A clowder of lolcats

If a Lolcat is ‘an image combining a photograph of a cat with text intended to contribute humour,’ then LOLCAT: Teh Exhibishun at The Framers Gallery is what happens when a consciously crude internet phenomenon is translated by the smooth tongues of graphic design.

Murray Somerville, 'Butr Kitteh'
Murray Somerville, ‘Butr Kitteh’

The exhibition, in aid of Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, is curated by the ever-innovative Jenny Theolin of Soapbox and Sons, whose previous shows include Alien Nation: The Art of Blending In. In her next venture, she has gathered together a host of graphic designers, illustrators, photographers, animators and writers, with the aim to groom the Lolcat into ‘genuine art’.

James McKenzie-Blyth, 'Katnip Ninja'
James McKenzie-Blyth, ‘Katnip Ninja’

Highlights include Murray Somerville’s graphic tale, ‘Butr Kitteh’ (served with jam), groovy geometric interpretations by Mark Milic and Daniel Grey, and a divine ‘Memes Scarf’ by Victoria Kochowski. ‘Smallest Cat in the World’ by Manuel Archain is pure mantelpiece material, and the spiritual transcendence of ‘Morphism’ has all the zen-factor of a good 3 hours of yoga. It seems that every image is improved by the presence of a cat – a theory which, incidentally, has been tested successfully and at length by: http://fatcatart.ru/gallery-2/?lang=en.

Martin Parris, 'Morphism'
Martin Parris, ‘Morphism’

Jenny Theolin says, ‘LOLCAT – Teh Exhibishun has become more than an exhibition – it’s a social experiment, bringing this notorious internet meme into a mainstream physical environment.

‘Cats are portrayed as cute and fluffy, but independent and intelligent. They represent more than ‘man’s best friend’, and their depth is what, I feel, inspires the success of this global user-generated meme.’ 

Abi Daker and Neil Ayres, 'I See Vouz Babez'
Abi Daker and Neil Ayres, ‘I See Vouz Babez’

Other animals have been known to scurry after the shadow of the Lolcat’s international fame. Pigs in small wellington boots, rabbits in knitted bonnets, and excessively fat guinea pigs can never hope to reach the heights of the cat whose small features were first haloed by a slice of bread.

Matt Harvey 'Nyan Cat in Sydney'
Matt Harvey ‘Nyan Cat in Sydney’

My only quibble with the exhibition is the comparative lack of back-chat. In the depths of the digital cats-cradle, cat was made word. Here, they have returned to being silent, sly creatures, when we once knew them as mouthy, scatological, tyrannical self-publicists, who told us so much about our own humanity. The Lolcat has been tamed to taste; you can now gladly invite him into your home, without the fear that he might be concealing some deadly virus.

Mark Milic, 'Le Chat Noir'
Mark Milic, ‘Le Chat Noir’

The exhibition takes place from 23 January – 15 February 2013, at The Framers Gallery (Artefact Showroom), 36 Windmill Street, London W1T 2JT. For more information go to www.lolcatexhibishun.tumblr.com

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