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Harry Hill decodes his ‘Tarrant’ art

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You’ll know Harry Hill as a master comedian, presenter and wearer of oversized collars, but were you aware he also dabbles in art? As you can see by his latest piece, ‘Tarrant’ (pictured above), his work is just as surreal and amusing as his punchlines.

As his first solo exhibition, ‘My Hobby’, opens at the Edinburgh Art Festival, we asked which he found more satisfying – crafting a joke or finishing a painting. His answer? “I like the satisfaction of crafting a joke. I also like the satisfaction of finishing a painting. But which do I like more? There’s only one way to find out…” Here, he explains the unorthodox thinking behind ‘Tarrant’.

1. “This Chris Tarrant piece is part of a series of three. They represent the rise and fall of man in the age of mass media. They’re all painted on bits of wood I found in skips. Tarrant is naked because this is him in his purest state. The cards hold all the answers to Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?. I could ask Tarrant to pose for the next one, but I make all my paintings on the kitchen table and I’m not sure he’d sit on the cooker.”

2. “The fly beard, hat and pants are homages to fairground entertainment. They’re like [Damien Hirst’s piece] ‘A Thousand Years’, but you can wear them.”

3. “The UFO is there in case you need to phone a friend. The sharks are a reflection of the trepidation of quiz show contestants. The bidet is a personal hygiene device.”

4. “Hugo Chavez represents a political ideology as seen from our Western perspective. He adds context to the image. It’s a seascape, and Venezuela is famous for its beaches. I can’t think why I haven’t been there.”

5. “The polar bear is a reminder of the impending ecological crisis of which we’re all too painfully aware. I like to think of my art as continuing in the tradition of court portraiture mixed with the apocalyptic visions of Hieronymus Bosch, with a touch of folk art thrown in.”

‘My Hobby’ is at Edinburgh Art Festival until 2 September; edinburghartfestival.com

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