As I seem to be exploring the nastiness of man through art; Punch and his violent antics, Macheath’s brutality towards womankind in Three Penny Opera, I thought I should finish off this unholy trio with some nasty gay antics. In particular Kenneth Halliwell and the playwright Joe Orton.
It’s difficult for a person of culture not to know and admire Orton, Entertaining Mister Sloan,one of the darkest , funniest plays about. Much has been said about Joe, his life, his talents.
What I have been curious about is his oft maligned “lover”, Kenneth Halliwell. I hesitate to describe Kenneth as a partner, lover, or spouse, as their relationship seemed pretty odious, even without the murder/suicide. Orton , an unrepentant flirt, openly engaged in trysts that enraged Halliwell, Halliwell morose and apparently so unpleasant that society went to great measures to avoid contact with him.
What has always struck me as curious was Halliwell’s devotion to the art of collage. I must say I am not a fan of collage. Victorian decoupage, charming; 20th century “mixed media”, not so much.
I have read the occasional biography of Orton,his working class background, his sordid relationship with Halliwell, the debauchery in Tangiers.
An unfortunate image, the uncomfortable personal dynamic apparent.
Orton the adorable talented flirt, Kenneth, resentful and betrayed.
What was always in the background was collage, their Islington apartment, apparently cramped and uncomfortable, was made more so by Kenneth’s clipping and pasting.
b. 1st January 1933
d. 9th August 1967
All in all a rather successful wall treatment.
(Although it does remind me of my barbershop, plastered with clippings of hot boys and girls. )
I have known of Halliwell’s passion for collage, but not seen examples of it. I thought it time to remedy that.
Thank God for Google.
b.23rd June 1926
d.9th August 1967
Untitled, date unknown.
I must say I have little to comment on. The work seems competently constructed, the first handsome with an underlying Cubist aesthetic. The second reminds me of a lot of 60’s graphic art, clipping and pulling across cultures and time. I don’t particularly like it, but I want to . My heart goes out to Halliwell, he was crushed. Orton handsome, young, charming, and deeply talented. Halliwell, older, not respected, perhaps without any true talent, clipping furiously in their dreary little apartment. Such a sad ,sad mess ultimately ending in a bloody horror.
For that reason alone I would like to admire his work.
If perhaps Orton’s society crowd was a bit warmer, a little less snubbing a lot less bitchy ; if Halliwells work was given a chance, perhaps, just perhaps, that hammer wouldn’t have struck Joe’s head eight awful times. I don’t know, I do know that empathy works wonders.
Early in their relationship Orton and Halliwell went on an artistic rampage, stealing and defacing books from the Islington library. Their creative antics landed them in jail for “theft and defacement”. Seems a bit harsh, a fine would have seemed sufficient.
The following images are examples of this early collaborative work. Perhaps it was a happier time for their relationship. The images are amusing.
love the kitty
Image above sourced from the always wonderful Feuliton.