Saturday, January 26, 2013

A Farewell to Artist Les Coleman

Les Coleman / RIP

Our friend of many years has died.

British artist Les Coleman liked to say that he was born "one day before peace broke out," making him one of the last World War II "war babies." He died peacefully on January 17, 2013, at Trinity Hospice in Clapham. I recall that we were introduced by another friend, Patrick Hughes. We never met, but for many years he sent me a torrent of "unthunks." In one of them, for example, he simply printed up a card (blank on the verso) that on the recto reads like this: THIS CARD IS TEMPORARILY OUT OF STOCK.

At the conclusion of one of his books, titled Meet the Art Students (1997), he added a brilliantly absurd author's note. Here it is—

Les Coleman moved to Clapham Junction in 1967. During the summer of that year, The Summer of Love, he lost his wallet on Dartmoor containing two pound notes. A doctor found the wallet and handed it in to the police. It took until the autumn to trace Coleman to his new address. He collected the wallet from the Lavender Hill Police Station to discover the money was still inside. In the autumn of 1996 he painted the walls of his front room Sunbeam with Moonshine on the woodwork. In keeping with this color scheme the room has a blue fitted carpet (80% wool) and yellow venetian blinds (made to measure). Among his possessions Coleman owns a small African sculpture which stands on his mantelpiece despite having one leg shorter than the other. 

Over the years, I republished many of his unthunks and his drawings, some in Ballast Quarterly Review, and more recently on this blog. I "thunk" he would have chuckled at the gravestone that I've made for him (see above). His humor lives on—

The three letters of the alphabet I most dislike are D, I and Y.

One day America will turn into one big gun.

Why do rabbit droppings look like currants and taste like shit?

Once dead the artist falls into a rut.

He put on his dark glasses and rode off into the sunset.

Is turvy-topsy the same as topsy-turvy?