Sunday, 30 October 2011

Q & A with Josie McCoy

Josie McCoy is an award winning painter. Most of her portraits are of well known faces from off the telly. She says her work aims to "explore ideas of desire, reality, identity and art’s relationship to popular culture imagery." You can find out more by visiting

I asked her a few questions about her recent activities...

The Rebel: How much of your life is taken up with painting? Do you relate to Tracey Emin's "I Need Art Like I Need A God"?
Josie: "Nearly all of my life is taken up with painting, and if not doing it, then thinking about it."

Who were your art heroes when you were growing up and which contemporary artists do you rate now?
"I loved the impressionists when I was young, especially Degas and Cezanne. I also loved Vermeer.
I like a lot of contemporary artists, and particularly rate Michael Borremans, Ken Currie, Marlene Dumas, Jenny Saville, James Reilly and Gerhart Richter."

How easy was it to do your self portrait / was it something you enjoyed doing or was it just hard work?
"It was quite an eerie experience to paint the self portrait. It is 15 x 15cm , linen on MDF panel. It was only after I started it that I realised it was life size. I was documenting it on a plinth in the studio and actually felt beheaded! I have only worked on linen a few times, so it was a bit of a struggle to paint as I´m so familiar with working on sized cotton duck, and I had a to adapt the layering to allow for the smooth surface of the primed linen."

What can you tell me about Johnny Depp? Have his good looks and charm captured your foolish heart?
"Ah yes, he has my heart. But it´s painting his glasses that I´m enchanted by."

Have you been recession hit? Are you suffering in this current financial climate or are you like the proverbial cat with all the cream?
"The recession hit me really shockingly hard for a year and a half. I couldn´t understand what had happened! Some nice press mentions and some very nice new and previous collectors have made it all a lot better. So I haven´t got the cream, but I hope I´ve lost that panic look in my eyes."

What were the highs and lows of your art education?
"The highs definitely include my MA show at CSM, and there were some fantastic moments when I was getting to grips with paint during my BA course at Solihull. The lows don´t need to be remembered."

(Above: Winona Ryder 40cm x 40cm Oil on canvas 2002)
What art mags do you read? Are there any art critics you ave any time for?
"I´m a bit too eclectic in my tastes to say."

What's the punch line of your favourite joke?
"No tomatoes!"

(Above: "Pat Evans" from Eastenders. 135cm x 135cm 1999 oil on canvas)

What's your favourite tipple? And when was the last time you over indulged and abused your body with alcohol?
"White wine, Friday night."

What do you want out of life? Do you have a head full of dreams?
"To live happily ever after. Right now, my head is brimming full of pictures."

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Joffe & Pye at The Other Art Fair

The Rebel Magazine will be playing a small part in a special art project that will be taking place at The Other Art Fair in The Barge House on the Southbank. ("The Bargehouse is an impressive 4 Storey warehouse within the famous Oxo Tower")
"Harry & Jasper's 99p Shop" will be on four four days...

The private view is on Thursday the 24th November (5pm till 9pm)
The Fair is then open again on Friday the 25th (11am - 7.30pm), Saturday the 26th (11am - 6pm) and Sunday the 27th (11am - 6pm).

The idea behind the project is that no matter how broke and recession hit you are there's still a chance you can become an art collector. Harry Pye and Jasper Joffe are making 99 artworks that are in editions of 99 and will be available for 99p. So even if you're down to your last pound coin you will be able to buy an art work (and even get a penny change).

(Above Jasper and Harry photographed by Aleksandra Wojcik)

Joffe & Pye have been busy making collages, prints, photos, sculptures. All sorts of things will be available (masks, medals, shuttlecocks etc)- they've even produced blood, sweat and tears for this show all of which will be available to buy for just 99p. There will also be a special 99p issue of The Rebel (in a limited edition of 99 obviously)

Cass Arts ( are sponsoring the project. Jasper & Harry are also getting a lot of support from photographer Aleksandra Wojcik. More info about The Other Art Fair will follow shortly in the mean time feast your eyes on some of Aleksandra's photos of Harry in his kitchen learning how to make "99p Harry Face biscuits" and "99p Joffebread men".

Find out more about Aleksandra Wojcik here:
Find out more about Jasper Joffe by going here:

Monday, 10 October 2011

Q & A with Christopher Owen

I've been a fan of artist Christopher Owen for many years now and was delighted he answered a few questions for me.

The Rebel: You've lived in St Leonards on Sea for a while now. What do you most like about it? Is it a good place to be an artist in?
Chris: "You have asked me this before, but I cannot remember my answer? Well, my answer now would be yes. There has always been a number artists who have lived here, for instance Laetitia Yhap, who is a wonderful painter. But to go back to your question; the property here is cheap, there are lots of affordable studio space, plus in terms of transport it is good, easy to get to eurostar, London and Gatwick."

"We've Plumbed This Whole Neighbourhood" is an interesting title for a show - where did the idea come from?
"It's a corruption of a title of an old 'Nurse with wound' track. I liked it, it suggests the way in which art can have a rhizomic effect; on the economy, the environment etc."

When your work is in an exhibition do you feel naked and vulnerable or do you feel proud and powerful?

Do you think if most artists were just given lots of hugs and cuddles they'd make less work?
"Yes, I don't know how it impacts on their work though. Need to be loved is strong."

Do you like the way Manet painted lemons and things like that?
"I love Manet, but can't recall any lemons. Tangerines, but not lemons. I love 'Vase of Peonies' which is in the Musee d'orsay."

What are your favourite things?
"Dachshunds, old t shirts, sunlight and early Roxy Music."

Are you ambitious? Do you want prizes and awards and for the world to know your name?
'Ambition is ugly in anyone over thirty' Julie Burchill

Do you believe everybody is good at something?
"Yes, I do. Everyone has potential, sadly the way education in this country is going this is going to be harder to realise."

Who are your favourite politicians?
"I love George Osborn - he exists to prove that the Tories are still elitists who feel there is one rule for them and another for the poor."

What is the purpose of art and what role do artists play?
"I have an answer for that - one that will get me in to trouble. Don't let daylight in on magic."

A man can do things so terrible that his own parents will refuse to talk to him and yet Jesus Christ will still love him, will forgive him and will believe that he can his change his ways. What say you?

"I think some people feel the aim is to be 'christ like', when rather it is a journey, to learn from him. I find it very interesting, forgiveness is very difficult, and I wonder how I would feel if someone I loved was killed."
Who are your favourite film directors?
"David Cronenberg, though the last film I saw at the cinema was 'Rise of the planet of the apes', I really enjoyed it."

What's your favourite kind of soup?
"I like soup. A chinese soup with dumplings, or pea and mint."
Do you sleep well at nights?
"On the whole yes. The key is to have a very plain uncluttered bedroom."
What next for Christopher Owen? What art things would you like to do next?
"I would like to paint outside, in Paris. I would also like to design the label for an expensive bottle of olive oil."

We've Plumbed This Whole Neighbourhood
Christopher Owen | Tamara Van San

LIDO is pleased to announce We’ve Plumbed This Whole Neighbourhood, an exhibition of new works by Christopher Owen andTamara Van San. In a culture that tends to privilege the visual over other senses, whilst insidiously championing watching over seeing, it is common for the eye to be allowed to skip lightly across the surface of things, content to quickly pick-up linguistic or associative clues from which to form a succession of sufficient meanings. In adaptive evolution this ability to quickly assess and judge situations of threat or opportunity is a cognitive triumph. The casualty of this tendency toward high-speed looking is the delight to be found in sustained, questioning scrutiny. Using a palette, both verbal and material, that belongs very much to the high-speed contemporary high street, Owen and Van San are nonetheless each able to delay the transmission of superficial meaning for long enough, and with enough verve, to allow the viewer to look afresh at the works before them, and to find within these works new networks of meaning that privilege the eye but work in concert with the mind.

In Owen’s Untitled (2011), a four-part drawing of modest means, two ultramarine blue buildings sit among a scattering of shrubs and a single red palm tree. The ease and speed by which this arrangement is read as a landscape however, is almost as quickly undermined. The formal specificities of its constituent parts – the hard-ruled edge of the blue square against its densely worked centre, the giddy, wavering red line that delineates an area of white paper within from a greater white space beyond – abruptly denies the cognitive short-cut which initially offered such an limited semiotic interpretation.

Van San’s sculpture, made specifically for LIDO’s gallery space and for the beach front outside, does not toy with linguistic or pictorial systems, but its heightened colour and catholic materiality serve to delay the work from quietly retiring to the territory of pure form. However, with time, it is form that emerges as the primary force in these sculptures. Allowing the works to resolve themselves through the process of their own making, and at all times keeping the tendency toward decentred chaos at bay, Van San arranges coloured forms in space that attain an harmonic, if temporary, order - an order that suppresses its constituent materiality’s potential to upstage the whole.

Both artists achieve a formal sophistication in their work without recourse to dry or well rehearsed technique. Instead, by sailing close to the wind in their embrace of the language and material of the everyday, they are able to transform the familiar, revealing a space of visual delight and complexity that exists beneath the semiotically vociferous surface.

Christopher Owen lives and works in St. Leonards-on-Sea.
Tamara Van San lives and works in Appelterre, Belgium.

Exhibition opens Saturday 8th October, 6-8pm
Exhibition continues 9th - 30th October 2011
Saturdays & Sundays 12 - 5pm

LIDO at Electro Studios, Seaside Road, St. Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex TN38 0AL

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

A bit of a chat with Keith Levene

Keith Levene is an exceptionally good guitarist who helped make some great records. He was an original member of The Clash and co-wrote “What’s My Name” but he is of course best known for forming P.I.L with John Lydon and Jah Wobble. I asked him if I could do an interview with him via e-mail and he said “No. Filling in forms isn’t exactly punk rock is it?” But he seemed happy enough to have a chat on the phone. When we finished the conversation I asked him if he wanted to proof read my attempts at transcribing the conversationbut he said: “I’m not bothered mate – just put it out.” So I have. This is my version of what we discussed around about 11.30 am on Tuesday the 4th of October...

Me: I was looking at various clips of you on You Tube. I really liked watching you play acoustic guitar on a very recent track called Mind Chaos. Another one I was into was called Violent Opposition from 1989. What can you tell me about that one?
Keith Levene: “I was in L.A doing soundtrack work... I was asked to record for Ryko who just ripped me off. It was exhausting to do, I got no money. It was fucking awful. But I did record some great tunes. There’s a lot of pretty wicked stuff (from that period some of which still hasn’t come out) – a lot of it isn’t concrete – they’re not out takes they’re more like proposals I guess.”
It’s sad how many musicians still get ripped off. Are you still wide eyed? I saw a documentary about Chuck Berry once. He said he got ripped off on his first contract he signed and so he became mean. He said he wasn’t going to get bit by the same dog twice.”
“I think Chuck Berry was always mean.”
Do you have a manager or someone looking out for you?
“I’ve got Jah Wobble looking out for anything to do with P.I.L. John (Lydon) did some immense work and there’s no taking that away from him. But sometimes it’s like there’s another guy who lives inside of him....”

In ten days or so there’s a new CD that features both you and Jah Wobble playing together for the first time in many years. I read a press release in which Wobble is quoted as saying that he’d been searching for a charismatic front person and lyricist for about 20 years and that he was overwhelmed when he met Julie Campbell and read her poetry. What was your first impression of her?
“I didn’t know of her work before he told me about her. When I met her she was shy but cool. I think we’d agreed to do two or three tracks originally but very quickly there was an album’s worth of material. We did a video and I met her again – I liked her. Jah Wobble’s got a great eye when it comes to discovering new worthwhile things. He’s always searching and trying to find the shit. There’s a lot that he can get his head around. I’ve got only good things to say about Julie Campbell.”
Jah Wobble said of you: “No one has ever come close to Levene in terms of playing the non-square, non-bourgeoisie, harmonically hip ‘guitar wash’ a la ‘Poptones’.”
“The music of P.I.L is me and Jah Wobble.”
Have you read the book “Rip It Up And Start Again” by Simon Reynolds?
“No. There are a lot of books I haven’t read, a lot of records I don’t own. I was on the cover of NME once – I saw a photo of it but I don’t own a copy of it. I don’t know... do you know the first time I ever met Bernie Rhodes I was about 17 and the first thing he ever said was: “Stop reading the music press.” I did read something Simon wrote a review that I read once and it was 100 % bang on but to be honest I’m wary of reading about punk by people who weren’t there. I suspect Simon was too young. How old do you think he is?”

I'd guess about 45 maybe - I'm not sure. I remember him writing for Melody Maker in the late 80s - he must have been at least 20 then. Do you think that between the Post Punk years of 1978 to 1984 there were more mischievous, intelligent and creative people making music than there are now?

"Oh yeah. I’m not impressed with most 30 to 45 year olds but I think there’s a lot of interesting stuff from the 15 to 25 year olds. There’s something in the air at the moment just as there was in the late 70s. The Sex Pistols were a great “Fuck You” band. And I liked the fact that (with punk it didn’t matter that) you could look like Adam Ant or you could look like Rat Scabies. But, from my point of view (post punk bands like) P.I.L were more about the music...”

In “Rip It Up” there’s a bit where it says both you and John Lydon weren’t that into touring. You’re quoted as saying you’d rather make a video than do a 30 date tour...
“It’s not that I don’t like to tour – I like playing live. We were punks. We didn’t want to have jobs. We didn’t want to be people who worked nine to five in jobs we hated. Not everyone knows how crushing constant touring can be. Music means so much to people. It should be expression, it should be creative... and you need to have the courage to fail, you need to find out what you don’t want. When you do a 30 date tour it all goes wrong because suddenly you’ve got your record deal, you’ve got your tour, you’ve got your drug habit and if you’re not very careful you turn into Elton John.”
What’s life like for you these days? Are you a rich man? Are you a happy man, an angry man?
“I’m fucking angry about everything – I always was. When I started school at 11 I got told I was anti social.”
And are you a rich man?
“I’m rich because I live my life how I want and do what I want to do. I don’t compromise. I’m nearly dead but I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

The release date of Psychic Life by Wobble & Campbell (featuring Mr Levene) is the 14th November. For more info:

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Q & A with L. Vaughan Spencer

"Don't Be Needy Be succeedy" are the wise words or self help guru L. Vaughan Spencer. The Rebel magazine were lucky to get him to find the time to answer a few questions...

The Rebel: Do you ever wake up feeling bored?
L.Vaughan Spencer: "Never. Success is just waiting to be grabbed!"

What makes you want to get out of bed?
"All those people who need my help. And my morning exercise routine."

What items do you never leave the house without?
"My pony tail."

What's your favourite part of London (North or south?)
"North, of course! Luton to be precise - home of London Luton Airport. Just one corner of the Succeeder Triangle (Luton - Watford - Stevenage) - our answer to Silicon Valley."

What music gets you on the dance floor?
"Billy Ocean."

Do you agree with Oprah Winfrey that people ask too much from relationships? She says your girlfriend or boyfriend should be like the cherry on top and that you should be responisble for 95% of your happiness.
"I don't eat cherries. But I have had two very successful marriages so far."

Have you been in love, have you been hurt?
"Oh yeah. But I am the Wounded Healer."

Is it wrong to hate?
"I only hate failure."

Do woman really go crazy for a sharp dressed man or is that just a myth?
"Depends if his colours are right. I am an Autumn person, hence wear Autumn colours."

Some people believe that you are what you eat - do you eat healthy, nutricious food?
"Yes, I follow the Alphabet Diet - only eat food that begins with the same letter as your name."

Is Uri Geller a good man or a bad man?
"The best."

"Every cloud has a silver lining but every lining is on a cloud". What say you?
"Have you seen the lining of my jacket? It's fantastic."

What do you love most about the life you lead?
"You - I mean the people whose lives I have changed. I hope to see lots of you on October 11 in Leeds and October 17 in London!"

(Neil Mullarkey's alter ego L. Vaughan Spencer brings his show to Leeds on 11 October and London on 17 October

"The the laughs cascade. Eerily life-enhancing comedy." LONDON EVENING STANDARD
"Superb pastiche; it's Borat meets The Office." SUNDAY TIMES)
For more info: