Mel Gibson, a man of many talents and perhaps even more troubles. Heroic lead on stage or crazed religious nut off it, here’s a person who certainly knows how to divide critical opinion through his personality of blaring contradictions. So what better contemporary icon to have as the centrepiece for an artistic exhibition? Gibson is certainly a character who generates debate as both saint and a sinner, a type of Jekyll and Hyde character who mystifies our reactions to him through his vigour and equal vulgarity. It was this endearing mystery surrounding Gibson which lured illustrators Aidan Saunders and Geoff Coupland to organize an exhibition in his honour, calling upon 40 internationally renowned illustrators through a Kickstarter project to help chronicle the cataclysmic life and times of the inferno himself that is Mel Gibson.
The exhibition staged in the cosy confines of Munro House features 27 different artworks depicting differing elements of Gibson’s lengthy filmography and diverse personality. With the artworks all freely contributed there was a real variety of talent on display, whilst the Kickstarter campaign managed to raise enough funds for a book of the show which detailed all the work and contained extra musings on Gibson’s conflicted impact on contemporary culture. Working chronologically through his acting career, the exhibition spanned fluidly and often comically Gibson’s diverse acting career, moving from triumphant blockbusters like Mad Max and Braveheart in his heyday to his current output, including rather tragically less memorable titles such as Machete Kills and his alcoholic run in with the law in 2006 amongst others.
When Gibson’s star first shot onto the scene in the early 80’s, he was touted as being one of the greatest actors on the planet, landing him a bunch of heroic leading roles which were performed with considerable aplomb. His skills in acting eventually landed him his own directing roles, such as Braveheart and Apocalypto or the violently graphic The Passion which all won him a number of awards and helped to secure his place in Hollywood’s list of accomplished professionals. So where did it all go wrong for Gibson? Following his split from his wife in 2006, he was caught drink driving which produced a vicious anti-Semitic tirade by the actor, whilst his ultra-conservatism has been known to manifest itself in other outbursts where he revealed his controversial attitudes towards homosexuality and racism.
This public fall of one of Hollywood’s most cherished assets is what captivated so much of the work on show, as the glories and pathos he has come to embody perhaps denotes the superficiality of modern day icons when forced under the limelight. He has proven to be both box office sweetheart and narcissistic crackpot at different times, as Gibson’s shifting personality has made him a figurehead of artistic inspiration as evidenced by the diverse set of illustrations on offer at the exhibition in honour of his name. Perhaps it is this volatility which makes him such a presence both on and off stage, as the exhibition offers an engaging yet equally light-hearted treatment of Gibson’s contorted personality who will surely continue to mystify and inspire our reactions to him long into the future.
Image: Warner Bros. Pictures