Saturday, 27 August 2011

Q & A with Kevin Wayne

(Above image: The Networker 2008)

The Rebel: Your first solo show at Unit 24 opened last week. How did the p.v. go / how did you feel on the night?
Kevin Wayne: "The night seemed to go pretty well and the work got a positive response from everyone I spoke to. I was very nervous (as you could probably tell), I have had a few pieces in group shows over the last couple of years but this is my first real attempt to get 'back in the game' so to speak. Its a new body of work quite different from what I used to do so I was quite anxious to see what people made of it."

There was a lot of work on display. How long has it taken to get to the stage you're at?
I started working on the box pieces about three and a half years ago, I had a lot of the ideas for some of the pieces way before that, but my method of working took a long time to arrive at. My attic is filled with quite a few half finished experiments that involved resin.

Are you interested in animation? I can imagine your work lending itself to film very easily?
"Yes, I have always loved animation of all kinds but particularly stop-motion. Ray Harryhausen was a bit of hero of mine when I was a teenager, I used to make lots of creatures and model sets but for some reason I never got to the point where I ever put anything on film, I was always a little daunted by the technical side of things. However I recently went on a two day animation course, its amazing how digital cameras and film-making software have really simplified the process, not to mention making it much faster. I have now set up a filming rig in the room where I teach. I am only tinkering at the moment but yes, you're right, I think some of my stuff would work well on film. Whatever film I made would probably be a bit of a back-burner project that I could pick up and put down."

What's your art background, what colleges did you attend, did you have any great tutors?
"None of my family were especially arty, I always liked drawing from an early age and it was one of the only subjects I showed any promise in at school. I did a foundation course at KIAD Maidstone before doing my fine art degree up in Liverpool. As I approached the end of my time in Liverpool I applied for a few MA courses in London, not holding out too much hope of getting a place as most people I knew and respected who had got on those courses had taken at least two or three attempts. However I got an interview for the sculpture course at the Royal College and it all went unbelievably smoothly. My first year there was a pretty miserable one though. I had a bit of a crisis of confidence in the work I was making which is bad enough but when you are surrounded by lots of smart, talented people it kind of compounded the feeling that maybe I was a little out of my depth. Anyway I had a much better second year and felt much more a part of things. My work came together well and I ended up doing a decent final show.
As far as great tutors go, I found that their influence seemed to diminish the higher up the system I got. I still regard my art teacher at school, a guy called Dave Barton, to be the biggest influence on me. I think that a big part of teaching is about creating the right environment. The art department at the school I went to, as I'm sure it is at many others, was a bit of a sanctuary for all the misfits and weirdos. I can't really remember being taught any specific skills, it was more about being in a relaxed and creative astmosphere. A couple of others deserve a mention, Dave Morris my Lecturer at Liverpool, was a great 1970's style art school tutor. And Eric Bainbridge at the RCA, although I think I liked him because I liked his work. Thats an important thing in teaching I think, to practice what you preach."

How do you pay the bills? Can you live off your art work?
"I teach full time at a small school in Sittingbourne for kids in foster care who have behaviour/learning difficulties. I sell the odd piece but I have a house and family so I really need the steady pay. I also do a fair bit of commercial work."

Do you think the London art scene has gone down hill in the last 10 or 15 years? Do you think there's too much bad, fake and dumb art out there?
"I'm not sure I am the best person to ask this, having spent over ten years living in the artistic wilderness of north Kent. I do try and keep in touch though, mainly through the internet. I went to art school in the mid to late nineties, during the highpoint of the YBA's and the Sensation generation. There was a sort of (naive) sense that a conveyerbelt had been started in motion and that a Saatchi or a Jay Joplin would be waiting for you when finished art school to make you a star. I think I may have been guilty of making one or two pieces for my final MA show that I thought Saatchi would like, which I think is at the heart of a lot of problems. I remember Saatchi did come to see our show, accompanied by Martin Maloney. He didn't buy anything and left. At that moment I think there was a horrible realisation among a lot of the students that that was their chance gone, or their chance at fame at least. I went to see the recent Newspeak shows at the new Saatchi gallery on the Kings Road. I think the shows were intended to act as a barometer for where new british art was at the end of the noughties/start of the teenies.
I liked a couple of artists in it, Barry Reigate and Ansel Krut spring to mind, but overall I was left feeling pretty cold. I get slightly depressed when I enter a room full of deliberatley ambiguous paintings, objects or videos with accompanying statements that suggest that the viewer's interpretation is a key 'material' in the work. One of the artists in Newspeak was the winner of 'School of Saatchi', a sort of X Factor for contemporary art. I saw a few of the finalists from that a year or so ago at the RCA show private view. I stood and observed a couple of them as they swanned around acting like celebrities. I thought it slightly strange, given the show's ratings. The YBA's were a hard act to follow, I think there are a lot of good artists out there. Unfortunatley there are also a lot of artists doing stuff that they think other people will think is cool, which is a little sad I think.
There has been a lot of talk about how the downturn in the economy will effect the art world. Some say that austerity breeds creativity,so perhaps we're in for another golden age."

You make references to Richard Hamilton and a few other artists in your show. Who are you art heroes?
"The British Pop artists are big favourites of mine, in particular Peter Blake. I got the chance to meet him once at college but I was so nervous I think I told him "You're Peter Blake". I grew up in Chatham,Kent the hometown of Billy Childish. Over the years I've grown to admire him more and more, I love the fact that the mountain has been made to come to him. Most of my art heroes are Americans, Joseph Cornell has always been a source of inspiration. Over the last 10 or 15 years the comic book artists Daniel Clowes and Chris Ware have been as big an influence as anyone I can think of. There is another American artist, Taylor Mckimens, who is about the same age as me. When I first saw his work I remember thinking Bastard! I wish I'd done that."
(Above image: "Just What Is It That Makes Today's Homes So Depraved and Appalling?"

What's your favourite of your own works in the show?
"I like the piece The Crossing. I like it because it was a bit of a breakthrough in my cut-out method of working. Also when I look at it I can see lots of different possibilties for other pieces."
(Above image: The Crossing)

What are you working on now / what will your next project be?
"I am working on a series of cut-out box pieces based on my experiences and recollections of an area of woodland near Chatham. I also want to start making some articulated/moving pieces, that light up or do different things when you press a button, a bit like old local museum dioramas. First of all though I want to do some drawing. I have an idea for a comic strip called 'The Star Wars confessions'. I've been asking friends to tell me childhood memories that in some way relate to Star Wars. For example my friend Dan's sister melted the legs of his Luke Skywalker action figure. Rather than throwing him away he carefully constructed a wheelchair for Luke that Chewbacca pushed around (I like the idea of Chewie working as a hospital orderly). The ramp entrance on his Millenium Falcon toy really started to come into its own after that."

What's the best thing about being Kevin Wayne?

"I don't want to sound too corny but I have a great wife and two beautiful kids who I love and adore. Anything else is a bonus."

Q & A with Marcus Cope

(Above image:Neophron Pernopterus 120x85cm oil on canvas 2011)

1) Why did you start painting and why do you continue to devote so much of your time to it?
Marcus Cope: "I guess I must enjoy it, although it doesn't always feel that way when I leave the studio. Like a lot of artists I was good at drawing at school and made the traditional route through A-levels, Art foundation, BA and MA, and I'm still doing it. I guess giving up would feel like failure (That's why I never wanted to give up smoking). I remember there was an expectation from my parents that I would go to university, as my elder brothers and sister had. Obviously I wanted to go against that. My dad was an abusive man and an alcoholic, so when the time came it seemed like a good opportunity to leave home and get away from him. I was a bit of a slacker when I was younger and I only did two A-levels, Art and Design & Technology (which I like to think of as 'Drawing & Painting' and 'Drawing & Making') so my only option for further study was the Art Foundation. I was drawn to painting because of it's simplicity I think, you have all your tools and materials with you ready in the studio at the start of the day. The focus of the day is what is going on in that square or rectangle (etc) in front of you."
2) Tell me about your show in Redchurch St - are you feeling smugly confident about it?
"The show is at studio1.1 and will consist of nine paintings all featuring a different species of either Old or New World Vulture. It is called 'Carrion', a play on words (relating to the previous question 'carry on' and also what vultures eat). I'm pleased to be having a show at the gallery so soon after my last, as it has directed my focus, and given me an urge to develop a very different show to my last one. The works in this show are much more disciplined, and will sit together as a clear series."
(Above image: 'Gyps Rueppelli', 120 x 85cm, oil on canvas, 2011)
) What are the people who run that space like? Do you think getting on in the London art scene is all about who you know and who goes to the right party?
"Michael Keenan and Keran James run the space, and they are both very thoughtful and enthusiastic about the art that they show. Keran is an artist as well so he is very understanding of what you are trying to achieve. We are friends now etc. I've been in very few shows in London that have not been organised by people I know, it's surprising because I am such a good painter, but it does emphasise that thing about networking, and yes, it is usually who you know. I'd still like to think that quality rises to the top. It also highlights how few people look beyond their own circles of friends/contacts when curating shows."
4) Do you think art should always be free for all? Would you consider charging people £1 to enter to see your current show? (Or maybe they could give you gifts instead of money)
"I'm surprised that people look at art who aren't artists. I wonder what it is that they get from it. I like it when you pay for a show because it really makes you wonder what the act of looking is all about. Whether it's worth more than seeing reproductions, or whether the money could be better spent elsewhere. These days the Tate et al are selling exhibition catalogues for just a bit more than the exhibition entry, I often feel greater desire to purchase that than go into the show. Charging people inevitably puts some people off, which isn't really fair as many artists are very poor. For commercial or independent galleries it's a different situation because they don't have the overheads of the major galleries. Lot's of artist run spaces run a bar at the private view to help cover the rent etc. It's great when lots of people come to see your show, why put them off by charging? If they really want to pay they can just buy one!"
5) Are there any things about the art world that you'd like to see stamped out?
"There is a problem with exploitation, which probably stems from there being too many artists, and too many of them with career aspirations that outweigh the quality of the work they make. There is too much unhealthy commercially focussed competition amongst artists in London. It's quite sad really."
6) What's next for Mr Cope? Do you have your next 3 shows planned out?
"I'm in a four person painting show in Newcastle in a couple of months that a very good painter called Kevin Mason is putting together, then it's going to tour to York University in 2012. I'm also going to be curating a show in December at a lively new gallery called B&N opening soon in Shoreditch. The third thing you'll just have to google for....if you are that kind of artist."
7) What are the best things about being Marcus Cope?
"Having friends like Harry Pye!"
8) Do you like giving lectures to young art students?Can you imagine doing more teaching as the years go by?
"Of course I do. They are so enthusiastic and open and unfazed by the art world. I'd really relish a teaching post but it seems to be getting further away from me now that more and more failed artists are doing that PGCE nonsense, taking all the jobs away from artists who are more concerned with their own practice than buying a house."
9) My friend Rowland says you sometimes look like Tommy Cooper. Do you think his comparison is fair enough?
"Yeah, why not? I liked it when I was living in Cyprus and you sent me an email saying your friend John thought I was a poster boy for some ad campaign. Perhaps it was Calvin Klein...?"
10) There's a saying: "Writing is re-writing" do you think good painting is all about editing?
"If only I'd had time to re-write these answers.....Too right it is. My favourite paintings (usually), are those where you can see the errors, or the underpainting, the layers and the painting's history. The thing about painting is that it is not design, you can't just draw it out and colour it in, and even when you try, the results are usually pretty dull. Perhaps this goes back to an answer to the first question, the reason I still paint is because making a painting can (and should) always still surprise me, and often does."
(Above image: Aegypius Calvus 120x85 cm oil on canvas 2011)

Friday, 19 August 2011

Q & A with Hugh Mendes

Over the last decade artist Hugh Mendes has been collecting newspaper clippings of obituaries and other world events. To mark the tenth anniversay of 9/11 he is showing paintings, drawings and original clippings related to the event and its aftermath, including a list of all those who died on that day. The exhibition takes place at Kenny Schachter Rove, 33-34 Hoxton Square, London, N1 6NN from Sept 9- Oct 1 For more info visit:
IMAGE: (Detail of "Eight Years On" painted by Hugh Mendes)

The Rebel: Are you excited about your new show?

Hugh Mendes: "Yes I am! That includes a certain amount of nervousness and anxiety dreams, some quite absurd. It is 10 years worth of work and I have been planning and working on it for over a year now. It is probably the biggest and most significant show I have had."

Image: Obituary: Saddam Hussein 25 x 35cm 2006

When you spend a long time looking at the faces of people like Saddam do you begin to feel close to them? Do you feel a sympathy for your subjects?

"I do feel a certain sympathy or empathy, especially with the obituary paintings. They are dead and I am paying tribute, memorialising them. Contemplating their lives. I sometimes do other things to 'tune in' to the person. For example when I was painting 'captain birdseye', I bought and ate a few fishfingers for the first time in years (I am a vegetarian). They were a staple of my childhood. I choose my subjects for a variety of reasons: iconic images, personal connections, interesting photos or portraits. I have to have a sustainable reason to paint them as it does take rather a long time. Looking at that face developing over a period of days or weeks. In the case of Saddam, I chose a particularly poignant image. He looks quite handsome, he is glancing worriedly over his shoulder. It was taken from an image at his trial. He had such an ignominious end. I could not watch that video of his hanging by what appeared to be a bunch of thugs wearing balaclavas. Obviously he was also a dictator and mass murderer, so there are at best mixed feelings. It is part of our collective history..."

Do you have any art rivals or are there any artists that you’re often compared to ?

"I was once compared to Gerhard Richter in a review in 'contemporary' magazine. That was rather flattering! I am very interested in other artists whose practice overlaps with mine. There have been many examples. Sometimes there can be a sense of mild jealousy when someone else has more success or sales, but generally I am happy with any artist's relative success and especially when it is well earned, or I admire their work. It can be slightly galling when a very mediocre artist is highly successful. The 'art world' is a fickle place, but I have to say I am very happy to feel a part of it, and even in the hub with my lovely studio in Hackney."

Would you be offended if a critic described you as a great illustrator rather than a great artist?

"I have not heard that term of distinction for some years. It was something people used to discuss a lot. For instance in David Sylvester's interviews with Francis Bacon, and when I was first at art school. I remember thinking of Hockney as a good illustrator, but unfortunately an illustrative painter. I just think of myself as a painter. I also do a lot of drawing, and collage work... I think that pejorative use of the word has almost lost relevance in this post, post modern era, or whatever it is...?"

Why did you pester Lucian Freud? What did you want from him?

It was after Francis Bacon died. Bacon used to live just near my father and they would see each other in the corner shop in South Ken. I used to think how I would have liked to see Bacon's studio. It was so iconic, as the archetypal messy artist's studio. I thought of Freud's studio in a similar way. I wrote to him asking if I could visit his studio. I have always had a fascination with artist's studios. I love snooping around in them. You can learn so much from a studio, such as working methods and practices. I love the smells of turps and oil etc. It is so evocative. I once stopped painting for a couple of years (took up design and film making). Then one morning I woke from a dream in which I was painting again, and opened a bottle of turps. I was immediately sent into a state of rapture from the smell. I have been painting ever since. Anyway, Freud bizarrely wrote back with a sweet postcard of one of his early paintings (in some ways my favourites). It said: Dear Mr. Mendes, please leave me be. I am running out of time'."

Did you get a good education?

"Yes. I had a good art teacher at secondary school. He was called Dick Lilley. My aunt worked in the local art school shop. I went to Saturday morning classes there, I guess in my early teens. I never really bothered with academic subjects at school, though I was good at English. I failed art A level, which when I went to Chelsea art school they thought was quite an unusual achievement. I was at Chelsea during what in some ways was its hey day. Staff included Hockney, Uglow, Aitchison. Sometimes they took the piss and were drunk at lunchtime. But I learned a lot about colour, drawing, tone. Also printmaking and working 9-5, every day. I was hanging out with artists. Also we hosted the first couple of Sex Pistols gigs... the kids from down the road at Mclaren and Westwood's 'Sex' shop. I then had a bit of a break between my BA and MA, including a 7 year sojourn in the states. I came back here in 2000 to do an MA at City and Guilds art school. That was a major turning point. As is well documented, I graduated on 9/11. Since then, its just been painting, teaching, curating, having shows all over the world. Its been a good ten years leading up to this forthcoming 'anniversary' show."

What was the last piece of music you heard that you really made a connection with?

"I love music and listen to a lot. I enjoyed PJ Harvey's last album 'Let England Shake'. I listen to a lot of Jazz. Like Charlie Parker, or Sun Ra. Sometimes I can't listen to music with lyrics when I am painting as I have to be able to really concentrate. When Guru died, I bought and listened to a lot of his music. Like the first Jazzmatazz album. Weird mix of Jazz and Hip Hop. I listened to lots of Wu Tang Clan when painting ODB's obituary..."

Are things going well in Hugh Mendes' world? Do you feel quite perky?

"Generally pretty perky thanks... I recently got engaged...I am highly energized in the run up to my show. I enjoy working really hard and consistently over a sustained period of time."

Van Gogh once said to his brother: “It depresses me to think that even when it’s a success, painting never pays back what it costs” Can you relate to this way of thinking?

"I find it very rewarding. It certainly can be frustrating as well. Generally it gives back what you put in. I feel that generally about life. I enjoy my life and my life as an artist. I love coming to my studio. Drinking coffee, looking at the newspapers (that's different to reading them!). Painting, thinking, etc... Sometimes I think I would like to sell more, but that's a different kettle of fish..."

Is it important for artists to sometimes question everything about their own work?
"I would think so. In a way, one is constantly questioning everything about it. I know some artists find this very difficult, even undermining. I enjoy that aspect of it. Having to think really hard, engage deeply and repeatedly. I do quite a bit of teaching and that certainly helps with that process. Having to think about art and painting. Looking at other peoples work a lot. I have always been fortunate to have a lot of artist friends who I respect and can engage with in that way. I like going to shows and looking at great works of art. Unfortunately of course one sees a lot of terrible shows as well... But you only need to see one thing that is fantastic to be totally inspired and driven back to the studio..."

(Image: Obituary: Osama bin Laden 25 x 35cm 2011)
For more

Q & A with Marcus Freeman

Mr Freeman's exhibition Landscape opens on Wednesday 28th of Sept at The Sartorial Gallery (26 Argyle Square, WC1H 8AP)

The Rebel: Tell me about your new solo show – are you feeling good about it?

Marcus Freeman: "It's about half a dozen works and they are a more intimate size than my previous works. Also, this time they are predominantly landscapes. Adrian Searle commented that Edward Hopper - whom I much admire - "did not do nature well". And whilst I make no comparison, I fear the same might be true about me, so I wanted to see. Despite all the work yet to do, yes I do feel good about it at the moment."

The Rebel: Do you have to be in a certain mood to make work? Do you have to be alone, stone cold sober in a quiet tidy room with no distractions?

"The urge to draw comes in waves, a few productive days or possibly weeks in months of more or less nothing. However the painting is quite methodical, although much more messy than you'd image. Its a surprisingly chaotic business making what most people would think of as 'neat' work, and I am not a tidy person. And once you've got a show, you have to work no matter what your mood."

The Rebel: What were the art books and exhibitions that inspired the young Marcus into being an artist?

"I think I most admired a monograph on Mondrian, he had such a clear progression throughout his career and that has always lurked somewhere in the back of my mind as the natural artistic narrative. I don't think I went to exhibitions when I was truly young, we went to Athena, and I think that has left an impression on me too, for better or worse."

The Rebel: What do you want out of this show – are you looking for love, back slaps, fame, money etc

"All of the above and in that order. I may have to be patient though."

The Rebel:Do any politicians think the way you do? Are there any people who go on Question Time or Newsnight and say things that make you think they are kindred spirits?

"Less and less often. But currently Will Self seems the only human invited onto such shows. Though Hugh Grant is an amusing diversion."

The Rebel: Did you get a good education?

"Yes, though without much flourish. They didn't do Fine Art at my school, as they said there was no future in it. We had Art and Design and were tracing lettering and so on from the start. I always wondered what impact that had on my later direction. I have straddled those two worlds ever since, in turns jealous and dismissive of both. But I've never been a good 'joiner in', so maybe I'm to blame."

The Rebel: What’s your favourite item of clothing?

"Whatever is clean. To my girlfriend's eternal disappointment its my only criteria. How ironic my current gallery is."

The Rebel: When do you feel calm and secure?

"Touring historic sites, castles, antiques markets, garden centres, book shops etc, wearing a cagool in drizzle. It reminds me of all my childhood holidays - all the things you swore you'd never do when you grew up. I read that the wife of an outgoing French Ambassador to London dismissed English holidays as 'stripping wallpaper in the rain". Sounds idyllic to me."

The Rebel: Do you like Elvis Presley’s later Las Vegas years or do you think he stopped being good quite early on?

"I would definitely go for the early days or even weeks, but thereafter we part ways."

The Rebel: What will you be doing once you’ve answered these questions?

"Emailing them to you, otherwise there would be no point, surely?"
For more info on the show visit:

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Summer Special edition of The Rebel sells out

On Thursday 28th of July a splendid time was had by everyone who went to the L-13 gallery for the private view of The Four By Four exhibition and The Rebel magazine launch party.
The photo above shows artists Emma Coleman, Tom Pounder, Aleksandra Wojcik, Edward Todd and curator Harry Pye. The show has had very positive mentions in The Guardian Guide and the Pop magazine blogspot. The Rebel launch was a complete success - there are only 4 copies of the current issue left, these four copies have all been signed by the 4 artists and will soon be on sale as collectors items worth £44 and 44p
(Above: Billy Childish)
(Above: Vanessa and Liz)
(Above: an understandibly excited Helen James)
(Above: Del)
(Below: Elsa)
(Above: Josiah Steadman)
(Below: Ania with Harry)
(Below: Mikey Georgeson)
(Above: David C. West)
(Above: Artists Emma and Alex)
(Above: Twinkle and Tinsel)
(Above: Kate Janes)
(Above: Richie Lamby)
(Above: Rebel writer Sarah Thacker)
(Above: Liam Scully)