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APU150
Paul Murphy

3 April - 2 May 2004
Private View Friday 2 April 6-9pm

A joke with another artist at a private view about there being too many white faces on the walls of London’s art galleries becomes the motivation: to show 150 drawings of Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, the manager of the Kwik-E-Mart in ‘The Simpsons’. But this isn’t a joke and with each drawing the artist becomes more deeply involved, finding new twists.
Apu150 is 150 ticks in the ‘Any Other Asian Background’ box on an ethnic monitoring form or the identically faced hordes of foreigners in a ‘Daily Mail’ scare story, setting out to obliterate the dominant culture by duplication and reproduction, a veritable army of grinning Apus. But it’s also about the act of repetition in art, the artist constantly working in the gap between the real and the representation, going over the ground again and again with the compulsion of the obsessive.
The drawings are all based on a mass-produced plastic Burger King figure of Apu given away in its millions with Burger King Children’s Meals. They incorporate a variety of found, recycled, discarded and reclaimed media: paint tester pots, biros from bookies, boards from skips, donated pieces of wood and Tippex from the stationery cupboard at work. The palette of much of the work is based on the colours often used to describe (and categorise and separate) skin colours (‘black’, ‘white’, ‘yellow’, ‘brown’ and so on) but in their garishness bear no relationship to what a piece of skin might actually look like.
The drawings start off simply, a few outlines, a moustache and a quiff are enough to define the character, but from this opening, the series progresses and an angry, darker, brooding, more malevolent Apu emerges, one more complex and unable to simply disappear into the background of the culture in which he finds himself.