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 write to you from my study, in a state of extreme frustration, veins coursing with caffeine, eyes reddened. Steam must be billowing off me and soaking the ceiling, as though my head were a loosened manhole cover. I am attempting to furlough my talents, as per the government’s guidelines. The word “guidelines” is laughably naïve, of course, because as far as I can tell the paperwork for this has been designed to confuse. This is no surprise. Claiming money from the government is like trying to grasp a squid, as it wreathes itself in a cloud of ink and squirms free of your clutches. I notice that, on the “What you’ll need” page, amongst the “Government Gateway user ID,” the “details where a BACS payment can be accepted,” and the requirement that one register for something called “PAYE Tools,” the forms forget to include the need to bolster one’s spiritual constitution; to purchase a wig, for when you have torn all hair from your head; and to rid oneself of the hope that you will ever see a penny.
Then, there is the fact that the drones that buzz the bureaucratic hives have long refused to see my pavement-mounted galleries as gainful employment. Would that their drab little heads could gain so much as a scrap of true inspiration! Mercifully, I am taking a break from my third attempt at this drab and pointless exercise, in order to get to this month’s column. Unfortunately, as I spread this month’s sheaf of box art samples about me on the desk, I can see that, whatever money has changed hands, artistic talent has successfully managed to go on furlough.
Little Nightmares II
One child with a paper bag over its head, another cloaked in cornea-busting yellow. You can forgive the first figure, wanting to cover his face with a crinkly dung-coloured mask—the better to blend in, perhaps, with the Bosch-like garden of earthly browns and blues that surrounds the pair. But what about the second? Is this urchin so eager to be spotted? Nearby is a head on the end of a stretchy neck, like a grimacing meatball tethered by a chord of spaghetti. There are bendy buildings, a bear trap off to the left, televisions underfoot, a tower in the background, and the thin figure of a man half-hidden in its outline. From this scene of uncurated, limbo-like hell, I can deduce two things: first, that the artist has, at one time or another, made the grim, life-infirming pilgrimage to the Saatchi; and, second, that they were struck, in the midst of that din, with the desire to stand out. Hence the hi-vis coat on the second kid: a cry for attention amid the monsters.
Persona 5 Strikers
I’m not quite sure what’s going on this week. Something is in the air. No sooner have we recovered from the grim and grey array of “Little Nightmares” than we are subjected to the violent hues of “P5S Persona5 Strikers”—a title that seems to have dribbled forth by a slurring keyboard. Much as was the case when my ex-wife would arrive home from an appointment with her “free-spirited” hairdresser, the colours here are alarming and the detail is chaotic. The left side of the work is composed of a sticky surge of icy, alcopop blue, which crashes against a crimson welter of odd figures on the right. Swirling within this nauseating compote are figures that appear to have been suffused with the sugar around them. The grinning, gun-toting fellow on the left could well be a stand-in for the artist, who seeks to be heard not by being visually distinct, like the crouched figure at the heart of “Little Nightmares,” but by hogging the most room and holding us to ransom. The irony that punctures this full-blast approach is that there is nothing striking about it. It’s a big nightmare.
Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury
If you were in need of any reassurance that, no matter how deeply you are mired in the surreal, things can always get stranger, then look no further than “Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury.” Come to think of it, I would be surprised if many were capable of looking much further; not only are there enough sharp colours and corners here to take your eye out, but there is the distinct sensation, when one gazes upon “Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury,” that one’s days of looking—nearer or further, in hope or in vain—have rolled to a rueful end. We have boxes of earth, topped with plastic grass, leaping plumbers, and pink-clad royalty. There are cat people. There is a dragon at the bottom, drooling fire. There are glass tubes, through which gold coins are clatteringly sucked. If there is any sort of commentary here, then it is lost in the clutter.
What we can find—indeed, what sizzles and smokes throughout—is an homage to Francis Bacon. Specifically, his work in the eighties, which was boldly coloured and strewn with cubes. Of course, what’s missing in this new work is any trace of the gored and the warped—of bloodied bandages and faces half-dissolved by sulfuric loneliness. Instead, there are nursery-bright shades, people who look as if they were sculpted from Play-Doh, and a tiny touch of true nastiness at the bottom, in the form of our scale-encrusted friend with the brimstone breath. (I am reminded of the judge who presided over my divorce case, clearly in cahoots with my ex-wife’s solicitor.) The artist behind this work has paid homage to a master but dumbed it down for kids, and the result is banal. They have created a lurid world that’s anything but super, and now they have to live with their failure. + Bacon’s Fury.