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.
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.