s a truism, at long last recognised, that capitalism recuperates just about every threat it faces and hands it back to us as harmless commodity. That might apply to sticking cartoons up in a gallery and asking us to browse them, thus leeching some of their power. But that can be resolved.
Reprint them in their tens of thousands and drop them over the voting masses of Scotland, two days before the referendum.
At least then our Celtic brethren can laugh all the way to the polls.
Auld Acquaintance runs at the Leiper Fine Art Gallery, leiperfineart.com until September 19 and the King’s Place Press And Media Gallery, kingsplace.co.uk until September 30. Both exhibitions are free.
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