Friday 25 July 2014

The Shock Of The Crude: Welcome to the world of Art Gekko

"I create nothing. I own. We make the rules, pal."

  Gordon Gekko

Here's a book cover. Note the publisher's logo, Zero Books, is on the cover. See? Right at the top right corner.

Right, now here's a painting which to the casual observer looks very much like the cover I've just shown you:

Here it is in situ at the Maureen Paley Gallery in 2012:

Notice the title of the book. Notice how the words on the painting actually resemble the title of the book.

Also notice how the lettering looks more than vaguely like the lettering on the book cover.

No permission was sought to use it; no reference made to the book at all.

Here's the artist. Yes I know, but read on. He's a gallery darling and what he does is some serious fucking shit you bitches.

                                                                                 GARDAR EIDE EINARSSON

"...A Norwegian born artist, now living and working in both New York and Japan, Einarsson’s often text-based works come with a certain irreverence...(sic)"

From the Maureen Paley Gallery 2012

So the buyer possibly thinks, "How cool of Einarsson; he's like Norwegian and I guess it takes a melancholic hipster to  celebrate some slogans that he's seen on a street somewhere in Queen's or the Bronx and throw it back in our faces. Like the Beatles and the Animals way back when they gave us back black music..."

The excitable buyer probably thinks that this tattooed purveyor of despair has probably taken his choice nugget from a meth cook's wall in Flint, Michigan or the side of an old Detroit car plant. 

But he didn't; he copied a fucking book jacket.

With one important omission. The logo. The Zero Books logo. So that we're left in no doubt that he's as shallow as his photograph suggests.

My friend Tariq Goddard (same age as Einarsson) runs Zero Books. For a monthly wage that wouldn't get him one of the sleeves of the cool jacket below, he works hard as an author and publisher. Zero is a brave, radical venture that gives voice to left wing thinkers who represent a growing, intellectual subculture that won't find any mainstream publishers breaking down their kitchen doors to start bidding wars. In a nutshell, Jeremy Clarkson would hate them. You get my drift.

"In his hands, surprisingly, the literal exploration of the thematic ’law is for the protection of the people' creates a non-didactic environment latent with ambiguity."
Tariq is possibly the most eloquent person I know; he's a philosophy graduate and the author of six novels. And this is the sort of crap he had to look at when researching the lissome Einarsson:

"His text-based works... offer an often politicised view of contemporary society and an authoritative claim on appropriation that brings attention to the idea of authorship that has concerned postmodernist thought since Foucault’s proclamation of  “the death of the author.”

Er, so that's all right then.

The leather jacket above, incidentally has featured in a Jay-Z video. The one with Beyoncé. I'd like to show you a still from it, but I daren't risk the lawsuit.

Tariq must be so fucking fed up with this. He's received not one red cent from all this trading on a Zero title. Nothing. 

He's written to the the artist, who, hilariously, suggests the lettering wasn't exactly traced (he couldn't be arsed to put in the curves on the letterforms), and that, really, er, actually he's been in touch with lawyers and that Tariq doesn't have a sustainable case.

This is what his picture should have looked like.  

Not quite so cool for the artist, though. How would he explain it? A book cover? Fuck off. You'll get sued.

Andy Warhol would have done it. Even though Robert Hughes didn't rate Andy's intellect; at least Warhol was honest.


Welcome to Art Gekko. Remember Gordon Gekko? He was the enviously-coiffed money suit played by Michael Douglas in Wall StreetA film made memorable by the 'Greed is good' mantra? Remember the "Lunch is for wimps" schtick as he does another deal to make the midday worth a half-million? It summed up the 80s to a lot of people. Corporate nasties sucking the fun and vagueness out of everyone's lives, and giving us Donald Trump; humourless and stupidly rich and resembling Michael Douglas' creation perfectly. 

Apart from the coiffure. Even his budget can't get him one good hair day.

     Dutch Masters ll    Larry Rivers  c1963

My personal interest in art started when I saw my first Larry Rivers painting reproduced in a mid-60s Studio Magazine, provided for the Sandown Grammar art room. It still thrills me; a painting based on a cigar box, it was called Dutch Masters ll.

It was art of appropriation; we knew it and we knew where it came from. People started to take an interest in their environment, or rather realise that artists were painting new landscapes.

Andy Warhol will probably be remembered as the artist who was 60s America; the workaholic who didn't sign many of his paintings; the confusing genius who probably made more money out of Campbell's Soup than their sales force for the whole of 1965 . 

Maybe the board at Campbell's Soups weren't thrilled; maybe they tried to sue, but of course the Andy cans gave Campbell's millions of dollars of free up-market advertising. You can just imagine the rich apartments, the kitchens with their limed glass-fronted cabinets, bulging with the raw product: here's the painting of Mulligatawny Soup, and here (so exciting, this) our interior designer has today filled the shelves with the ACTUAL cans! There's just so much to talk about.

There is a fuck of a lot to talk about. 

But don't expect the art world to engage you in any conversation. They've got lawyers; hundreds of the fuckers just dying for some easy action.

We know that big art means money, and there is nothing a nice middle-class person wants more than some edgy shit around the place. If you really don't want that embarrassing junkie you were at boarding school with at the dinner table then get a Gardar Eide Einarsson, it doesn't make any noise; it's there; so angry, so sullen, so contemptuous of our cosy value systems; like honesty and shit.

Originality, like lunch, is for wimps. Didn't you know?

Monday 24 February 2014


A selection of images I've drawn for Louise Lipman, who has my French Shops on her website, and wanted some more stuff.
She likes these and I loved doing them:

Friday 13 December 2013

Biographic. On the beach. Bembridge 1955.

This was our holiday home. A huge umbrella with a tear in the side which we kids used as a secret entrance. My dad would have taken the photograph. His mum is inside; the confused little woman holding a biscuit box which probably contains the Jaffa Cakes and Ginger Nuts that would sustain our afternoons in the baking dunes and warm beach lakes of Bembridge on the Isle of Wight. She's next to Julie, our cousin, along for the ride; she'll remember this. We met up last year and she remembers everything

This is all from a tiny scratched black and white print that I scanned and examined minutely to see if it held any secrets. It was a thrill to discover the Oxo tin that held the sandwiches (Sandwich Spread, naturally) and my brother's plastic boat by Mum's left foot. Sister Sharman is next to Mum; I'm posing in the middle, overjoyed at the prospect of more of that endless day to come in this glorious place; in this perfect home from home.

The floor was a sea of rugs and towels. It was our quiet room if we got too hot or tired. I don't think we went to Bembridge too often, but when we did it was always sunny and the water was bathtub hot. I think Duke (late sister Sue) wasn't around till the year after. She would have been bundled into the Hillman Minx, seen heating up on the road behind, along with the rest of us. 

We were beaten by a cyclist going up Brading Down that year. Both Mum and Dad laughed in disbelief. It must have been a really slow old car even then, or cyclists much harder, but back then we didn't care; we really did have all the time in the world.

Monday 2 December 2013

Twist Of Fete

I've always loved comic art. The information conveyed with the least amount of time spent on shading, but a lot of time devoted to the important bits. Like the story. My comic history included The Topper, The Beezer (I wasn't allowed the Beano, probably not broadsheet enough, I suppose) and when I was seven, I found myself staring in disbelief at Dan Dare and Digby ("Suffering sputniks, Dig!...") driving Anastasia full tilt towards some hellish planet that needed a bit of firm policing. 

I can still remember the whole back page being devoted to something boring like the life of Winston Churchill or Montgomery, but the drawing was unbelievable, it was Frank Bellamy, the One True Master, wielding the steady pen, and drawing with such flair and drama that I can still remember where I was and the details. (The guns at Alamein preparing for the barrage,and a speech bubble that just said 'Blimey'). It was at the convent in East Cowes in 1957; what made the drawing extra tasty was the day before Sister Katarina had come down hard on naughty Henry Thornton who had used it. She smacked him twice on his face (they were hard bitches, all) and told him never to say it again. Yeah, right. I wonder if Jesus knew he was married to such violent, unhappy women. Maybe he should have given them more attention.

I didn't pursue the comic art thing; there were too many good people. What inspires can also be a bit over-awesome.

Anyway, it didn't stop me, years later, to produce an image of Semley village fete. All my Dorset mates are in there as well as a bloke in red trousers; Leo's there, Charlie from the Beckford, Sara and Juliet are in place; loads of dogs, and even though they weren't around; I put my daughters with their incredibly timid and emotional Irish Wolfhound, Pixie. Aww.

I loved doing it, and though my technique is necessarily rather laconic (it's just traced on Photoshop), the colours are fun; and importantly it's an attempt to get away from the more painterly, conservative stuff you expect to see that deals with life in the country. Also you get to take a few liberties if that's your wont (it is mine).
If you look closely you'll see Bob Dylan looking pretty in his Pierre Cardin suit and boots. He's listening to the band play Dirty Old Town, and probably thinking he should get back to his folk roots.

Hence the title.

Illustrating the Chalke Valley History Festival

I 've  enjoyed working as the illustrator on The Chalke Valley History Festival. This was its third year and in a very short time, thanks to the energy and vision of the organisers, has made itself an indispensable fixture of the summer.

 It's a vivid celebration of the past; not only with its incredible A-list of authors, but also its commitment to entertaining the whole family with noise, colour and fun. This year's air show on a blistering July weekend was a triumph of organisation by James Holland, who along with James Heneage, have helped given history a kick up the curriculum ladder.

My job as a graphic designer and illustrator is to create a visual difference. What could have been burnt parchment and a gothic font free-for-all is non of these things. The reason? It's too obvious, and for a start, I try and give the speakers, from Boris Johnson to Ben Macintyre, a distinct identity within the Festival itself. 

Thanks to James Holland I'm producing work I'm proud of, which is cliché - free (apart from my own, of course) and provides the event with an exciting visual currency of its own.
Where other festivals use book jackets and head shots, we produce exhilarating and colourful work which is what history deserves, as well as the public.

Wednesday 5 December 2012

PlumpState Christmas card 2012

This year's card is another pun. I was thinking of doing something with this Dorset beach picture as it was a nice and out-of-season-ish bit of colour that would stand out a bit from the crowd on the mantlepiece.

Occasionally, on a hot summer day where I lived as a child, the tide would leave cuttlefish stranded on the shingle at Southsea. (I think their posthumous fates were beak sharpeners for budgies). Occasionally a glistening mass of jellyfish were washed up. I thought a Yuletide might leave friendlier flotsam!

Tuesday 24 July 2012

Blue Amy: My most popular image

My exhibition at Ashley Wood Artspace was great. The private view the best I've ever been to, and the people who braved the uncertain elements were all on fine, appreciative form. Apart from a couple, but they were too drunk to care.

Blue Amy was my best-selling print, followed by Mauve Amy and Sarah Vaughan. I'm going to design a fantasy poster that includes them and Miles. I haven't decided where they'll play, but I might put them in the Quartered Heart in Norwich, or the Uncarried Load in Portsmouth.

Thanks to Anne Clements for taking so many cool pictures (a neighbour of Amy) and Richard Grosse who suggested I include this brilliant singer as a subject...

Thanks to you all. See you next year.