[sic] Magazine

Obituary : Tony Hart [1925 – 2009]

I was sat on the sofa watching BBC News 24 when the news broke. “Oh dear me, that’s very sad” I said turning to the redhead. “Who the fuck is Tony Hart?” was the reply. Hart, I explained wearily, was one of the most inspirational artists of the late twentieth century, his influence evident in the works of such giants as Hirst, Emin, Harris, Bacon and The Chuckle Brothers. Without Hart, would the dissected sheep – or was it a cow – have been possible? Would Tracy Emin have exhibited her bed, used condoms and all. Hart was prohibited from using spent condoms in his work and it’s fair to say he probably wouldn’t have used them even if the watershed had been at 4pm . Going back to Hirst though – I think it might have been a shark.

Hart famously presented television programmes such as HartBeat and Take Hart where children were taught how to create works of art using the most basic materials. Tony was a revolutionary, a pioneer, a man who would think nothing of trashing a TV studio in order to produce the ultimate work of art. The silver-haired maestro produced work of a consistently high standard, despite being hampered by the very figures into whom he breathed life – Morph and his crackhead sidekick Chas. Where lesser artists would have buckled under the strain, thrown down their paintbrushes and throttled the little twats, Tony took the knocks and abuse in his stride, very much in the old school tradition.

“But they were made of plasticene?”, I was asked.

“Don’t be bloody stupid”, I retorted,“I saw them move. You can’t fake that kind of shit. They were real alright. The grey one was completely off the rails. Bonkers. A real handful. It’s a wonder he [Tony] got any work done”.

Interviewed ( not by SIC ) some time ago , Tony rightly fingered the advent of coloured marker pens as being responsible for turning the art world on its head. Before that people had used plant-based dyes on cave walls as a form of expression. Cave art was restricted to drawings of buffalo, horses, dogs and cats, zebras, antelopes, deer, foxes, squirrels, rabbits, hamsters, owls, badgers, stoats, giraffes, pelicans, rainbow trout and genitalia. Quite a lot of things in fact.

Shortly after – skipping Renaissance Art, which to any sane person was a conspiracy cooked up by The Catholic Church – came the marvels of black and white chalk and grey paper which, whilst perfectly alright for sketching towns such as Manchester, had limited value elsewhere. Inspired by Tony’s programme, many youths in the town where I grew up took to the streets with their own marker pens and set about creating art of great public value. Who could forget the marker pen sketch on a toilet door in my old school, a vivid representation of Physics and PE teacher Ms Miller’s breasts on the receiving end of a large quantity of ejaculate from an oversized cock The student responsible (probably a thirteen year-old boy, there were no girls ), in a nod to Miller’s teaching prowess had added helpful information such as a vector diagram featuring the cosine of the angle of trajectory, velocity and impact area, all in standard SI units. Another boy had helpfully added “Wozza shagged Craze – AT6”. I’m fairly certain he was lying.

Through Hart’s TV programmes the nation’s youth were encouraged to submit their own paintings and sketches. Many of these were exhibited in the section of the show called “The Gallery”. As a child, I was bold enough to submit one of my paintings to the Gallery. Sadly, it never made it on to the programme, primarily because it was shit and, secondly, because it depicted a headless Ringo Starr being sexually compromised by a giant Cockroach – Blatella Americanus, one that had received a lethal dose of radiation after wandering too close to the Windscale nuclear power station. The painting bore the title “Hard Day’s Night”. It’s main flaw was that the only real clue to Starr’s identity ( he lacked a head ) was that he was clutching a broken drumstick that he had used to defend himself. That and a strategically placed drum kit which bore the legend “The Beatles” .

How many clues do you want ? This, along with several other paintings, encouraged by a Child Psychologist, were removed from my possession some time in the late seventies and I never saw them again. Any meagre talent I might have had snuffed out by people who clearly didn’t have a clue about art.

It’s unfortunate to say the least that Tony was probably still in nappies when teenage artist Adolf Hitler was having his work rejected by art galleries in Vienna (see picture left for an example of Adolf’s work). With Hart as a mentor, twentieth century history might have followed an altogether different course. For surely Hart would have been on hand to support the struggling artist, ensuring his energies were directed towards the canvas instead of murderous plots to wipe out entire peoples.

On viewing Hitler’s daubs, and after reflecting that he had seen better submissions from a six year old to the Take Hart gallery, Hart would have certainly cast them in a positive light, stating “Whilst I’m not entirely sympathetic to the overtly militaristic theme of this work, I’m ever so impressed with your vibrant use of colour. The bayonets really leap out at you”. Hart might have continued “On another day those bayonets could be the thorns of a rose bush, symbolising peace, hope and renewal. Just add a little pink pastel and these broken skulls over here begin to resemble chyrsanthemums in full bloom”.