Each month, we invite élite art critic Braithwaite Merriweather to appraise the box art of the latest game releases. In between his time spent wandering the corridors of culture, Merriweather writes on a freelance basis for various publications, including Snitters and Nuneaton à la Carte. If you are unaware of his prowess, rest assured; he’s on a crusade to educate the unwashed. Put simply, he’s a man that needs no introduction.
Friends, I speak to you from the South Bank. Not of the boorish Thames but of the Seine—the Rive Gauche!—and why? For three reasons: one, I had to get away from London and its attendant pangs of cultural starvation; two, it gives me ample opportunity to spring forth and sample the city’s brasserie-borne pleasures; and three, I am wanted at the Centre Pompidou, in the 4th arrondissement, to deliver a talk on the emerging medium of game box art. Whether or not the city of love will also be willing to admit to being the city of artistic ignorance, when it comes to game box art, remains to be seen. Still, mine is a noble struggle, and I must endeavour to see our medium flourish on foreign shores! But before all that, as I await delivery of my pastry platter, I will dive into this month’s crop releases. Commençons!
Bayonetta & Vanquish 10th Anniversary Bundle
This piece, entitled “Bayonetta & Vanquish 10th Anniversary Bundle” (which sounds to me like the tragic tale of two Shakespearean lovers, as written by a Red-Bull-infused ten-year-old), reminds me of a school trip I took to Rome, on which I was told, by Professor Ramsford—whom I hesitate to call an “art teacher,” when “thug” captures so much more of his personage—that the Sistine Chapel ceiling displayed what he considered “a nice divide between red and blue backgrounds.” A shallow mind is doomed to dwell in shallow waters, I suppose; still, even as a lad of fifteen, I felt assaulted by his stupidity in similar fashion to how I felt thumped by the heat when stepping off the plane at Leonardo da Vinci International Airport.
I think Professor Ramsford would find much to relish in “Bayonetta & Vanquish 10th Anniversary Bundle,” which mimics the gracefully positioned bodies of Michelangelo’s masterpiece. Granted, these bodies, with their poseable-plastic configurations, appear to be those of an action figure line (devised and built, no doubt, by the same hopped-up ten-year-old who earlier tried his hand at Shakespearean tragedy), but Ramsford—the plodding, ill-equipped bastard—likely wouldn’t notice the sucrose-sick paleness of the imitation on offer. Ramsford doubtless wouldn’t be able to attest to the cheapness and the juvenility with which “Bayonetta & Vanquish 10th Anniversary Bundle” pays homage to a work of such universal and gravitational renown, but he would probably point out—and, I suppose, in this instance I would wearily agree—that it has a nice divide between red and blue backgrounds.
Dreams indeed. How else could we explain the ideas that swirl and spew from this work? The purple cube at the centre of the frame seems to hang in the void of space; is this a Picasso-flavoured cubist reimagining of the big bang? Consider the debris that fires out from the middle: cars, guitars, birds, branches, flowers, half-remembered faces. It is as though some woolly-headed student from the Media School of the University of the Arts London had attempted to make a point about science and modern times and love and life and all manner of other adolescent anti-ideas that aim for everything and grasp at nothing. (In hindsight, I mark the day I was denied entry into UAL as a forging point on my path to becoming the critic I am today.)
“Dreams” is like a cross between a Dada collage and a Picasso, with bulging bits of Trompe-l’œil thrown in for good—or, at least, for plentiful—measure. I admire the gumption of the artist behind this work the same way I admire the creativity of the con artists whom the unbelievably inept/inebriated/venal Arts Council of England seems exclusively to fund. It is precisely that feeling of cash-inflated self-importance that pervades this work—the haphazard shapes strewn about the frame, the swathes of plumb-coloured paint in the background, the random lines of squiggly pretension. Christ, it’s the sort of obliquely “inspirational” pap you might think would adorn the wall of a conference room in a car manufacturer’s headquarters. Perhaps its only point of aesthetic worth is the two discs that lurk beneath the cube, like planets caught in each other’s pull. It is, as old Ramsford would have had it, a nice divide between blue and orange backgrounds.
The Yakuza Remastered Collection
Something strange is going on here. Never have I seen such an odd work as this, “The Yakuza Remastered Collection.” Consider the blinds, the twin barrels of the gun, the blade, slicing the image in twain like a zealous cheese merchant might chop into a rich wedge of edam, and the blood, within which a row of faces appear. And then there is the face: a surly, craggy visage, cut with deep wrinkles, and crisp with silvery hair. I know this face! The artist behind this work is attempting something braver and stranger than homage, or easy, sleazy reference; what is being done here is archaeological! This work is a response, from across the decades, to “American Farm Hand,” by Sandor Klein, from 1937.
That painting—with its eager, hearty subject, as ready to defend his homeland as to farm it—seemed filled with promise. This work, with its pathetic passport-size photo of the same gentleman, only now run aground on the rocks of late middle age, his gun boxed off in the upper half, tells us everything we need to know. I was once asked to install a set of venetian blinds by my then wife. I could feel the valour of past ages draining away, as I struggled against the banal demands of modern life. She was unable to see what I had achieved: in artistically mangling the blinds, I had produced an impromptu sculpture depicting the subversion of domestic ritual and the reclaiming of natural glories. She didn’t see it that way.