Happy Eater was a family roadside restaurant chain, ubiquitous in the 1980’s with its 75 diners around the UK. All-Day Breakfast, Scampi and Chips, Knickerbocker Glory and Fizzy Drinks. One could simply drive up, enjoy and then well fed, drive home. For all intents and purposes, Happy Eater offered no difference in standard edible fair than Little Chef. Despite being gobbled up by its said rival in 1993, Happy Eater is still remembered, principally for its distinct logo - a simple visual representation of a happy rounded face in profile, finger pointing expectantly into an open gaping mouth, a single eye fixing you in a jolly stare, as if to say – “We put food here! We make you happy
Herman Makkink made sculpture for over 50 years until his death in 2013, aged 76. Makkink’s sculptures were funny, figurative, physically self-conscious, a bit odd, and surreal, like Rocking Machine
(1970), the large white glossy wobbly phallus that was used as a symbolically comic murder weapon in Stanley Kubrick’s cult film A Clockwork Orange
(1971) or Antipodes
(1999), a pair of thick, cumbersome clay figures each holding aloft a singular leg and oversized foot.
Herman Makkink made sculptures for over 50 years in his adoptive home of England. He lived on and off between the UK and Holland throughout his artistic life. While here he undoubtedly experienced Happy Eater’s ubiquity. Maybe he ate there. Picture Herman enjoying a Lasagna, garlic bread, some salad. The logo must have appealed, for strangely he remembered it, drew it and included its happy demeanour in a work on paper nearly 10 years after Happy Eater had ceased to be. Herman’s Happy Eater is framed by Aztec characters and symbols, and four black contorted figure like blobs, it stares back at us like some ancient esoteric glyph.
Except Herman’s Happy Eater might be saying something else, something more than just a satisfaction of want. Coloured green and orally fixated, its stubby finger pointing to gaping Pac-Man mouth, a knowing glint in its singular eye… it might well be saying “inside here, this way, through your mouth into that hollow vessel you call your body. That body your restless wandering mind is trapped in.”
To mark the opening of TACO!, Happy Eater brings together Beth Collar, Benedict Drew and James Prevett for a sit down in a roadside diner with Herman Makkink and a selection of his works on paper. It’s an odd, comic, and sometimes philosophical conversation over Ice Cream Sundaes about things they have in common, and things that are present. An exchange about interiority, consciousness, physicality, the body, pathos and humour. There are big toes, floating heads and jawbones. They might talk a little about sculpture too. And when it’s over we’ll drive home well fed.