Now That’s What I Call Lieder 16

Ok, its coming on Christmas and its the start of my Flash Residency at 44AD Gallery smack bang in the centre of Bath and just a stones throw away from the historic thermal spa which  was constructed by the Romans around 70ADI am going to be based at 44AD in the basement studio until the end of February with the aim of making art ,running some workshops and holding one or two discussions on what it means to define one’s self as an artist.  I’m interested in where as artists where we place ourselves and where we are placed within the creative spectrum. What does it mean to be defined as an “Outsider” or “Emerging” or any other kind of artist?

A little bit of history.

I was creating my own work ,my own images long before the notion of becoming an artist entered my head . I would draw as a child ,look at pictures of paintings and be intrigued by them (like wise wallpaper sample books, of which there seemed to be an abundance of at home  for some reason ) my Father could draw and my Grand Father could paint in oils but they never considered themselves to be “Artists”. Maybe its was a class thing, a lot of people would say so and maybe for them it was just a hobby, something that they did when they had some spare time after a days work. I dont think either of them thought to show or exhibit their creative output beyond their own family circle. I dont think that they were trying to say anything particular about their work other than that they could  draw or paint something which was pleasing to them and their family and freinds nor do I think they thought it important to exhibit their work in the public domain.

And Now

I am about to put together a body of work over the coming weeks under the working title of Now That’s What I Call Lieder 2016 . The word Leider is of German origin ,its English equivalent would be something like Art Song . I like the idea of making Art Songs, not in terms of the 19th centuary musical form but in terms of creating visual work that relates in someway to certain songs that have engaged my attention .

For the Record

I grew up on vinyl , bought my first album with pocket money even before i had a record player of my own such was my anticpation. I loved the whole process of going into a record shop ,deciding what record to buy ,looking at the art work ,reading the sleeve notes , and then when i got home , listening to stuff that would take me to some other place,it was a sensual and experiential , something incredibly personal that could also be shared with others .         So records have been very important to me, as important if not more so than art. I wasnt part of the Pop Art Culture more of the Blank Generation of Richard Hell and the Voidoids and although I had taken up photography I didnt see how what I was doing (photographing bands such as theVoidoids and The Clash for a self financed Fanzine ) could be linked to the Art World.

Richard Hell

Equal But Different

There must have been a point where my passion for music was matched by my passion for art but I really cant set a date for it. What I do know is that they both aquired equal importance in my life but were very different in how they were represented . Every Thursday i could buy a music paper such as the NME or Sounds from most news agents .Art magazines were far more exclusive ,harder to find ,more expesive , staff in art galleries seem to  view certain viewers with suspicion . I think that I am still trying to understand this relationship between art  and music where they seem to share so much common ground such as  within counter cultures ,yet can also seem so estranged from each other . I am not wishing to advocate a world of Rock Artism or to create some visual facsimile of songs that i have loved (or even disliked )  but to try and work with and around the spaces between these two forms of creativity that are such an intinsic part of my life.

Equal But Different


Sound and Vision

On the morning of December 11th I recieved a text from a good friend informing me of the death of David Bowie. As with inumerable others, the music and lifestyle of Bowie was significant in shaping my youth. He acted as conduit for so many things that seemed beyond the reach of ordinary kids who were embarking on ordinary lives.  He made life appear exciting, adventurous and open to change. Through the music, his lyrics and influences  it was possible to go off at a tangent and discover new worlds, stepping from the Velvet Underground to Andy Warhol, then on to William Burroughs and back to the rawness and recovery of Iggy Pop.  You could also delve into to the world of fashion and the likes of Kansai Yamamoto, Ola Hudson and later, Alexander McQueen  or move towards theatre and film taking on Brecht’s Baal and David Lynch’s Elephant Man.  It could be said that there was something for everyone, after all Bowie even did a Christmas special duet with Bing Crosby.  An everyman who defined himself as an outsider, maybe he was in some way  regardless of his successes and critical acclaim.  A self-proclaimed alien who always brought people together rather than alienated them.

My response to the news of his death was to go into the studio and create some work. 



Was Bowie an Outsider? In terms of visual arts I am not always certain as to what actually constitutes an Outsider any more, the term seems to have taken on a life of its own since Roger Cardinal’s 1972 Outsider Art book.  I would also be very wary of defining myself as an Outsider even though I have taken an interest in it for a number of years and have been involved with organisations such as Outside In and Uncooked Culture, taking part in group shows and running workshops on the likes of Alfred Wallace,  Jean Debuffet and  Nek Chand.  Just by looking at the works and lives of these artists it’s clear that  Outsider Art is not a particular style or a lifestyle; it is simply far too diverse and complex  to be defined in such ways. Thanks to the internet and social media there are  an abundance of networks out there who see themselves as “Outsiders” some are good and true which have a genuine interest in the work and the people they represent but there are some I find a little dubious – seemingly just out to make some profit on a growing trend. It is because of such differences that I wrote  an article for KD Outsiderart blog on “What it means to be an Outsider Artist”  to clarify in my own mind what being an Outsider artist meant to me .


Lieder 16

Towards the  end of 2015 I had this earworm which lasted  several days …. it was Bruce Hornsby’s The Way It Is. ( )

And…this earworm makes me wonder  about  The Way It Is  could I create  something visual around this track  as part of my studio residency at 44AD Gallery for something ive titled  Leider 16 aka art songs  . Is it an art song ? Can you take an earworm and turn it into a work of art?

I’ve now  moved into the studio and started on a few things , setting out some images and old song sheets whose covers and song titles interest me.Its good to have the space to work in , its clean and sparse and quiet too . Its good having the wall space to see what works and what doesnt , some things work better than others ,some need more work , but thats the flow of the creative process , what looks great one day looks maybe not so great the next or what didnt look good at first  is actually ok and could lead to new ideas.

But back to that song …in the  world of genrefication I guess the song it sits as a classic piece of A.O.R, something that would fit in perfectly to almost any Radio Two playlist, a piece of Americana, a piece of Dad rock for that solitary journey (heading either to or from home) when it feels like everything that is personal to you is falling apart, a song  with a narritive about social injustice and  not believing thats just the way it is. That’s my experience/relationship with the track, a song that I only ever heard on the radio, something there in the background rather than something that I would tune into. So it’s a song that I have viewed with a certain ambivalence, it was never in my (or for that matter of my peers’) record /cd /download collections. It’s  is a song that never entered any of those (many) late night music-orientated conversations that I’ve had over the years.

Would it have been different  if the song had been written or recorded by Bruce Springsteen or even Van Morrison.  Maybe I would have taken a greater  interest in it or picked up on its reference  to the civil rights legislation of 1964 .   Perhaps if sung  by ‘The Boss’ or ‘The Man’ it would be regarded in a different light by myself and peers but it wasnt, its  by Bruce Hornsby and The Range  its  mainstream music, it may well be  regarded by many as a great and significant  song but it also veers into to the safe rock realm of Huey Lewis and News,  Deacon Blue and the likes  – and thats a  place I tend to avoid.

Of course I am placing the song within my own parameters of taste,  what if I approach  this track from another perspective ? after all wasnt  it the Ramones who took on the Bay City Rollers track Saturday Night  ( ) and turn it into  Blitzkrieg Bop  ( ).  I have no nostalgic interest in  this song ,it was never even a guitly pleasure.   I know very little about the song except through hindsight , for example that 12 years after its original release in 1986 it was recorded as Changes by rapper Tupac, however not being into Tupac at the time  the song continued to remain off my radar .

So thats my relationship with the song and whats  occupying me now is creating something visual around the song ? Where do I go with it ? the title, the narrative ,my ambivalence , my intrique . The only way is to start ,to do something ,see what evolves  .  Below are the results so far of what has emerged by listening to this track  .  At the moment they all have the title  The Way It Is  and I dont really  know how they relate to the song at all , for me thats not important ,my intention was for the song to act as a catalyst to producing some work and I could only have made these particular images by listening to that particular track .

What will be the next track ??


The Way It Is

The Way It Is 

The Way It Is