Thursday, 28 July 2011

Peter Andre Saliva Tree

I’m pleased to announce the completion of an updated version of my Peter Andre Saliva Tree print, which will go on display from next week at KK Outlet in Hoxton.

The show runs August 5th-27th (9am-6pm Monday – Friday, 12-5pm Saturday) with a private view on Thursday August 4th 7pm-9pm.

The print connects Peter Andre, via marriages, divorces, affairs and offspring, to a staggering four hundred famous people, including a former US president, the King of Pop, and a host of stars from the golden era of Hollywood. At three metres long, it’s far and away the largest and most challenging illustration I’ve ever attempted. It was my intention to make something that was redolent of obsession bordering on mental illness – hopefully I succeeded.

The first version of this print was made for a display at Nolia’s Gallery back in 2007 – and was headed up by Loose Women’s Carol McGiffin, linked to 100 other famous people in an interlocking tree of marriages and affairs.

That print was featured on Loose Women (click here to view) - you can read a longer account of its genesis here.

It had always been my intention to make a larger, wall-sized tree of connections and I’d been gathering notes in an exercise book over the course of the intervening four years.

Earlier this year I was offered the chance to participate in ‘Telling Tales’. a group show at the arts centre in East Grinstead – which gave me the opportunity (and more importantly the sheer expanse of wall space) to contemplate a new, no-holds barred saliva tree.

First things first, then, why Peter Andre? For a start I figured the tree would have real impact only if I could succeed in connecting a UK celeb to the golden greats like Bogart and Sinatra. I chose Andre because he fitted this bill, and was also a local resident (he’s got a place near East Grinstead, I believe). As with Carol McGiffin, the choice of celeb isn't ironic, I thought I might as well head the piece up with someone who does genuinely seem like a nice bloke.

After the East Grinstead exhibition, I was honoured to be approached by KK Outlet in Hoxton, who offered me the chance to display the tree in a shared exhibition with artist Craig Oldham (whose excellent Hand-written Letters project goes on show the same night). I took this opportunity to update the tree once more, adding another hundred faces to the previous work.

The KK show is also accompanied by a limited edition, hand-finished concertina book – which contains an abridged, 250 person strong fold-out tree. The souvenir book presented its own unique challenges. Originally I’d intended to make a poster set, but it was difficult to resolve. The obvious solution was to make a long, fold out, shrunk down version of the tree. This didn’t turn out to be easy by any means. Printing it on a single sheet of paper (well over a metre long) would have been prohibitively expensive.

At this stage I approached The Entente, aka Brighton designers Anthony Sheret and Edd Harrington, who’d printed my ‘Numbers’ book in 2009 in-house on their risograph machine. They suggested once again that we print the pages at their studio, and get them folded and stuck by professional book-finishers.

A few price quotes later, we realized this was also a prohibitively expensive undertaking. The only solution was to take on the job of assembling the books ourselves.

Anthony and Edd devised a system of three tabs per book, each of which needed to be scored, folded and have double-side tape applied. Only then could the books be assembled (with infinite care, mind you, to ensure the saliva lines matched up across the folds). It was quite a daunting task, not least because double-sided tape obviously can’t be re-positioned when stuck. Still, this was home-grown publishing at its most exciting – the whole edition being admittedly rather an experiment. How many would we mess up? How long would it take us to join over a thousand glue points? It was thrilling but I also lost quite a bit of sleep over it.

I can’t praise Anthony and Edd highly enough for their determination and attention to detail through the whole process – I also have to doff my cap to some friends of mine who volunteered their evenings, and put many hours into the production of the final book; Keeley Smith, Steph Burnley and Hannah Forward. It eventually took five people working flat out about ten hours to complete the edition (or so I thought).

The final hiccup took place the following week when we realized the books, with their unusual glue system, could not be trimmed in a large industrial trimmer. Again, my eternal thanks are due to Anthony and Edd for their diligent patience in doing a small test on 10 books – otherwise the whole edition might have been ruined even at this late stage. It did mean, though, that I was forced to trim each copy of the book top and bottom with a stanley knife – and at last, another seven or eight hours later, the edition was complete. My hands are blistered and my shoulders ache, but we got there in the end.

The book will be officially launched next week at the KK Outlet private view – but it’s already up and ready to order on my website shop here.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

'See' Exhibition - Brighton

Exhibitions are like buses… you wait ages for them and then suddenly two roll up at once! This week I’m pleased to announce my participation in two exhibitions in London and Brighton.

Today let me begin by proudly announcing the second group exhibition by art collective KUTAC, of which I am a member. Our summer show ‘SEE’ opens this Thursday at the Fishing Quarter Gallery, situated in one of the picturesque arches on Brighton’s promenade, close to the Palace Pier.

Opening times and dates; Thursday 28th July - Monday 8th August, 11-5 daily. Private view Friday 29th July 6-9pm. 201 Kings Road Arches, Brighton BN1 1NB

Here’s the lowdown on KUTAC. The group was formed back in 2009 as a forum for creatives from differing disciplines to get together every once in a while, have a cuppa and workshop any ideas/creative problems. Originally this was characterized as being a helping hand for those whose project needed a bit of a shot in the arm/kick up the arse from like-minded souls. The joky initial nickname ‘kick up the arse collective’ stuck, eventually being shortened to the KUTAC acronym.

I felt the benefit of the group right from the word go – I was several months into the development of my ‘Numbers’ book, and just reaching that awkward self-questioning stage where I had started to ask myself ‘will anyone else get this but me?’ The positive vibes and practical advice I received at the meetings gave me the stone cold determination to see the project through.

Last year we organized our first group exhibition, at Brighton Media Centre, as part of the Brighton Festival Fringe. Later in the year we also took part in the New England House Open studios. Earlier this year, a few of our members participated in the group exhibition Telling Tales at East Grinstead Arts Centre. This latter show has played a key part in the development of my forthcoming London show (to be announced later this week).

The Fishing Quarter Gallery show will feature the work of Hannah Buckley (fine art), Patrick Fitzsimons (photography), Cloe Gillies (painting/illustration), Ellen Stewart (painting), Kate Stewart (painting) and Wendy Ward (fashion/textiles). This year we are sponsored by Barefoot Wine, so consider yourself invited down to the gallery on Friday evening to raise a glass with us!

Thursday, 21 July 2011

South Today, 1994

In response to my May blog article on Suede, it has been pointed out to me that, thanks to the glorious and slightly terrifying phenomenon of the internet, the 1994 local TV news interview I alluded briefly to in that piece is already up on youtube!

Apparently it kicked around for years on a bootleg Suede VHS compilation called ‘Unscene’ until some kind soul uploaded it. It’s embarrassing, but enough time has passed that I also find it weird and funny too. You can view it here, although my bit doesn’t start til 4mins 45 seconds in.

My memories of it are thus. Thursday was, for sixth formers, sports afternoon. Those school barrel-scrapings like me who were too pathetic or unmotivated to be members of a main sports team were binned to the sports centre in Poole town centre to play badminton, aka ‘mucking about for two hours’.

On this particular Thursday, mid muck-about, a tannoy announcement requested Peter Field to reception. Sensing danger, I ignored this several times. Eventually a class-mate called Simon came on court to inform me that, as one of Richard Oakes’ friends, I was needed back at school to give a brief reaction interview on South Today – or else.

“I’m bloody well not!” came my reaction.

There ensued a full-on row on court, as Simon cajoled and finally bodily dragged me to the changing rooms, assuring me that the head of year (parked just outside) would make my life hell if I didn’t haul my sorry carcass back to school.

A miserable car journey later, myself, Simon and another friend of Richard’s called Russell were lined up, firing squad style, against the wall outside the main entrance of the school.

A BBC South Today cameraman was waiting, and a crowd was gathering behind him. Two dozen fellow sixth formers (many of whom had made my life a misery in the preceding years) were assembling for the gladiatorial fun of watching a classmate endure a completely public, rewindable humiliation on camera.

The smiling cameraman assured me, as I was at great pains to ask, that the taping would consist of a rehearsal take, followed by a ‘real’ interview. This rehearsal thingy would help them get their sound levels right, and help us just get over our nerves and relax into the whole thing. For the rehearsal take, the deputy head demanded silence from the spectating crowd – they acquiesced but descended into a glorious mime show that would have made Marcel Marceau weep. Pointing to their asses, pretending to vomit, miming fellatio - you name it, anything to put us off our stride. I giggled through all my answers and said nothing in particular.

Next thing I knew, the South Today bloke was rolling up his flex and packing up!

“Thanks” he said to us with a grin.

“But what about the proper main take?” we pleaded. “That was a complete piss-take, please let us go again!”

“It’s fine” he beamed, devoid of compassion “we’ve got more than enough!”

I was gobsmacked. And that was that. To this day I think it’s a miracle that they were able to find a usable sentence of reaction amid all my weird nervous teen giggling.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

TIME 100 Updates

For the next few months, I will be contributing regularly to TIME Magazine - offering portraits to update the progress of people featured in their 'TIME 100' souvenir issue.

This is Jeff Kinney, author of 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid'.... More to follow in the coming months.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Financial Times Magazine

My colour pencil portrait of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange features in today's FT Weekend magazine. The article focuses on Assange's idyllic upbringing on Queensland's Magnetic Island. I was briefed to, in the absence of any reference material, imagine the controversial whistleblower as he might have looked as a youngster...