After a whirlwind week of work, study, and a Christmas dinner I was looking forward to the Mr Papers exhibition at SpaceCraft. Mr Papers is a collage cat with a unique blend of social commentary and Northern Irish humour. He features in a wide range of artistic creations, my current favourite being his range of Christmas cards, which recently made me laugh out loud in the Ulster Museum shop. Unfortunately it was during a particularly quiet moment and now the staff there think I’m a little bit crazy because I laugh to myself!
The exhibition title ‘The Standing up for Standards!’ collection promised that Mr Papers would show us ‘how to make the most of life now, during these tough times.’ The first piece in the collection was an observation on the sedentary lifestyle in Northern Ireland, with a little viewfinder at the top, when I looked through this it said ‘Very disappointing’. It actually made me feel a bit guilty for spending too much time sofa surfing and that I’d been able to instantly recognise Jeremy Kyle. If Mr Papers knew how to get to my guilty secrets this quickly I was quite nervous at what would come next. Could a recycled newspaper cat solve society’s problems?
The next collage that caught my eye and got me thinking was a response to rising utility bills (and the Northern Irish fascination with a wee cup of tea!) Mr Papers had kindly attached research on the price of a cup of tea at the bottom of the collage showing that the majority of the cost is made up of electricity rather than teabags and milk. I particularly liked the two old electricity meter parts measuring the amps and volts needed for a cuppa, and from the rising prices of a cuppa I was especially glad I’m not a tea drinker!
I liked that Mr Papers has the confidence to tackle contentious issues, and the piece on public transport had a similar tone to many other government posters from the Second World War era. Taking on the issues of overcrowding on public transport and the unemployed not being treated as valuable members of society in one artwork is impressive, and there was a wide variety of hats on the commuters too. I did wonder though where the lady cats were, is Mr Papers also saying that only men should be allowed on buses?
There were lots of other animals incorporated into the exhibition. Merlin the history dog told Mr Papers how a building that looked remarkably like Stormont used to be a chicken factory but was now a home for the bewildered, I loved the chickens on the roof of Stormont. I also discovered that pandas aren’t popular with Mr Papers! Another collage dealt with thriftiness relating to clothes. A fat white cat told me that long sleeves are for the rich, not me. Short sleeves were recommended, with a war era postcard showing how short sleeves were safer, as well as a price gauge to monitor the expense of fabric.
Mr Papers has a fabulous website with lots more examples of his humour and artworks at http://www.mr-papers.com and you can pick up Mr Papers merchandise at SpaceCraft in the Fountain Centre, and in the Ulster Museum shop – just don’t laugh out loud when the shop is empty!