English judges are less inclined to allow cameras, recording devices and other newfangled distractions into courtrooms than their American counterparts. This point was highlighted in recent days by Justice Ousley's unprecedented decision to temporarily allow reporters to hammer away on Twitter as Julian Assange's bail case was heard.
But at no point did he let photographers into the courtroom, leaving the work of producing visual reportage to sketch artists. Working under enormous pressure to produce professional results quickly, courtroom artists are the field surgeons of the art world, able to work miracles in bare minutes. And yet the results are often, it must be said … odd. So far three such sketches of Mr. Assange are extant.
Elizabeth Cook's Assange is perhaps the best-drawn of the set, though, curiously, also the most unconvincing. But it also the one offering the most psychological depth: Cook's Assange is melancholy, his shoulders heavy, represented behind bars and flanked by police. The composition, which echoes Bacon's screaming popes, has the Wikileaks founder gazing morosely off into the distance as the judge addresses him. Or he at least appears to be, as Cook has drawn Assange wall-eyed.
Betrayed by the artist's inner compulsion to master the nature he or she should accept as master, the BBC's Assange is more ruggedly handsome than the real one. This is Captain Assange of the Starship Wikileaks. This is how future generations will idealize the distant memory of Lord Protector Alan Sugar. The composition would be improved by having him grasping a bar with one hand, and perhaps thumping the dock with the other.
This Assange is an anime supervillain.
Seen any other dubious courtroom sketches?