Turner star brings Felix inspired show to Grundy

The first broadcast featured Felix the Cat
The first broadcast featured Felix the Cat
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What do a cartoon cat and a Turner prize-winning artist have in common?

They are both key to a new exhibition in Blackpool which focuses on the early days of picture broadcasting.

This Kolossal Kat, that Massive Mog will put the spotlight on Felix the Cat whose black and white profile was used in the very first days of what was eventually to become television back in 1928.

Felix was used to monitor and adjust the quality of the transmitted picture.

Artist Mark Leckey, who has a long-standing interest in the iconic cartoon character, has put together the exhibition which will be unveiled at the Grundy Art Gallery on Saturday.

Visitors will see a variety of images including Inflatable Felix, a giant blow-up version, and earlier pieces such as Flix, a 16mm film animation of the cat’s tail.

Also on display will be Mark’s film about nightlife and Northern Soul, Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore (1999), as well as a new artwork he has been commissioned to produce by the Arts Council Collection to mark its 70th anniversary this year.

Inspired by a photograph of an actor wearing a Mickey Mouse costume, his new work, called Feelinthecat, will invite visitors to walk inside a giant cardboard speaker fashioned roughly in the shape of Felix’s head, where they will watch a video involving the artist and Felix.

Coun Vikki Singleton, lead member for Arts at Blackpool Council, said: “It is a massive coup for Blackpool to have an artist of the magnitude of Mark showing at the gallery.

“Besides our exhibition here at Grundy, the only other solo exhibition Mark has on this year is a major exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and he will also be exhibiting at the Liverpool Biennial.

“As an artist who grew up in the North West there is familiarity with Blackpool and an appreciation of why it makes sense that this major new commission and exhibition should be shown here.”

Jill Constantine, head of the Arts Council Collection, added: “Commissioning eight artists to each make a work to celebrate our 70th birthday has been a hugely rewarding experience and Mark Leckey’s commission Feelinthecat has been no exception.

“I’m delighted it will be premiered in Blackpool at the Grundy, as part of this important exhibition of Mark’s work.

“The Grundy has one of the most innovative and exciting galley programmes in the country and we’re proud to be part of it.”

Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore shows footage of British nightlife from the late 1960s to the early 1990s and links to Blackpool’s prominent role in the history of Northern Soul, an underground music and dance movement that was particularly active in the North West of England at venues such as the Wigan Casino and the Blackpool Mecca.

Mark grew up in Birkenhead and studied art at Newcastle Polytechnic.

In 2008 he was awarded the Turner Prize for his piece called Cinema-in-the-Round about the nature of film in popular culture, taking in everything from Garfield the cat to Homer Simpson and James Cameron’s Titanic.

Coun Singleton added: “Mark Leckey has consistently explored the space where visual art meets popular culture, and collapsed traditional distinctions between the ‘high’ and the ‘low’.

“His work is amusing, it makes you laugh but it can also be very moving. There’s also a deep understanding of the changes that are afoot in the digital age we live in, of how the internet is fundamentally reshaping our relationship to each other, and to the things and images we encounter in our daily lives.”

The exhibition is at the Grundy until August 13.