Ralph STEADman: INKling, 21 September to 17 November 2024. Included in entry ticket to The Historic Dockyard Chatham.
Counter-culture trailblazer and satirical pioneer Ralph STEADman to unveil brand new art exhibition this September
The Historic Dockyard Chatham will present Ralph STEADman: INKling this Autumn. This exciting new exhibition will give both dedicated Steadman fans, as well as the uninitiated, a unique chance to see four distinctive sides of a remarkable career from Steadman’s iconic Gonzo work to his beautiful children’s illustrations.
Over the course of seven decades, Ralph Steadman has illustrated some of the most celebrated literary works of all time from Hunter S Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas to literary classics, including Treasure Island, Alice in Wonderland and Animal Farm.
From Fly Away Peter (1963) his first, to his latest ‘The Ralphabet’ for children, a selection from over 60 years of Ralph Steadman’s children’s illustrations will go on show in the atmospheric No 1 Smithery exhibition space at The Historic Dockyard Chatham, in Kent.
For over a decade, Steadman has collaborated with filmmaker and conservationist Ceri Levy on the Gonzovation Trilogy, which now numbers over 300 original artworks.
Steadman’s conservation work dates back to 2011 when Levy approached Steadman, a childhood hero, to produce an artwork of an extinct bird. Once he
started, Steadman couldn’t stop producing work and filled three books Extinct Boids (2012), Nextinction (2015) and Critical Critters (2017).
INKling presents an enticing glimpse of the colour and vitality of this collection.
A selection of works shown in this exhilarating exhibition focuses on Steadman’s collaboration and friendship with Hunter S. Thompson, his Gonzo compadre.
Several original portraits of the Gonzo journalist are on display, including a silk screen print of arguably his most famous portrait, Vintage Dr Gonzo, from Hunter’s cult classic novel, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Also featured is an homage to Guernica, the masterpiece by Steadman’s creative hero, Picasso.
Inspired by the tragic artwork, Gonzo Guernica is a silk screen tryptic printed by Kentucky-based master-printer, Joe Petro III.
Ralph Steadman says of the different elements of the new show:
“People might be surprised, if they only know about my Gonzo work, to see all the children’s work. Everything in life shouldn’t be for adults and these
are innocent in a savage world.
“I was always so fascinated by really classic works and it was an ambition of mine to try my version of them. Treasure Island was a classic that I thought
would be an adventure for myself like it is for the characters.
“With the Gonzovation work, I liked working with Ceri Levy. He got so excited and he is such a pleasant and inventive friend now. We had a good
time working things out together and coming up with surprise suggestions.”
And on the final quarter of the exhibition Gonzo, Ralph says:
“Hunter was a wonderful menace and I guess I owe a lot of my infamy to him and his crazy suggestions. We got into scrapes but somehow always
got out of them.”
Nick Ball, Collections, Galleries, and Interpretation Manager at The Historic Dockyard Chatham says:
“It’s thrilling to work with Ralph Steadman and his team to showcase this purpose-built exhibition of work and provide a space to showcase Ralph’s
mastery of the line and his ability to capture in an image what words alone could never achieve.
“Steadman is a true maverick genius who has collaborated with writers and poets on scores of children’s books over the last 60 years, as well as writing
and illustrating his own. The exhibition introduces the viewer to a selection of these, providing the opportunity to witness firsthand the changing and
developing style of the artist’s work over the course of his lifetime.
“The pieces are charming and whimsical, demonstrating Steadman’s energetic and joyous approach to his work, his love of the ridiculous and his
childlike sense of wonder and imagination. Having been fan of his since I was a teenager, working on this exhibition with Ralph is a dream come true”
Only available for a limited time from 21 September to 17 November 2024, Ralph STEADman: INKling is included in entry ticket to The Historic Dockyard Chatham.
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Images and interview requests via Press Contact Vikki Rimmer
Images of Ralph STEADman in studio:
Portraits of Ralph Steadman in his studio, 4th October 2023.
They images are offered for reproduction in media features about Ralph Steadman, with the following conditions:
- Credit should be given to Rikard Österlund each time they are used, whenever feasible. The Photographer’s name will be printed on or in reasonable proximity to all published reproductions of the Photograph(s).
- They should not be used on products, with intent to profit from their sale.
Photography credit should go to:
Rikard Österlund, www.rikard.co.uk
The copyright of the photographs belong to Rikard Österlund.
Biography: Ralph STEADman
Ralph Steadman was born in 1936. Having completed his National Service in 1954, during which time he completed the Percy V. Bradshaw Press Art School correspondence course, he moved to London and started work as a cartoonist. His first cartoon was published in the Manchester Evening Chronicle in 1956.
In 1959, frustrated by the limits of his skills, he enrolled at East Ham Technical College to learn the ‘discipline of drawing’. It was here he met his mentor,
Leslie Richardson, who taught life drawing. 1960 saw his first appearance in Punch magazine, where he eventually progressed to cover design. In 1961,
encouraged by Richardson, he enrolled at the London College of Printing. By this point he was beginning to find the demands of newspaper cartooning too restrictive:
‘Cartooning wasn’t just making a little picture and putting a caption underneath. It’s also something else – a vehicle for expression of some sort, protest, or it’s a way of saying something which you cannot necessarily say in words.’
In 1961 he wrote to the editor of newly founded Private Eye and began to explore a new, more provocative style, drawing on influences like George Grosz and John Heartfield. During the 1960s he illustrated several children’s books, including Fly Away Peter (1964), The Big Squirrel and the Little Rhinoceros (1965), The False Flamingos (1967), and The Jelly Book (1967), which he also wrote. His work was regularly appearing in New Society, Radio Times, Town, New Musical Express and the Daily Telegraph.
In 1967 he began work on his illustrated Alice in Wonderland, which won the Frances Williams Award in 1972.
In 1970, having published his first collected book of cartoons, Still Life with Raspberry, he set off to America to cover the Kentucky Derby for Scanlan’s Monthly, where everything would change on his meeting Hunter S. Thompson. Together they would develop ‘Gonzo’ journalism, where you do not simply cover the story but become the story. So began a lifelong collaboration, including the iconic Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which was originally serialized in Rolling Stone Magazine. Another lifelong association was begun, and Steadman is still listed as Gardening Correspondent for the legendary publication.
Between projects with Hunter, including Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trial ‘72, The Curse of Lono (1983) and Polo is My Life (1994), and numerous pieces for Rolling Stone, Steadman continued to produce his own books, including Sigmund Freud (1979), I Leonardo (1983), The Big I Am (1998), as well as children’s books such as That’s My Dad (1986), No Room to Swing a Cat (1989) and Teddy! Where Are You? (1994).
In 1987 Steadman was approached by Oddbins to travel the vineyards of the world and produce artwork for their catalogues. Between 1987 and 2000 he did just that, producing hundreds of artworks, many of which would eventually appear in his two award-winning books on wine, The Grapes of Ralph and Untrodden Grapes, and his book about whisky, Still Life with Bottle.
He has always diversified in his career, producing theatre sets for a ballet of The Crucible (2000) performed at the Royal Opera House; a production of
Gulliver’s Travels (1995) for Clwyd Theatr Cymr; and an oratorio and images for an eco-opera, The Plague and the Moonflower, with music composed by Richard Harvey.
He has illustrated three books about extinct and endangered birds and animals with co-Gonzovationist Ceri Levy, Extinct Boids (2012), Nextinction (2015) and Critical Critters (2017) as well as producing a set of portraits for the cult TV show Breaking Bad, which feature on its special edition DVD and Blu-ray.
In 2012 a film of his life and influences, 15 years in the making, called For No Good Reason premiered at the Toronto Film Festival to critical acclaim.
In recent years companies including Vans, Supreme and Nike have collaborated with Ralph to produce product ranges within their brands. He produced
artwork for the documentary on Shane McGowan: A Crock of Gold, produced by Johnny Depp. He has created portraits of Jack Harlow and Bob Dylan and also penned his own version of the alphabet – the Ralphabet.
Ralph Steadman is drawing and creating today, at the age of 87 (88 on May 15th), pen in hand, fingers stained with ink.
That work now continues in two brand new exhibitions, Ralph Steadman: And Another Thing…, a new incarnation of the retrospective set to tour 6-8 venues in the USA from later this year until 2028, and Ralph Steadman: Inkling, an exhibition at the Historic Dockyard, Chatham, opening in September 2024.