Monday 24 January 2011

Q & A with Peter Davies

Peter Davies is an excellent artist represented by The Approach gallery. You can find out more about him by visiting here:

The Rebel: Do you have a favourite British film director?
Peter: "Thats a tricky question for me, I feel a bit ill informed about British Film Directors, I have lots of British films I like, often just for a while. I like all the obvious stuff like The Wicker Man, Don't look Now - I like some of Nicholas Roeg's films, but I'm not really a big Nicholas Roeg fan- David Lean, Danny Boyle, Ken Russell, I love Derek Jarman, had a Peter Greenaway moment back in the day. I also like corny stuff like Richard Curtis related films, and Paul Greengrass type action films, and Ridley Scott, I liked Sophie Fiennes film about Anselm Kiefer, that was really funny (for the wrong reasons). I like early Stephen Frears- My Beautiful Launderette etc. But none of these people are my favourite film makers, I like non British ones more, like Herzog and Fassbinder and the Coens etc the usual arty cliche stuff. I also really like Peter Brook, but he's really a theatre director etc although he made Lord of the Flies and various others."

Has Mike Leigh, Ken Loach or Alan Clarke ever made a film which made much of an impact on you?

"I have enjoyed some Mike Leigh films, especially High Hopes, and more recently Happy Go Lucky, but generally he depresses me, but possibly not as much as Ken Loach, I like what he stands for but I find his films a downer, although i really like Riff-Raff and Kes. Alan Clarke I've never been so interested in although Scum was amazing as was Made In Britain and they stand as benchmarks."

Of all your fellow students and tutors which one person sticks out when you think of your college days?

"That's hard, I was lucky to be taught by many interesting people, and having done some teaching I realise how demanding it is, and how little the students realise it takes out of you. There were some pretty ridiculous people who were fellow students, but that was fun. There was this Australian girl on my MA who was doing really bad sub Bill Viola rip offs, I said her work reminded me of Bill Viola, she was furious, I went from sort of "best friend status" to sworn enemy over night. When it got to my crit some months later, she was just yelling repeatedly that my work was just like "Lander" i was like, who the fuck is she talking about, (does she mean Linder - who we didn't know back then? Or Land Art?). In fact it was Sean Landers, it kind of stung, but I thought at least he's trendy (circa 1994) whereas Bill Viola is a total twat. And maybe she hit the nail on the head."

How powerful are paintings?
"I don't think paintings are powerful. But I think art is the most important manifestation of a the level of sophistication a culture has arrived at."

Can a painting turn an angry man into a happy man?
"Yes, it does me, I'm pretty angry, but making paintings, and looking at art makes me happy (kind of!)"
(Above image:"The Top One Hundred 11.02.10" 2010)

Fran Lebowitz once observed "Polite conversation is no conversation". What say you?

"That's rubbish. I mean Fran Lebowitz rocks, but I think the ability to make conversation is quite a talent, some people just can't. It's so nuanced. I think its good to be friendly, and making any conversation is a step towards that, and it might just have to be polite. I like charm as well. A lot of the artworld clearly disagree with this!"

The late Alex Chilton named one of his last albums, "Cheap Shoes and Tight Pussy". The record company later re-released the album under the title: "Set".
Which title do you prefer?
"The first one obviously, but then he'd already used up the title "Cliches" for a previous album (Wiki wiki")

As a child did you have all the Star Wars figures?
"I had none, but my brother had quite a lot"
(above image: "The Epoch Of Perpetual Happiness" 2009)

What painting are you currently working on and how is it going?
"I'm working on a painting called "The Dream Of The Blue Turtles or Tantric Painting For Beginners" it's going extremely slowly, as in I started it in mid October and I'm not yet half way through it. But its meant to send up the notion that laborious =Meditative=tantric. It doesn't."

If you look at all the artists in the Sensation catalogue - what percentage of them would you say were good artists?
"That's so subjective and relates to the question 3 below this one . It would be interesting to see that show now and think about what it looks like. There would be quite a few "where are they now" moments, but also a realisation of how like ancient history that show has become. It was part of a specific moment and period, but the things that have happened since in art are infinite and incredible. I was really tagged on the end of that group, it was amazingly exciting for me to be in it, and a great boost for my career, but I wasn't really part of that generation, I was really an ambulance chaser. And when i was at college, we thought the YBA's were shit, and wanted to react against them and make US slacker work and liked Richard Prince, Mike Kelley, Karen Kilimnick, Bruce Naman, Paul McCarthy, Christopher Wool et al. Then I was in a Sensation with some of the YBAs, most of them were really unfriendly and up themselves apart from a few. Anyway, at this moment in time I think Peter Doig is more exciting than any of them, and he wasn't in that show"

Is Jake Miller a good man and do the people at The Approach treat you well?
"Jake Miller is a great man and all the people at the Approach are lovely."

If the weather was nice... Would you rather go for a walk round Bethnal Green or a walk round Camberwell?
Bethnal Green. I like all those Taxi re-spray places. When I lived in Camberwell they discovered bodies buried in the garden of a house a few doors down, it slightly marred my appreciation of the area.

Who was the most overrated artist of the 20th Century and who was the most under rated?
"Thats too hard, I like how we keep re-assessing people. Like John Stezaker and Phyllida Barlow. I like how Paul McCarthy wasn't always the super star he is now. I like how we now love Iza Gensken and Maurizio Cattelan, when we didn't back "then". I'm interested in how things change and advance and we look at things differently. Rudolf Stingel, Steven Parrino, Alina Szapocznikow, Marc Camille Chaimowicz, Charlotte Posenenske, General Idea, Dorothy Iannone, they were all overlooked for too long. Who will we next realise that we ignored and undervalued, perhaps- Victor Burgin, John Hilliard, Judith Goddard, Andrea Fisher etc"

(above image: "Caliban Tamil Fuckers- subliminal message series"

Is the National Gallery the best gallery in Europe?
"No. I like the Palais De Tokyo"
(Image above:."Gay For A Day (or I didn't come here to critique contemporary art, I came here to get laid)" 2010)

Are you a fan of Will Ferrell?
"Not really, I saw Anchorman and the one with Maggie Gyllenhall, he bores me. I prefer Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill and Steve Carell"

Which other painters do you talk most to about painting?
"I don't. I really don't think of myself as a painter, I don't get off on the materials. I like seeing exhibitions and looking at art but not especially painting. Recently, the thing I most liked was the Hilary Lloyd show, although I enjoyed Gauguin, much to my surprise."

Sunday 16 January 2011

Q & A with Edward Ward

(Above: Pencil on canvas drawing of the artist's mother by Edward Ward.)

The Rebel: I understand you won a prize for your drawing at school. Can you remember feeling proud about this moment?

Edward Ward: “I think I won a prize for drawing at school. I was 5 or 6 so I'm not entirely sure anymore. I remember being allowed to draw this picture while the other children did boring normal stuff so maybe I was selected by my teacher (Mrs Graves) to represent the tinies of Winterton Primary School. I don't really know. What I can tell you for definite is that my drawing, which was in full glorious colour, was shown in Great Yarmouth gallery (attached to the reference library) where anyone who so wished could view it. There is a photo of my Auntie Joan looking at it so I know I didn't dream it. The bit I found incredible, sort-of magical, was the public nature of the whole thing. My picture was taken out of the realm of the home or school and anyone could see it. I was very very proud. I was taken to see it and there it was up on the wall and it seemed somehow different, like I hadn't done it (despite the word TEDDY scrawled in the corner), it wasn't exactly mine anymore and I really liked that though I couldn't understand what was going on. The picture was of a train coming out of a tunnel and was pretty damned hot if I do say so myself. It was coloured chalks on black paper, a medium I have never returned to for some reason.”

Who were the first artists, cartoonists and illustrators that impressed or inspired you?

“The first illustrator I knew by name was William Heath Robinson and he remains my favourite book illustrator. He is famous for his crazy contraptions that I loved when I was small but his 'serious' work is stunning - a strangely homely, British kind of quality coupled to genuinely radical composition (he was a lover of Japanese art). They don't look exactly like anything before or since yet seem perfectly familiar at the same time. Plus lots of them are really funny. In terms of 'proper' art my favourite artist is Holbein. I am fascinated by those portraits of people from hundreds of years ago where you can quite imagine, if it weren't for the ridiculous haircut and crazy clothing, actually seeing this person walking down the street. Indeed I once went out with a woman who was the spitting image of Robert Campin's Portrait of a Lady (in the National Gallery) only without the wimple. Holbein's drawing of Thomas More looks just like the actor David Warner. I think that's brilliant.”

Did you have much art in your house and did your parents take you to see art exhibitions?

“Not much art in the house no. There was a sentimental print of a First World War soldier cradling the head of a dying horse though all around is battle and carnage entitled 'Goodbye, Old Man' which disturbed me greatly. Oddly though my father was (and is) an artist there was very little art mentioned or seen. Maybe he was bored with it. Same with exhibitions, I didn't really get to go to anything till I was relatively old. To be fair I did grow up in rural Norfolk so there wasn't really anything to go and see. Eventually I was taken to look at the Pre-Raphaelites when I was 11 or 12 in Birmingham City art gallery and I was amazed. I think that's the perfect age to see Victorian painting, you can admire the skill and be amazed by the scale but you don't notice the cloying sentimentality and mawkish allegories.”

Are you happier drawing people or places and things?

“Probably things. I like drawing everything but things are best. They don't move and they have a definite physical edge. You know when to stop drawing a thing.”

What are your feelings about The Turner Prize - how many turner prize nominated artists from the last ten years have you rated?
“I seem to take ever lesser interest in the Turner Prize. I suppose I am getting older and turning into the kind of person I despised who got cross when I offered them a ticket for the Turner Prize when I was employed selling tickets for the Turner Prize.”
I enjoyed the 2000 prize. Tillmans won and I've always had a lot of time for him. I liked Michael Raedecker and Glenn Brown as well. Less keen on Tomoko Takahashi, but that was just a taste issue I think. I was glad when Mark Wallinger won it but I'm not sure he needed it as such. I thought this year's was a little uninspiring. I think it's funny that Nicholas Serota was himself nominated for it. Gilbert and George won it that year but ultimately who was the real winner? Well, Gilbert and George.
When Simon Starling won someone thought I was him and started talking to me about "my" work. As this is the closest I shall ever come to actually winning it I suppose I should rate him/me too.
My general dislike of the Stuckists has remained constant though. Their proscriptive attitude to the Turner Prize over the years reminds me of the Nazi approach to "degenerate" art. Whilst I'm not suggesting that they are Nazis, their bizarre idea that only figurative painting qualifies as art is frankly offensive to the son of a printmaker. Doesn't help that their paintings are so bloody awful either. Generally I prefer paintings to most other forms of art but when someone starts saying one art form is better than another then the alarm bells start ringing. It distracts from other, more valid criticisms of the Turner Prize (which is in no way perfect) and is ultimately self-defeating. I suppose it's not so much what they say, more the manner in which they say it...

Bruce McLean once told me that he thought Sculpture meant creating an environment. Do you agree with that definition? And what is your definition of Drawing?
“I think sculpture can include the act of creating an environment but needn't invariably be defined that way. Interior design is about creating an environment, so is gardening or forestry. If you wish to define both of those activities as sculpture, which may well be appropriate, then it could be about creating an environment. But one still has the problem of say, small sculpture, that can only really exist within an environment, even though they may alter it. For example some of Giacometti's figures are small enough to fit in a handbag (handy hint art thieves!) so I would say they lack the physical presence individually to create, rather than add to, an environment. I may well be wrong though.”

How ambitious are you?
“I am not very ambitious. It requires effort and I am lazy.”
(Above: A photo of Edward Ward on a bike taken many years ago.)

Are there any things about women that you're attracted to that other men aren't (e.g moles, scars, missing fingers, dribbling)
“Good question. Not sure. I like necks but I doubt if that's just me. I've always thought that glasses improve most people's looks (unless they're awful glasses) but again I doubt if that's particularly unique to me. Besides I think it applies equally to both sexes. Maybe that's derived from the fact that I wear glasses all the time and I'm a dreadful narcissist. I think big noses are attractive too."

What are your favourite bands and singers?
“My favourite bands and singers eh? I am very keen on Bill Callahan. I like the band Midlake. He isn't a band or a singer but the work of John Fahey always makes me happy. It's weird though - Generally I can never remember who I like. A problem when walking into record shops. Dirty Three are good, they're Australian and I was introduced to them by my wife. Which was nice of her. I used to be mad for Tindersticks. I still rate them but never seem to actually listen to them anymore. Hmmm.”

Over the years which has given you more pleasure
a) the drawings of Adam Dant
b) the singing of Adam Ant

“I have yet to hear Adam Dant sing and Adam Ant keeps his drawings under lock and key. Over the years I suppose I have gained more pleasure from Adam Ant but this is only because he has always been around whereas I have been aware of the drawings of Adam Dant for only a short time. I'd say Adam Dant's drawings have given me more pleasure over the last three to five years but over the preceding thirty I'm afraid Adam Ant wins out with his catchy tunes.”

What are your top 5 best drawings so far?
“Well the train coming out of the tunnel was obviously my first Great Work. I was very pleased with that spaceship art gallery I drew for you Harry, that was by far the most complicated thing I had yet attempted and it scared me but then turned out pretty good (though the spike on the front is drooping slightly). I did this picture of my Dad on a motorcycle for an exhibition that magically combined a picture of a person AND a thing so that was good. There's that drawing of my Mum that I did for the Mothers show. I was pleased with that because allegedly it made someone cry, though whether this was due to its being offensive to the eye or starkly moving I neither know nor care to find out. One of the cartoons I did featuring the Amazing Mr Smashing has, by far, the best bum I've ever drawn in it so that is probably in there. Although I did do a birthday card with a robot kitten on it of which I am perhaps too proud. That's six really which is cheating. Leave the bum one out.”

Thursday 13 January 2011

Q & A with Horace Panter

Horace Panter is the bass player with THE SPECIALS. He is also an artist. You can find out about the work he does by clicking here:

The Rebel: Did you have much art in the house you grew up in? Were there art books on the shelf and were you taken to museums?
Horace Panter: “My Uncle Raymond was an artist and several of his paintings and drawings were displayed at home. I never met him as he was killed during the Normandy landings in July 1944. We had a portfolio of his work that I used to look at when I was younger and own today. I think his work influenced me a lot. I’m going to visit his grave in France this year.”

What was the first painting or sculpture that you remember being interested in?
“Probably something by Barnett Newman or Mark Rothko. I mean, they didn’t look like anything ... but they were great, for reasons my 15-year-old self couldn’t figure out.”

(Above:"Concord" by Barnett Newman, 1949 Oil paint and masking tape on canvas.)
What do you remember about your student days? Were you broke, was there much sex and drugs and rock and roll going on?
“I spent the first year and a half at art college not having the faintest idea what I was doing. My foundation year was very structured and the degree course I did wasn’t. If someone had said ‘Right, I want you to be an artist’ I would have got on with it. I was always waiting for someone to tell me what to do! I finally twigged. I did learn to play a bass guitar, which served me very well.”

Did you ever have a painful tutorial or group crit? Were you ever left feeling ripped apart by someone’s harsh comments on your early artworks?
“No. I learnt more by visiting my tutor’s studio in London and seeing how a ‘real’ artist did stuff. No-one ever said my work was rubbish; they just left me alone really.”

When did your interest in Henri Rousseau begin? Did you see the big Tate Modern show 4 years ago?
“Rousseau was one of the artists I used to generate work when I was an art teacher. I love the fact that he painted all those jungles despite the fact he never left Paris. I saw an exhibition of outsider art a few years ago. Rousseau was the first ‘outsider’. He was feted by Picasso and Matisse. Perhaps they just took the piss out of him.”

Do you think Peter Blake is underrated? (When I read interviews with him I get the feeling that he does).
“No I don’t think Peter Blake is underrated. I don’t think he’s overrated either. He hasn’t got the kudos of David Hockney, but there again, Hockney never designed the cover to ‘Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’! I met him (Peter Blake, not Sergeant Pepper) at a Paul McCartney gig a couple of years ago and thought he was a lovely bloke.”

So many great British bands like The Kinks, The Who, The Beatles etc went to art school. Was that part of the reason you went? Did you think it would be a good place to meet interesting characters?
“To get into a pop group, you went to Art School. This was an accepted fact of the 60’s and 70’s. I was at Northampton the same year as Bill Drummond (KLF) and at Coventry the same time as Jerry Dammers. See ... it worked”

Roddy Byers and Jerry Dammers have both said in interviews that they thought the success of The Specials was a fluke and that they had expected it to be more of an underground thing or something that would stay in Coventry etc. Can you remember thinking about getting a proper job and were your parents concerned about you when you left college?
“I’m sure my parents were concerned about me. I remember telling them I wanted to be a professional musician and my father slamming out of the room, slamming doors. ‘All that bloody money wasted’ etc., etc. He changed his tune when I was able to tell him that John Peel was playing ‘Gangsters’. When I left college I got a job on the back door of Sainsburys, unloading lorries. When The Specials were starting up, I was driving a frozen food van.”

Musicians such as Ronnie Wood, Bob Dylan and Captain Beefheart were all involved in making great records – have any of them made any great art works?
“Ain’t no way I’m going to bad mouth Bobby D. or Ronny W. They might want me to play on their next record! Holly Johnson does good stuff, as does John Squire (ex-Stone Roses guitar player). I like Paul Simenon’s work too.”

(Above: "Neferitti" A print by John Squire which is available to buy from his website:

In the recent School of Saatchi TV series it was revealed that none of the young graduates from art school had done any life drawing. Do you think it’s important to learn to draw from the model? Could you ever be a model yourself?
“I did life-drawing at Northampton; made me the man I am today, harumph! harumph! I suppose it depends on what sort of work you end up doing doesn’t it!”

Francis Bacon famously painted late at night after he’d had a few drinks. Peter Doig meanwhile likes to paint on a calm Sunday morning. When are you most likely to be in the mood for painting?
“I’m a Peter Doig kind of guy. I like to paint in the day time (natural light) and draw in the evening. I can’t paint or play when I’m pissed. Well, I can, but the results are always far from pleasing.”

Can you describe your studio / do you have music playing in the background etc?
“I work in an attic room, below a Velux window on a couple of tables I bought from Ikea. There’s a Bose i-pod dock on the table that belongs to my son ... I rarely play it.

(ABOVE: 2-Tone logo designed by Dammers & Panter)
Recently I saw a guy with a 2-Tone t-shirt. I asked him where he got it and he said a shop in Brighton were selling them for a fiver. On hearing this news do you think a) “Grrr. I designed that so I should get a cut” or b) “It’s brilliant that something I designed 3 decades ago is still being enjoyed by people”
“I still get royalties so I can’t complain. We never copyrighted the 2-tone design; too idealistic I suppose.”

Why did you start painting robots? Do you feel robots are misunderstood?
“Robots are very interesting. In Japan, they are perceived as being benevolent, helping to stamp out evil and destroying monsters, whereas, in America, robots are evil. I find it interesting the way we put morphological characteristics on machines to make them acceptable. The lines between machine and human behaviour are becoming blurred. The Japanese have invented robots that look exactly like humans, for the purposes of ... sex! They also have ones that don’t look like humans to carry out more mundane tasks, such as taking care of the elderly!! However, there is the question ‘are we all cyborgs now?’ ... constantly connected.”

(Note: There is an excellent Robot greeting card available from Horace's website: )
I love the record sleeves of Specials, More Specials and In The Studio. Out of all the sleeves The Specials had on their records do you have a favourite?
“The second Specials record is probably my favourite sleeve, but my least favourite music.”
(If you want to see all the covers of the Specials singles and find out who did what etc visit this site here:
What is art for?
“Personally, I like practical art. Icons. Propaganda posters. Voodoo imagery. Symbolism. I’m quite into pretty colours too. Nietzsche said “Life without Music would be a mistake”. I say “Life without Art would be a mistake”.”

The Story of Art by Gombrich has no mention of female artists. What say you?
“Gombrich’s ‘The Story of Art’ was first published in 1950, which was a bit early for Frida Kahlo, Georgia O’Keefe or Bridget Riley. I like Tracey Emin. Don’t think I like her work much but she’s great!!”

If, instead of money, you were paid in paintings for the Anniversary tour, which masterpieces would you now have on your wall? (or which famous paintings would you most like to own)?
“I would like Rothko’s ‘Houston Chapel’ in my back garden please.”

Which of your paintings are you most proud of?
“Red Robot Hero Serves the People Tirelessly’ ... I’ve never written Chinese before!”
What’s the best exhibition you’ve seen recently / which contemporary artists do you admire?
“I was lucky enough to see a Joseph Cornell exhibition in New York a few years ago, which made a very strong impression on me. I recently bought a book called ‘Flowers for Kim-Il Sung’, which was an exhibition in Vienna of North Korean Art. I’d recently read ‘Nothing to Envy’ by Barbara Demick, which is about North Korea, and the pictures in the exhibition had the effect of turning my stomach but in a way that Jeff Koons can only dream of. I’m really into Chinese propaganda posters at present. I like Takashi Murikami’s stuff. He has the Warhol/factory/business thing down. Nice colours too!”
(Above image by Takashi Murikami)

Wednesday 12 January 2011

Q & A with Roland Gift

The Rebel: Were you happy living in Hull?
Roland: “At first I was excited to be in Hull. Leaving Birmingham was an adventure but it was also a culture shock and I became very homesick. I used to watch Pebble Mill at One, a magazine program broadcast from the foyer of the BBC Pebble Mill studios, in the hope I might see someone I knew walking along the road outside.”

When did you first sing in public? Did you ever have singing lessons?
“I used to be in a drama group called the Hull Community Theatre Workshop; it was in that group I first sang on stage. I did have singing lessons.”

What young singers impress you? Which contemporary acts/young bands do you rate?
“I like Janelle Monae and Plan B.”

Songs by The Fine Young Cannibals like Blue and Move To Work are very easy to relate to in this current climate. Do you think the Tory/Libs are better than Mrs Thatcher and will they inspire more songs from you?
“It’s hard to say if they are better. I’m more cynical these days. I would have always said I’m natural labour voter but they seemed keen to bring in repressive measures, identity cards and laws to do with the so called war on terror, not forgetting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I can’t predict what might be an inspiration, I find it more depressing than inspiring. “

When you really made it did you go off the rails? Is it possible to be on the cover of all the magazines and get to number one etc and not go mad or be a bit of an arsehole?
“I don’t think I went mad, I was conscious of not wanting to fuck the whole thing up. David and Andy had had considerable success with the Beat and I’d been in groups before, one was the Arylykz, who toured with the Beat, we had a couple of singles out and a quarter page ad in the NME. Nothing like the success that came but being out and about helps prepare you for what’s to come. Also I’d done all my drugs when I was younger. If anything maybe I was a bit too careful.”

How did FYC go about writing songs. Do you remember the day Johnny Come Home came about? Were you presented with a demo tape of a basic tune etc?
“David and Andy would give me a cassette tape, an arrangement with beats and chords, I would come up with a melody and lyrics. Johnny started off about being black in a white mans world, but it evolved into something more inclusive and better.”

What are your current projects?
“I’m writing scripts. Story’s set in Hull and Birmingham. One of the Hull stories has a lot to do with music. I started singing in the drama group but somewhere along the way I developed the notion I should keep my music and drama careers separate. I no longer suffer that complex.”

Crushed is a great song. Are there many more of them to be released one day?
“The script I’m drafting now is home for a lot of unreleased songs.”

Who are the musicians and backing singers on Crushed? Who do you collaborate with these days?
“I wrote Crushed with Ben Barson, he also plays all the instruments on the track. Debbie Longworth and Julie Issac are the backing singers. Debbie and Julie used to be in the Mint Juleps with the Charles sisters, they were an a’capella group who played with the FYC.”

Tuesday 11 January 2011

Q & A with Peter Lamb

"Peter Lamb looks like a nice guy, painting's Jamie Oliver perhaps. In his paintings, collages, and photos, he unleashes mighty visual forces of weirdness, chaos, and desire." - Jasper Joffe.

The Rebel: Do you know much about the Lamb family tree or where your family come from?
Peter Lamb: “I know my great grandfather on my father’s side was from Sweden and my great grandparents on my mother’s side were from Germany. The Johannssens and the Hermans. The Hermans became the Harmans to sound more British when they arrived shortly after WW1.”
The Rebel: Can you sing / are you musical at all? What kind of music on what kind of instrument would you like to be able to play?
“I sing in the shower. I’m listening to Take That and Justin Bieber at the moment. Have no choice, my kids love it. I’d like to play the piano. But its my daughter whose musical. I’m taking her piano classes this evening in fact. I can live vicariously through her musical success!”
The Rebel: Can you cook? Are there any meals that are your speciality?
“Yep. I’m the chief chef in my house. I can cook most things ‘ok’ but I’m darn good at the simple ones like shepherds pie and spag bol. Simple tastes.”
The Rebel: What do you think of this quote "Painting is the only thing that still matters once it has stopped hurting". Do you agree with that?
“I think there is a place for painting in art, but as part of a wider outlook. I just think all art, including painting, needs to find a way to ‘transcend’ itself . So, although I lean towards being a painter, its not that important that that’s all I am. It’s a big world out there. I don’t really care if painting ‘hurts’.”
The Rebel: If you could curate a group show at the R.A which contemporary artists would you be likely to include?
“Oo. Well, I have my favourites at the moment. Artists like Thomas Kratz, Alistair Mackinven, Steve Claydon. Artists who seem to understand the the fact that art matters but equally doesn’t matter and how it appears to operate on those set of rules. I’m putting together a show with my friend Shane Bradford all about this. How we process work. And again how we try to transcend all the little squabbles surrounding painting and art to try to find something new and worthwhile.”

The Rebel: What's the best gallery or most fun venue you've exhibited in?

“I remember a show curated by Neal Rock called 'Grotto' at Transition gallery. The artists Hew Locke, Dave Burrows and Danny Rolph covered the walls with cardboard cut outs and I got to wedge some work in between. Not easy to get in as I remember. Most of the door was covered with card art.”

The Rebel: Did your work change when you became a Dad? -

“I nearly stopped when my second was born, Joseph. Not his fault! I just worried about the practicalities of being an artist then. All better now thanks.”

The Rebel: Does making art make you happy?
“Yes. I still go to bed at night dreaming of the next work.”

The Rebel: What was the highlight of your art education?

For more info on Peter:

Saturday 8 January 2011

Q & A with Edward Todd

(Image above: "Paraletic Feedback" painted by Edward Todd)
The Rebel: Tell us a bit about yourself - where were you born, which art schools did you go to, are any of your relatives in prison etc.
Edward Todd: "Born in Brighton, grew up a little down the coast in Newhaven. It's alright down there. I came to London about seven years ago, and finished the painting course at the Royal College in 2009. Since then I've been mostly concentrating on my studio practice but also taking stock a bit, re-appraising my work and what it's doing."

(Image above: Edward Todd attends a private view at The Sartorial Gallery in Kings Cross)

Do you get disillusioned by the art world or "London art scene"? Have you ever been to a private view and felt like smashing up the work or going home and killing yourself?
"Not really. If you aspire towards something that resembles a 'career' then being an artist can be a pretty depressing business, especially when others around you are getting recognition and you're not. It's easy to go to some shows and think 'that's totally vacuous, and some rich know-nothing has spunked money all over it while I'm left eating tesco-value peanuts and drinking £3 bottles of wine...' - but I think that's the wrong way to look at it. There are people with certain tastes that will gravitate towards a certain sort of art, it's really got nothing to do with me, and the great thing about London is that the art scene is big enough to accommodate a lot of different types of practices. That's not to say I don't get frustrated and disillusioned, I do, but mostly with myself, and often with 'art' in general, but I don't blame the London art scene, which is the best in the world in my opinion, and there is some amazing stuff being produced, and great people involved in it."

You put together an exhibition of art by security guards which got mentioned on the news. Will you be doing that again? Did you enjoy being on the news?
"I don't think so, it was fun at the time, but I don't want to repeat it. I didn't really like being on the news, I hid at the back and let one of the artists do all the talking."

What do you think of John Ryan you look down on him for being a cartoonist and look up to Peter Doig and Chris Ofili because they are painters? Or do you think Ryan is much better than those two?
"The complex layering, the subtle use of colour, and the profound political message, all mean that I would rate Captain Pugwash above those two."

(Above image: "Mermaid Drawing" by Edward Todd)

I like your abstract painting. How long did it take to do, how much love went into it and why is it called Paralytic Feedback?
"Painting the concentric rectangles took a day or two, then I stared at it for a week, then I smeared black oil paint on it. Eh, that sounds a bit .... anyway. I dunno about love, but I thought about it a lot and gave it the title because it describes a relationship with modernist abstraction which is in some way incapacitating, or represents a dead end. I don't know if that makes sense- it's kind of a piss take of what loads of artists are doing right now, but not entirely."

Why did you paint a house?
"I like to paint objects which are not only familiar, but also familiar as motifs. It lets me play about with the way the symbolic (the short hand) combines with the particular."

Do you like the idea of painting from life models? Would you like to have people posing for you in your house?
"I'm not very good at people."

Are there any books/film/records that had a big impact on you and that you hold dear?
"I love the George Orwell novel Coming up for air, it appeals to the miserable old man in me, but it's also a wonderful analysis of how we relate to a changing environment. I've probably watched the (disowned) David Lynch film Dune about a hundred times, there is something there that makes me come back to it, and I think it relates to my painting in some way."

If you could have any super power what would it be?
"I would love the ability to rewind time, because there is so much in my life that I should have done better."

What is your next painting or project going to be?
"I'm doing a version of a Turner painting, I'm not entirely sure where I'm going with it but there is something about making a doomed attempt at replicating one of the greatest painters in British history that appeals to me. I think it's to do with the learning process, about taking on something outside my range. Some of my favourite artists are like this; those where you can really see them struggling to adopt ideas and techniques which are foreign to them, and which they are not entirely comfortable with - a lot of the Camden town group for example, not so much Sickert, but lesser figures like Charles Ginner and William Ratcliff were really trying to take on board the avant-guard stuff from Paris at the time, but couldn't fully escape from their traditional English sensibilities. I don't know, I just like it, I'm hoping that I'll work out why exactly as I go along. I've got a few other things on the boil as well, some sculptural objects with fish, and for a while now I've been trying to complete an essay which describes art as a product of boredom."

Friday 7 January 2011

Q & A with Tinsel Edwards

The Rebel: Are you feeling confident about your future? Are you hopeful about things going your way in 2011?
Tinsel: “I’m definitely excited about the year ahead, and fairly confident, a little apprehensive about some things but I think that’s a good thing. I feel that I’m at an interesting stage in my work and I’m looking forward to cracking on with it. Hopeful? Yes I think so!”

How much of an influence has Stella Vine had on your work?
“I like her work but I don’t see it as a big influence, I think people make the association because we both use text in our paintings.
I discovered her work when Saatchi bought her Diana painting and it was on TV. I’d been using text in my paintings for couple of years before that, it was definitely really inspiring to see her have that big break as I recognized some similarities in my work.
I really like the simplicity and directness of her painting.”

Do you think that indifference is the worst response an artist can get?
“Yes possibly…it would be quite disheartening, but to be expected sometimes as not everyone is into art.”

Do you think it's possible to be powerful and not abuse your position?
“Yes.  I’m sure there are lots of powerful people in the world who might abuse their position but I’m sure there are also lots of caring, considerate powerful people who use their power responsibly and in active positive ways.”

Of all the projects/shows/cds/exhibitions you had a hand in over the last decade which make you proud and which make you cringe?
“I’m proud of the ‘Here Today’ exhibition that me and Twinkle Troughton curated a couple of months ago, The Punk exhibition which I co-curated with James Bradshaw.  Doing a solo exhibition in Berlin, exhibiting in a massive group show in Poland last year, selling my work to Banksy and taking part in the Santa’s Ghetto show on Oxford street, being part of the Stella Dore gallery. Launching Pushing Pussy Records and going on tours to New York with the Fairies Band. Luckily there aren’t many of the projects I’ve done which make me cringe, I do however cringe ALOT when I think about forgetting the lyrics to one of our songs when we were on a live radio programme in Philadelphia. “

 How did you meet Twinkle and how much has she influenced/inspired you?
“Twinkle and I met at primary school when we were 9 years old, over the years we have collaborated on loads of different projects together, we even started a fanzine when we were still at school.  Since then we became the Fairies with Tinky and Sparkle, formed the Fairies Band, launched a record label.  We’ve also done lots of exhibitions together, and more recently curated a group show.
We’ve just always worked quite naturally together, we bounce ideas off each other.  Twinkle has definitely been a massive inspiration, its invaluable being able to meet up and critically discuss each others work.”

Why did the Stella Dore gallery have to close? Are you still friends?
“I think it was just bad timing for Stella Dore and it’s a real shame it had to close.  After doing really well online, Steph Warren who ran it opened the gallery on Rivington street in Shoreditch, she worked really hard to create a really beautiful and interesting space.  However the recession hit soon afterwards, and it wasn’t possible to continue with it for financial reasons.”

How do you pay the bills? How broke are you?
“More broke than I’ve been in a while! When Elvi came along I left the job I was doing which had given me a good, steady income. Now I work part time, teaching private drawing and painting classes at The Art Group Studios which is brilliant but only a couple of times a week, that and selling paintings/prints every now and again keeps me afloat.”

What do you like most about Bob & Roberta Smith?
“Honesty, wit, his style of humour, the self reflection, the fact that he uses his work to voice his opinions.  I also really like it aesthetically.”

Do you think the Turner Prize has run it's course and no one seems interested anymore?
“I have to admit that I haven’t paid much attention to it in recent years, I hope it hasn’t ran its course but it would be good to see some more exciting and interesting work nominated soon.”

Can you imagine Nick Clegg surviving in power? Can you imagine a Con/Lib coalition surviving?
“I feel sad about the whole coalition thing, Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems stood for some really fair and good ideas and now that all seems to have been swallowed up by the Tories.  I can’t imagine Nick Clegg surviving at the moment as he has lost a lot of respect.  I hope the coalition won’t survive, I’m all for fairness and equality, and so far I don’t see that from this government, privatization of public services is one thing that the Tories are notorious for and its already started happening.  It means that those public services are no longer regulated and everything becomes driven by profit.
When I was born Maggie got in and the Tories weren’t booted out until I was 18.  Now they are back - just after my son was born, I’m really hoping it won’t stay that way until Elvi is 18!”

Tell me about your most recent painting?
“My most recent painting is based on an image taken at the London conference about the war in Afghanistan. It immediately struck me as a really intriguing and powerful image.  There are lots of politicians all dressed in black suits posing for the photo, its like a sea of black suits against a backdrop of ornate gold and flock-patterned carpet, which struck me as so far removed from the reality and horror of war and death.
There won’t be any text on it this time, and the painting style is quite different and experimental in contrast with my previous work. Its opinionated, but this piece is also an exploration of the power of an image, and the story behind it.  Compared with some of my earlier work which could be a concise one liner, this piece hints or suggests rather than explains, leaving more space for reflection on the subject it tackles.” 

For more info visit:

Wednesday 5 January 2011

Q & A with Scott King

(Above image: "Pink Cher" by Scott King 2008)
Read Scott's bio here:

The Rebel: Hi Scott. What is your most recent project? Can you talk a bit about that? 
Scott King: “Well, I'm working on a series of found and manipulated quotations that will take various forms - some will form the basis of a lecture-type presentation to be shown alongside an old Richard Serra work at the Contemporary Art Museum, St Louis. Some will appear as ads in magazines and as fly-posters ... amongst other things. Maybe I'll try and do a self-published book that is a kind of lecture, built on fiction but presented as fact ... something like that, I'm still working it out.
I'm also working on these photo-texts, they're kind of inspired by Victor Burgin but are ultimately quite farcical ... maybe half Victor Burgin, half Viz.”

Are there any books, records or films you'd recommend to me? 
“Yes. 'Art Works' by Scott King, published by JRP|Ringier is a 'must read' at my house ... but if that's a little too heavy for you, I'd also recommend 'A Cavalier History of Surrealism' by Raoul Vaneigem. Also, 'Miracles of Life', the JG Ballard autobiography is fantastic, it's not new, but I've just read it - it's incredible that a man of such genius can be so unfailingly modest ... it puts things in perspective somewhat. With films, I loved the 'Pusher' trilogy directed by Nicolas Winding Refn ... I lent it to a friend a year ago and although he never bothers to watch it, he never bothers to bring it back either ... but I'd recommend watching all three films in a row. With music - I saw John Maus last year on the recommendation of another friend ... he was great ... and 'How Snakes Eat', the last album by Mathew Sawyer and the Ghosts is also great ... but I've lost touch with music in the last few years really, I keep thinking about getting into some serious 80's AOR ... something big and bland, I think that's next, I've just bought the Top Gun soundtrack again, it's brilliant.”

What are your views on Andy Warhol? Has your appreciation of him pretty much stayed the same over the years? What is the best thing he ever did or said?
"I think he was just, like, reaaaaally so great .... I really do - it's a very big question that Harry, it really needs an essay kind of answer ... I'm as suspicious as anyone of Art Stars because of course they are fabricated by the needs (at that time) of The Art Industry, Art Stars are always created through a collusion of dark forces, the media and monetary concerns - but I think Warhol was possibly the first to make us aware of this collusion anyway, so ...
 I'm not sure about the best thing he ever said, but my favourite story is the one where he wants some freshly squeezed orange juice so sends an assistant out to buy oranges - famously he'd always demand a receipt for anything that he paid for (to give to the IRS, thus claim back his expenditure) ... so he asked the assistant to get a receipt for the oranges, when the assistant returned she said 'But Annnnndy ... you can't claim for a dozen oranges!' - he then arranged them into a 'still life', took a polaroid of them and declared the polariod an art work .... so the oranges became a legitimate expense."

Were you glad to be in the big Saatchi show? Did it make you feel more confident about your position in the art world?
 “It was a mixed blessing, I suppose.”

When Ian Dury released the single Spastacus Autisticus he was told it was career suicide. He responded by saying "Let's kill it then." Can you relate to that way of thinking? Have you ever felt depressed that you were an artist with a career doing all the right things rather that a wild beast of the art world with cut one of his ears off and caught v.d etc
“Well, I don't think I've ever done all the right things - I seem to do all the wrong things. I don't think I have a career to kill off ... I don't always think I'm an artist. I'm very interested in doing STUFF now, I'm less interested in trying to make something that might resemble art than I am in trying to do STUFF. I've almost managed to do STUFF before (like devising the term 'Prada Meinhof' with Matt Worley, like the Earl Brutus 'Tonight You Are The Special One' lp cover). STUFF demands a broader context than that of the rarefied art world ... so along with making some things that I can believe to be Art, I'd really like to do more STUFF.”

The Explosion Point of Ideology
Matchsticks and glue
172.5 x 40 x 40 cm / 67.9 x 15.7 x 15.7 in

Are you bitter about things that happened to you at school or college? Have you ever wanted there to be a public apology and/or cash sum paid out to you to compensate you for being treated badly?
 “No - I was bitter about going to college where I did as it was too near where I come from ... so I never had a real 'going to college' experience ... but I just did what I wanted at college, so don't feel the need to blame anyone else.”

Who are your peers? Which friends did you hate when they became successful?
 “I'm not sure who my peers are, I have good friends who are artists - some of whom are very successful, in fact most of who are much more successful than me. Then I have quite a lot of friends who are graphic designers ... but I don't ever talk to them about graphic design ... not in the same way artist's talk about the art world ... the graphic design world (if there is one) isn't half as interesting, in fact, socially it's non-existent I think. Art people are much more fun as they're all very competitive and two-faced, I like that ... you know where you are with a two-faced egomaniac.”

Where is a great place to have lunch?
 “Trevi on the bottom end of Holloway Road is great ... but I don't know that many places to have lunch, I was always a pub person, but that's had to be curtailed.”

(Above: "The Peace Protestors" by Scott King)

What do you love?
 “King Prawn Madras from Anglo-Asian in Stoke Newington, talking about myself, Suzuki GSX-Rs, not being overdrawn at the bank, cheese and salad cream sandwiches.”

Are you getting better as an artist?
 “Yes, definitely - I never thought I was very good - but now I think I'm about to become very good.”

Is your life getting better? 
“Yes, it is Harry - I hope so anyway.”

Monday 3 January 2011

Q & A with Nicole Willis

Nicole Willis is a Finland based American singer/songwriter and painter. She graduated from Lahti Institute of Fine Arts in Lahti with professor Markus Heikkerö, Finland and Erasmus studies at Sir John Cass Department of Art at the London Metropolitan University in London, United Kingdom, in 2009. Willis' concentration in her studies were oil painting, time-based media and performance. Willis collaborated with artist Sophie Calle for her installation Take Care Of Yourself with a performance in time-based media in 2007, which exhibited at the French Pavillion of the Venice Biennale in 2007.

The Rebel: Here are two portraits of the late jazz singer George Melly. Which painting would you rather own or which painting do you connect with: Hambling or Griffiths?
 (Above: Painting by David Griffiths. Below: Painting by Maggi Hambling)

Nicole: “As much as I appreciate the expressiveness of the Hambling painting I have to go with the Griffiths as the one I would rather own. They both capture the spirit of the person but the Griffiths one just shines with positivity. I think it's also simple enough as well which makes it something that entertains and doesn't get played out.”

Yesterday a friend of mine went to see the Turner Prize at Tate Britain. He said he didn't like any of the work that  the four nominees at all. On his way out of the gallery he saw a painting by Stanley Spencer (from the permanent collection) which he loved. Have you ever had that feeling where you go to a gallery and see work by contemporary artists and think: "I hate all this"?

“I try to avoid using the word hate but yes, sometimes I think I get tired of seeing work that is technically well done yet seems void of individuality from the artists.  It just seems like academic crowd pleasing. As for Spencer, he seems both technical and has his own clear voice.” 

 Stanley Spencer said that when he was painting portraits of his lover he wanted to be like an ant crawling round every line of her sagging body. Do you have similar strange thoughts about people when you're painting their portrait?

“I have found myself looking at the colours in people's faces and getting a bit caught up in it. Youth isn't that interesting to me, so I can relate to Spencer's analogy.”

(Above: Recent painting of Robert Mugabie by Nicole Willis. Oil on A3 paper)

 Do you tend to work from photos? Do you ever do life drawing?

“I like to use found photos because they document a public moment for these very public people. I really like figurative work so I could get into the model experience soon. I'll have a nice spacious new studio soon with enough room for this kind of thing.”

What is the art scene in Finland like? 

“There's a lot of well executed works, not enough humour. Abstract reigns in Finland, it looks good in banks. I'd love to see more expressive strokes in figurative works. More expression in general”

Do you miss London and are you planning to come back?

“I always make it back to London for one reason or another. Usually gigs. I miss my friends there, the cosmo, all access vibe but I'm happy that I live in Helsinki. There's probably as many people living in Shoreditch as there are in the whole of Finland, I don't mind the physical space at all.”

Who were your musical and who were your art heroes?

“Screaming Jay Hawkins, Fela Kuti, Sonic Youth, Ian Svenonius, Dionne Warwick, Lulu, Martin Kippenberger, Willem de Kooning, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Cheri Samba, James Rosenquist.”.

I read you sang with The The who were a band that great record sleeves and lots of artistic ideas for videos and projects. Their songs tended to be either angry or sad though. Were you happy when you hung out with Matt Johnson & co?

“I was a bit odd when I hung out with them. Young and transitional, sometimes happy, sometimes depressed. I actually got fired. But no hard feelings now. I wasn't always "professional".”

Are you quite driven? Do you have a 5 year plan?

“I have been thinking about some stuff I'd like to do, but I don't set timetables. Maybe I should.” 

Does it ever get quite intense when you paint? Do you ever focus so hard on what you're doing that you're lost in the painting?

“I think that is what you want, to get lost. But it doesn't have to be some kind of manic thing. When you are a parent your time is limited and concentration such as you describe is kind of a luxury. You steal your moments.”
(Above & below: Recent works by Nicole. Both paintings are oil on canvas 150 x 100cm)

Why are you painting dodgy world leaders? Is it because you're attracted to powerful men?

“Because they're dodgy, attractive repulsive, omnipotent, impotent. Don't worry, some ladies are joining the bunch.”

 Many artists who paint in oils look down their noses at artists who use acrylics. For example Maggie Hambling says acrylic is just horrible, fake and plastic. Why do you use oil paints and do you have issues with acrylics? 

“I'm almost phobic of acrylics. I can't understand why you would want anything to dry so quickly but just like I try not to hate, I try not to look down my nose. Besides I love artists like Cheri Samba who work with acrylics, so to each his own. My own happens to be oil for texture. I don't want my work to be free of visible brush strokes, I like almost a relief.”
(For more info about Nicole visit: