Fanny Janssen interviews Harry Pye for LAISSEZ FAIRE
In October Fanny Janssen (pictured above)interviewed Harry Pye for the Art & Design magazine LAISSEZ FAIRE
The full feature can be found here: http://issuu.com/armlocker/docs/issue-21/0 And the address of their site is: www.laissezfairelondon.co.uk
Here are a few highlights from when Harry met Fanny...
Janssen: When did you become seriously interested in painting and why?
Pye: "Well...I can't remember not enjoying drawing and painting. My parents, friends and teachers encouraged me from quite an early age. I think it was fun and exciting to do and a way of making myself and other people happy. When I was a teenager I took everything seriously including painting. Then when I was 19 I did a print making degree and then I got interested in writing scripts and making fanzines and I didn't really get round to painting again until I was 31. Now I think art helps me find things out about myself. Some philosophers believe the secret to happiness is to find out what you're good at and then set yourself projects or targets that are difficult but not impossible. I think that if I didn't paint I don't think my life would have much meaning."
How would you describe your style?
"I had a show about ten years ago and at the opening I spoke to a friend of a friend. I said - what do you think and he answered that he thought it was all "very Harry Pye". I think he was right. I think my style is "very Harry Pye". I've always been a fan of Pierre Bonnard who is described as being "a painter of feelings". I'm sure most people would say my work was just Pop Art - they're probably right. But It would be nice if one day I was described as being a painter of feelings too."
Part of your style seems reliant on and loyal to collaborations with other artists, how important do you feel these relationships are and have been in your work?
"Well, there's a Country song by Willie Nelson called On The Road Again and he sings about how the life he knows is making music with my friends and touring. And I'm someone who is at their happiest when painting with his friends. I've had lows, health problems and failed at lots of things but I feel really lucky to be friends with Gordon Beswick, Rowland Smith, Marcus Cope, Billy Childish and all the other people I've painted with. I've also collaborated with Julian Wakeling, Dan Connor and Jasper Joffe - we haven't painted together but we've collaborated in lots of other ways on different projects. I like working alone as well though."
How did you feel by being called the master of Lo Fi British Art by Jessica Lack in the Guardian? That’s quite a large responsibility, did things change for you after that title?
"Well I always loved the Do It Yourself attitude that sprang up in the late 1970s. And then later on I was always a fan of fanzines and comics like Viz. I remember when Vic Reeves used to put on shows at the Albany Empire in Deptford, like Frank Sidebottom before him, they were all done with no budget. So I guess I was influenced by people like that and continue on from them in some ways. I think if someone in a magazine or a newspaper says something nice about you it's wise to enjoy it but not take it very seriously and just carry on as you were."
What’s the most important thing you have learnt about art and the art world from all your years involved in it?
"Well, I love getting ideas, doing stuff, failing and trying again, collaborating and everything like that but I don't love the art world. In fact it's hard to think of anything great about the artworld really aside from the odd free drink. A friend from Scotland, who lived in London for a bit, once asked me - why is it not enough to be good? She wanted to know why she couldn't just work hard and then succeed. And she talked about how silly/depressing the London Art Scene was an concluded that in order to do well you had to put on enormous big boots and wade through loads of shit. She's probably right. Being good and working hard is not enough in the art world. You have to put up with a lot!"
Who has been your biggest influence, (artist or non-artist), and why?
"I loved Peter Cook and Andy Warhol - they both had their own magazine, drew cartoons, made films, loved music etc. I think the Monty Python team had a big impact on me. Matisse and Picasso and loads of other obvious ones. Gilbert & George and Bruce McLean's earlier stuff I like a lot. Edwyn Collins and Jerry Dammers had so many great ideas and were impressive the way they started record labels. I'm influenced by all sorts of people that you probably wouldn't expect such as Jo Spence, Mexican Day of the Dead artists, Van Gogh, Harold Pinter, Bacon & Freud, friends like Christopher Owen. I can't pick just one person but I think about things Jean Dubuffet said a lot."
Is there any painting of yours that you wouldn’t sell to anyone at any price?
You’re not just a painter, you write, edit, curate and you make music too, is there anything you regret doing?
"I think with every project there's a moment where you find yourself thinking: I'm never doing this again. But then it seems funny and comes good in the end."
I have a few favourite paintings I want to pass by you: Come on in the waters lovely which I think was on display at the Sartorial Gallery for getting better p.v, the life drawing class which I think was the Matisse selection? Harry and his dad’s Christmas dinner, despite both seemingly being topless and both looking a bit like gilbert and george (my first assumption before I saw the title), your adaptation on Henri Rousseau’s tiger painting and the Thatcher painting with the elephant in the room. I could mention a few more but these are ones I would happily see over and over again. Do you have any comments to make on my selection?
"I like all those. Nice that you picked some I did on my own, the swimming pool one seems to be a lot of people's favourites. The Elephant one was for a show about Margret Thatcher ay Gallery Different. It got featured in The Standard and on the BBC news. I painted that with Gordon Beswick in about 4 hours so it was very rushed."
Talking about elephants in the room, you are going to be part of elefest starting soon, can you tell us about your project for that?
"I've curated a little show of Ugly/Beautiful art that will be part of the festival. I'm really looking forward to it. Lots of great artists like Rose Gibbs, Mel Cole, Sir Peter Blake and Gavin Nolan are included. I'll also be launching the latest issue of The Rebel Magaizne at the P.V."
And after Elefest, are there any further exciting plans or collaborations set that we can look forward to seeing?
"I'm making an album with a really talented singer songerwriter called Francis Macdonald.
I've sent him tapes of me talking about Mondrian and other art heroes and I've e-mailed him poems and lyrics which he's turned into songs. We're both really happy with the results. I had a strange time recently - my Landlord dies and so I have to find somewhere new to live, my Grandmother died and then my father died. So I guess I've had a lot to think about and write about. Not all the songs on our album are sad though. I think there's lots of humourous stuff on there too. I'm also co curating a show with my friend Kes Richardson. We've got some really great artists such as Dom Kennedy, Rose Wylie, Peter Doig, Billy Childish, and Chantal Joffe involved in a transcription project. It's going to be great. I've also made a painting with Marcus Cope called The Four Tates. Our painting will be exhibited in Pimlico Tube and will feature on the cover of a staff handbook that every single person who works for the Tate will recieve a copy of.