Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Move over Freddy Krueger

Traditionalists tend to define art as pretty pictures used to brighten a room or cover up a piece of scuffed wallpaper. Horses running through the waves, vases of flowers, dogs playing poker. Nothing too controversial or upsetting.

And then there are those who see art as something to challenge convention. Upset the status quo. Ruffle feathers. But not everyone who wants to push the boundaries of art needs to bisect a farm animal and suspend it in a vat of Gatorade, or just shit the bed and fill it full of old knickers.

It might not be first in line for the next Turner prize, but Kevin Sharkey's latest work is certainly drawing its fair share of press attention. The Irish artist has created an image of Elton John proudly nursing his newborn baby. Displaying the kind of Photoshop skills that would have a junior in the Daily Mail art department shaking his head in dismay, Sharkey's work has relocated Elton's not insubstantial head onto the shoulders of a breast-feeding mother.

If the concept of breast-milk ice-cream didn't have you retching into the nearest receptacle, the sight of a hungry baby gently suckling on the Rocket Man's fulsome boob may just tip you over the edge. Sharkey claims that he was inspired by Elton's newfound parental status, saying “It’s set off a new era of gay men having kids. What Elton and David are doing is very admirable.”

Less admirable is the image that's now scorched indelibly onto my retinas. For me, nightmares always involved either snakes (apparently, it's a sexual thing) or the loss of my teeth (fear of failure or abandonment). Now they're likely to be replaced by Elton John, stopping midway through a rendition of Candle In The Wind to slowly unbutton his maternity dress and hoist out a milk-filled moob.

Sharkey isn't concerned about the potential backlash, commenting "I must admit I did have a little laugh to myself while I was doing it but I know Elton has got a good sense of humour.” Maybe he missed the Grand Dame of British music throwing a monumental strop on a tennis court when a bystander made the mistake of looking at him.

One organisation that's perfectly happy with the picture, besides the RNIB (who'll never have to look at it), is the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers, commenting that the artwork raises important issues of breast milk for surrogate parents. A spokeswoman told the press "It is very important that surrogate children have access to breast milk. I don't know if Elton John and David Furnish are doing this but it is very important for little Zac's development." Failing that, they could always pop down to Covent Garden to get the little fella the occasional cone of soft-scoop.


  1. Thank you Gareth, your piece is hilarious.
    What puzzles me is that how a man with such great sense of humour misses the joke in the image, the idea of it came to me one day, made me laugh and now is giving the world a much needed pause amid all the serious debate to have a giggle,that said I am not moaning as I really really did enjoy reading your articale, keep up the good work, your gifted, Best wishes, Kevin Sharkey

  2. Thanks for your comment - I'm glad you enjoyed the article. Much like the picture itself, I was taking a light-hearted look at the subject, and focused more on the reactions it was inspiring, rather than the piece itself.
    That said, I'm sure Elton's grinning lollipop head will inspire countless more sleepless nights.