Discover the Dark Side of Roald Dahl
Roald Dahl, the brilliant and worldwide acclaimed author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, Matilda and many more classics for children, also wrote scores of short stories for adults. These delightfully disturbing tales present a side of Dahl that few have seen before. Now the books have been re-collected for the first time since their original publication; Fear, Innocence, Trickery and War depict some of Dahl’s most sinister tales focussing on aspects of the human condition that he found most fascinating. These new editions, complete with stunningly thought-provoking illustrations, courtesy of renowned artist Charming Baker, reveal even more about the darker side of human nature. The four new titles join four others published last year: Cruelty, Deception, Madness and Lust.
Charming Baker has had a string of international sell-out shows. His fans include Damien Hirst, British collector Frank Cohen, gallerist Harry Blain and New York dealer Alberto Mugrabi. His juxtaposition of nostalgia with sex and death is grown-up and playful. His work, simultaneously beautiful and intentionally bothersome, has been described as ‘a kind of romantic melancholy that is very British. And sometimes the melancholy turns out to have sharp claws. The pictures make you sit up and examine your conscience.’ These sensibilities could equally be describing Roald Dahl’s approach to his domestically dark adult short stories, making Charming and Roald Dahl the perfect collaborators for these new collections.
Below, exclusively for Foyles, Charming talks about the profound influence Dahl had on him as a child, how he came to work on the new covers and the unexpected connection he found between his art and Dahl's writing. Plus scroll down for details of how to win a set of books and a print.
Like most children growing up in the seventies, I was very familiar with, and loved Dahl’s children’s stories. Later I was introduced to his adult shorts from watching Tales of the Unexpected on TV. I have a memory of always watching them on my own and being absolutely terrified of where they might lead me. Looking back now, I know that I could have walked away at any time, but I remember the feeling of being compelled to stay to the bitter (and sweet) end. I perversely enjoyed being emotionally taken over a humpback bridge too fast, waiting for the familiar twist in the story I knew was coming. I knew I was going to be shocked, and I loved the ride. In reality I’m sure I wasn't always alone, maybe that’s just how I felt when I watched them. I was an overly sensitive young soul.
When I had children of my own, like most parents I read them the same Dahl children’s stories from my childhood and realised they were written just as much for the adults. I saw them in a new light and I loved them all over again. I also saw similarities between the adult and children’s stories.
In 2016 John Hamilton at Penguin called me to say the Roald Dahl Estate was interested in my work for a set of books. To say I was thrilled to be asked is an understatement. I’d known John on and off for more than twenty years, he’d commissioned me many times while I was a commercial artist. I was briefed on the themes for the books (Cruelty, Madness, Lust and Deception) but I told John I couldn't promise anything. I was concerned that I wouldn't do them justice, and I didn't want to just illustrate the covers. I sat on the project for a week stressing about images, ideas, a tight deadline, and then I decided to look through my own back catalogue of work.
Looking at some of my paintings it seemed obvious. There was cruelty and madness, lust and deception inherently in the work. Some of the book themes just seemed to marry up with my pictures instantly. I sent my thoughts to John with a few picture options and everyone seemed happy. This year I’ve been asked to find images for another four books, Fear, Innocence, Trickery and War, and once again, I am completely thrilled to be a part of the project.
I’ve often thought about Dahl’s work, how he never shies from human nature in all its forms, good or bad. How he accepts flaws and faults and turns them into something he can use to amuse and surprise us. These are the sorts of ideas I’m interested in when I paint. I like a narrative, I love a good story, I long for a twist. I also like the idea that you leave room for people’s idiosyncrasies, their strange ways and dark thoughts, which are part of us all. When I think about it, maybe much of my work has come as a direct result of growing up under the influence of Dahl’s stories. I had never put these ideas about Roald Dahl’s work and how it might have influenced me, together in any concrete way before, but seeing the marriage of words and pictures, maybe I have more to thank him for than just a lifetime of being wonderfully entertained.
Find Charming's website at: http://charmingbakerstudio.com/
* Log-in or sign up to Foyalty for a chance to win a bundle of Roald Dahl books containing Fear, Innocence, Trickery and War, plus an A3 artwork print of the cover of your choice.