Thursday 26 May 2011

Neal Brown

Neal Brown recently reached part 8 of his "New Concise Reference Dictionary" and I was delighted that I got a mention. I respect Art Review's editor for allowing Mr Brown to have a whole page to himself each month. I think it's probably the best thing about the whole magazine. Below he predicts I will one day become director of Tate. I like the fact I also get a mention in both the definitions for "Heroism" and "Humility".
Neal writes those Thames & Hudson "World of Art" books and he also curates shows and events. He has written about art for most UK and many international art magazines, including frieze and Parkett. I was lucky that he agreed to write an essay about my work that co-incided with my second solo show at the Sartorial gallery in King's Cross.
Neal Brown

Harry Pye is a rotund, bald, male artist and writer who has humbly worked at the bookshop of Tate for endless years, and who occupies a place in the art world that might be described as marginalized. His corrective for this indignity – apart from general good grace and acceptance – is, quite sensibly, to place himself, fabulously, and with trusting optimism, in the centre of his work. After years of being a humble art world fanzine editor – the excellent Frank Magazine (1995-2000) – and interviewing famous personages, and making them even more famous, he has now claimed his place as a painter, and is producing fun, droll works, with a lot of singing colour and, most importantly, each picture starring a rotund, bald male in its centre.
Such Pye-centricity has proved to be a recipe for success; the paintings have now become a completely formed vision, and are doing very nicely. As Pye goes up in the world he is now meeting all the people going down, like me, and so I am very glad that I have always been nice to him, and which will always remain my policy, even when I start going up again in the world again, which will be soon, and then Pye and I can both go up together, unless one or the other of us starts going down, of course.
The self deprecating, anxious gag above – about the goings up and down in the art world, and being glad I have always been nice to Pye – is intended to be a representatively Harry Pye style gag, for the purposes of illustration only. (The stylistic context of Pye’s gag making is that of a glorious UK art writing tradition that includes Matthew Collings, Gilbert and George, Billy Childish, Mark McGowan and BANK). There can be lot of sad old pain behind this class of gag making, in which humour replaces sadness to become the crafty vehicle for kinds of truth telling that are usually proscribed – the time honoured subversions of the holy and court fools, carnival madness, and jester and trickster mischief making.
This is all apparent in over a decade of Pye’s Frank magazine, and in his other published writings, which reveal an irreverent, bittersweet sensibility, in which enthusiasm is mingled with a kind of fear; the fear that the philosophically alert (but sometimes sad), underdog has for the powerfully, often vulgarly rich and famous. Rather than attempt a definitive overview of Pye’s writings about the doings of the art world (Pye’s is an huge, many fronted, cumulative project), let this tiny excerpt from a regular series Pye has written for Epifanio online magazine (Epifanio 5, 2006) be considered – by me, not by Pye – representative of the conditions of Pye’s placement within his historical time. It describes a cockroach problem Pye had when he used to live above a restaurant, and his method of dealing with the problem when all other solutions failed;

The poison was very similar to brown acrylic paint. A small amount was put on each door. Apparently the cockroach is attracted to the smell, he rubs himself in it and eats some, goes home, dies, his friends and family then eat him, then they die. Nice.

This isn’t the Harry Pye we know and love, the cuddly, lovable Harry Pye. This is a steely eyed Pye; a pragmatically ruthless Pye who coexists with the other one. This is a quiet avenger of righteous retribution, at whose hands – again, this is my own opinion here, not Pye’s – the art world must, just like the cockroaches, suffer a formidable accounting. Surely, the crazy death system by which Pye’s cockroaches perished is more than similar to the prancings of the art world and its dim collectors, craven critics and insane academics – all engaged in a dark, twilight scurrying and cannibalising of each other’s second-hand ideas and blood plasma. Maybe this is unfair. (It’s certainly unfair to brown acrylic paint; the colour brown has slowly been enjoying a return to fashion with young painters – and means that in eighteen months from now designers will be making brown furniture and lamps again, and in three years brown cars will again be seen on the on the roads . . .)
Whatever. Let’s move on, to Pye’s paintings, which are the important thing. Pye’s paintings are accessible, fun, thoughtful and attractive. They revel in a benign, optimistic message making, based on the bedrock – spiritual touchstone etc – of the previously mentioned sad-old-pain, and whose unfashionable moral positivity points a way out of the repetitions of usual contemporary practice.
(Above: "Everybody Knows" 50 x 60cm 2007)
Pye says of Everybody Knows (2007) that, ‘It's about being in Stockwell tube station and seeing a black man who looked exactly like me except black. We are all the same and we are all each other, everyone knows it but we sometimes forget.’ This principle is repeated in his painting With The Muslims (2007) (co-painted with Rowland Smith). The title makes absurdist, parodic reference to a Beatles LP. But, more importantly, as Pye says, ‘It’s saying I am on the side of the Muslims, who are unfairly targeted by media and police. Within the paintings are symbolic representations of good things about to happen and good news about to be told.’ In this way – the way of good news, optimism and joy over experiential pain – there is a kind of evangelism in Pye’s work, which takes sad-old-pain, flings it into the air, and reorders it in a merry derangement.
Pye has an association with the Bart Wells Institute, where he curated the show Viva Picasso (and where, in other shows there, he was probably their most exhibited artist), and he has curated many shows elsewhere. The second show of his own work at Sartorial, the one after Me Me Me (2007), was Getting Better, (2009) which showed him at his collectivist best – Pye says he collaborates because he cannot paint very well, but as many painters cannot paint very well this cannot be the sole reason. A huge number of Pye’s paintings are collaborations, including with Geraldine Swayne, Billy Childish, Kes Richardson, and the already mentioned Rowland Smith, and such collaborations further increase Pye’s reach to his already wildly differing audience base.
The relationship of Pye and Childish may be revealing. In an interview with Pye, for the book Bart Wells Institute (2009), about shows that Luke Gottelier (and others) put on there, Gottelier says to Pye, ‘I’m into this thing of putting people in that don’t really go. Which is partly why you were there at the beginning. That’s why Billy Childish was there.’ Gottelier then explains that he would ask himself, when curating a show, ‘Who’s the one person [I] could put in who’s most unlikely in a contemporary art exhibition?’
As there were not one, but two ‘most unlikely’ persons that Gottelier and the Bart Wells Institute cleverly gave their attention to, this could mean lots of interesting things. Not least that, if they found two ‘most unlikely’ persons, that there may be other ‘most unlikely’ persons about, waiting patiently, elsewhere – currently excluded by curators of the more usual and conformist ‘contemporary art exhibition’ tendency. On this basis Pye should take his most ‘unlikely’ status as a great compliment – he is highly prominent amongst the ‘most unlikely’ artists, and we enjoy full confidence that his time is coming.

Wednesday 25 May 2011

Three New Haiku Poems by John Hegley

I've been a fan of John Hegley for years. A while back I got him to come to Tate Modern and give a talk about George Braque.
Here are three new works from John...

There is no dodo
and so we must do
more for fellow beasts

My dad blew winter
from his hands. He would cup them
and bring warmth in.

Underneath his hat the Frenchman keeps a pie. Why?
this way twill stay hot

Mr Hegley asked me to spread the news that: Artist Pam Brabants (who coloured in the drawing above) runs a Haiku site. Like him she is a Luton enthusiast..both the town and the team
"The drawing is of Monsieur Robinet. He is to be found adventuring further in a small book I have published with Donut Press. The other two haiku are for a show concerning family and animals which I hope to do in Edinbugh and Peebles and elsewhere."
Visit Pam's site:
(Below: A feature on John taken from the lad's mag Loaded)
John told Phil Robinson from Loaded that he started off busking in the tube in Westminster outside the gents' toilet... "There used to be this horrendous smell and I used to bring joss sticks along and set them down on the floor beside me. Before I knew it people were giving me money. Sometime after that I did this television programme in East Germany - just after the wall came down - and someone said to me that I was the first busker they had ever seen there. Although it was for a television programme I busked it for real and I earned some money. It was when I decided to buy a cup of coffee that I realised I'd got something tangiable out of the whole process. It felt so real. This is for that."
John goes on to talk about the early days of the Comedy Store...
"At the beginning I was gonged off 5 times in a row. But I kept coming back. That showed I was hungry to do it, mainly because I kept coming back through the humiliation. The sixth time I was on stage I put my foot down and said "No!" That was the transforming moment, because it's hard to pull the performance back."

Sunday 22 May 2011

Live review of The Beat at The Half Moon in South London

The Half Moon pub in Herne Hill (near Brixton) is a great little venue and last night I saw Ranking Roger and co perform a brilliant set there. Their only other London show this year is at The Grand in Clapham on Friday the 2nd of December so as you'd expect tickets for this show had sold out quite a while ago.
They began the set with "Rough Rider" - an Eddy Grant song made famous by Prince Buster. Ranking Roger sounded great and the place was packed with happy people. I was pleased to see a lot of women in the audience, maybe this is because of the fact Ranking Roger has kept slim, trim and youthful looking.
I was very impressed by all the musicians. Everett Morton is still an absolutely blinding drummer. (On the photo of the Smash Hits cover Everett is the one with the Umbrella next to the two guys who went off to be in The Fine Young Cannibals). Morton's playing on "Ranking Full Stop" was a particular high light. The keyboard player (Mickey Billingham)is a former member of Dexy's Midnight Runners who also worked with Ranking Roger in the band General Public. I didn't recognise the others. I have to say I had serious doubts about how good "The Beat" were going to be with so many original members missing but this new line-up is pretty tight. It was a pleasure to see Ranking Roger and Matthew Murphy (a.k.a. Ranking Junior)duet on their version of The Clash's Rock The Cashbah. They work well together and bringing him on board was a wise move.
"Mirror In The Bathroom", "Hands Off She's Mine", "Tears of a Clown" and all the other classic hits sounded great - so much better than I was expecting. Respect is due.
(Above: My signed copy of Dance Craze. Below: Classic cover star.)

Saturday 7 May 2011

Q & A with Emma Coleman

(Above image: "Model Navy" painted by Emma Coleman)
The Rebel: How are things in Emma world at the moment? Are you enjoying being a mum and living by the sea?
Emma: "I am thanks! We're having a great time down by the sea although we really miss London and might move back there soon. It's a constant dilemma – in London you often wish for a different life by the sea or in the country and yet now I'm down here I long for dirty, smelly, lovely London. Never satisfied. It does feel like a permanent holiday now the sun is shining, though it was a bit bleak in Winter, a bit like living in the last town before you fall off the flat earth. I do love being a mum and it is the most incredible feeling that you have somehow helped to bring these mini human beings into existence but motherhood can also plunge you to the depths of despair, when you're exhausted beyond belief and you never realised that so much could be demanded in so short a space of time by someone so little. It's an interesting roller coaster ride let's say; the fresh sea air imparts a sense of optimism and that helps."
The Rebel: What do you think about the cuts in education? Did you get a grant? Was your art school education worth the money it cost?
Emma: "I did get a grant for my degree course and Laura Ashley paid for my foundation course in return for a painting. My art school education was priceless, it was one of the best times of my life. I had dropped out of two degree courses beforehand, Psychology and then Hotel Management and I was feeling a bit of a failure until art college. I had to do a bit of wrangling to get my grant transferred. I think the cuts are appalling. Everyone should be entitled to a free education."
The Rebel: What were the highpoints of your life as a student?
Emma: "The three-year-long delusion that as soon as my fine art degree ended I would immediately become a successful artist making a lot of money with critical acclaim. A rather enjoyable delusion while it lasted. Making such good friends. Putting on shows with said friends was a highlight as were the many nights spent at Mike's bar across the road from college." The Rebel: Were you obsessive about drawing as a child? When did it become an important part of what you're about?
Emma: "I was always obsessively drawing as a child, mainly small booklets of advertisements for products like socks that would never wear out, or furniture spray that meant you would never have to dust again. I always thought I would go into advertising when I was younger. Then I moved on to drawing cartoons and even did a short course in cartooning. Then I went to art college and spent a lot of time trying to deny the cartoonist in me. Perhaps I'll be ready to let that side out sometime soon. Drawing has always been incredibly important to me."
(Above image: "Get Me Heels" drawn by Emma Coleman)
The Rebel: Who were the early influences on the young Emma Coleman? Which artists impressed you most?
Emma: "How young? Very early on – whoever did those Ant and Bee books. Later Mordillo and later still, Yves Klein – then Matisse and Rodin. Then I went to art college and an entire world of artists to be impressed with opened up before me. I discovered Matthew Barney's Cremaster Cycle."
The Rebel: Do you ever have music on while you are doing art things? What would be your desert island discs?
Emma: "Yes but the music has to be either lyricless or be a song I know so well that I don't have to concentrate on hearing the words, otherwise I can't focus on the painting in hand. I usually listen to a lot of Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Julie London, Junior Walker or any kind of music that makes you feel like you should have a gin and tonic in your hand and you're at a swell party on a rooftop in New York, which is a state of mind I like for doing art stuff. Desert Island Discs would include It Ain't Necessarily So- Molly Johnson, Personal Jesus-Johnny Cash, Living on the Ceiling-Blancmange, Fell in Love With a Girl-The White Stripes, Flower Duet from Lakme - Delibes, Blues Hand Me Down-Vintage Trouble, Last Night a DJ Saved My Life."
(Above image: "Slim Face" by Emma Coleman)
The Rebel: What art projects are you working on at the moment?
Emma: "I'm working on a commission from my 'Kiss' portrait idea. The idea comes from ladies who sit at their dressing tables to put on lipstick and blot their lips on a tissue. The tissue is tossed into the wastepaper basket but I 'retrieve' the tissue and paint the lip-print, which I suppose is as individual as a thumb print, as a portrait of that person."
The Rebel: When it comes to your own work do you have any big favourites or do you love them all?
Emma: "I like my series of skin paintings the best. Painting a surface of hugely magnified skin and folds. I sort of left the idea behind a while ago but now I'm going to revisit it. They were by far the most difficult paintings to do for some reason. I tried to paint in a stream of consciousness style across a canvas surface. I'm using this idea now to make some art cushions that will hang on the wall, in an attempt to reconcile my desire to nest and make a home with my desire to make art."
The Rebel: What are you going to do after you've answered these questions?Emma: "We're going up to Little Switzerland, a place in the cliffs on the Kent coast, to have a cup of tea and admire the channel views."

The Rebel: Do you have any favourite art books, biographies or artistic quotes that mean a lot to you?
Emma: "Art Since 1960 by Michael Archer. Night Studio, A Memoir of Philip Guston written by his daughter. I've been pondering that quote about the pram in the hallway being the enemy of art..."
The Rebel: Which makes you happier dancing or swimming?
Emma: "Definitely dancing. In my head I'm Uma Thurman twisting in a perfect white shirt at Jack Rabbit Slim's twist contest. Of course the truth is uglier."
The Rebel: What are your ambitions?
Emma: "Quite simple and low key at the moment with two small children - to find time to make more art."
(Above: Emma's painting from the 100 Mothers Show

Tuesday 3 May 2011

Q & A with Lloyd Durling

1) Have you always liked your name Lloyd? Do you have any favourite Lloyds such as Lloyd Cole?
Lloyd: "Yes I'm very happy with my name. I like that it is associated in English mostly as a surname, and in welsh it's a christian name which means grey-haired or sacred. Lloyd Bridges was a very good actor."

2) Do you agree with this statement: "Show me a boy who was happy at school and I will show you a liar, a cheat or a bully".
"I was very happy at school.....some of the nicest moments of my childhood. little responsibility. I'd be a terrible bully."

3) What were the most positive aspects of your art education?
"Art education was a tough time for me. art excited me but i found it troublesome too. by the time I was 21 I was relieved to be out of education but, ready to move to London to be an artist."

4) Where are you based now? Where have you been travelling?
"I moved to London in 2001, then I went to Berlin for a couple of years. I am now based back in London. I have a strong passion for travelling.... all forms. at the moment I love walking and have just finished a solo walk coast to coast from Padstow to Fowey in Cornwall."

5) Which artists were an inspiration to you in your youth?
"Picasso and Bosch were of particular interest. I loved the films of Claude Chabrol with their dark overtones."

6) Do you have any favourite art books?
"I like the book 'On Drawing', By John Berger. He makes some of the finest insights into the very nature of markmaking."

7) What is your idea of beauty in nature?
"Stephane Audran."
8) What are you working on at the moment?
"I have just had a show at Chapter in Cardiff of new works. I am working on a series of new semi-abstract drawings partially derived from carnivorous plants."

9) Which of your artworks are you most proud of?
"The works that I completed in Berlin between 2008-2009. I had a lot of isolation."

10) What song would you like played at your funeral?
"'There's a place in Hell for me and my friends', by Morrissey."

11) To what extent are you a bad man?
"Me and a friend set some woods partially on fire when we were 14 years old."

12) Which gives you the most happiness - swimming or dancing?
"When I get wet I hate drying myself..... and I'm quite inhibited when it comes to dancing. but i would go for dancing."

13) Why do you make art?
"Because of Giotto."