LESS IS LESS - MORE OR LESS
Duggie Fields's dayglo post-pop paintings are instantly recognizable. Despite his concern with the identity-dissolving impact of mass media on the contemporary psyche, Fields manages to sustain a coherent signature style that is as flamboyantly dysfunctional as it is cool and simple. Applying overdriven colour and stripped down cartoon-ish drawing to produce mutant variations on classical poses and genres, Fields' work scrambles categories, freaked out and flatline, delirious and deadpan all at once.
Combining elements from disparate cultural and historical vocabularies, Fields' paintings look like stained glass windows for some cathedral of modern Media. The artist's manic imagination throws up deranged icon paintings, casual violence erupting out of ritual and kitsch. Promiscuous and dangerously volatile, Field's multiverse is a place where ballroom dancing and comic book mutilation intersect. Nothing in Western culture is safe from Fields, for as the artist argues in his 'MAXIMALism' manifesto of 1995, digital media has rendered history part of a continuous present.
Fields confronts us with the (sur)reality of an infinitely malleable, perpetually mediated world. The new media of the digital age allow 'infinite opportunities for new synthetic constructs', writes Fields. 'We are of necessity the Primitives of a New Sensibility, born in the Virtual Age.' Fields graduated from Chelsea School of Art in London in 1968. After Minimal, Conceptual and Constructivist phases he arrived at a more hard-edge post-Pop figuration. In 1983 the Shiseido Corporation in Tokyo created a gallery specially for his show, and Fields and his work were featured in a simultaneous national television, magazine, billboard and subway advertising campaign. He started working with digital media in the late 1990's describing his work in progress as Maximalist.
BEN SEYMOUR , BRITART.COM march 20001
ART - THE UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE
DUGGIE FIELDS 1991
Born in a small country village in the heart of an English army base the day that Hiroshima was bombed, I spent part of my formative childhood years playing in the conservatory of my parents' chemist shop amongst the discarded advertising placards and display dummies from the cosmetic's counter. Somehow in my late 30's I became a life-size cut-out in display departments, cosmetic adverts on Japanese television screens, billboards, and department stores throughout that land. In between I spent most of my time making images in paint whose causality and connections I've often wondered about. The images I create are celebratory, spiritual and philosophical. They have placed me unexpectedly amongst the contemporary echoes of my own earliest form of received iconography and then, of course, likewise discarded. In 1968 I visited America for the first time; my perspective on life was never the same after. In New York in 1975 I was told "Listen boy, you've got a big future here'; in France I was introduced as "Important"; in Australia was recognized as a Japanese pin-up; in Austria paintings were 'reproduced' on wet-suits for wind-surfers; in India copies adorned Bombay movie walls; whist in Japan they copied them onto trashcans. The daily pursuit for hours on end of such a liquid medium as paint within the confined space of the canvas picture surface is a quasi-mystical, and certainly curious activity, on which to, spend the larger part of one's conscious life. The public response is equally curious, of course.
USCHA POHL, Very April 2000
Wonder if that was done before? I remember scolding myself. What an obsolete thought ! Suddenly, this didn't seem to be a valid issue anymore. Everything had been done at least once, if not a bundle of times. Keeping all copyright-fighters on their toes, the new copy which, not long ago, would have been quickly rejected as sneaky stealing, has now become a common tool. Downloaded and renamed, samples are appreciated as high art rather than spin-offs. Combine such skills with an effective corporate identity, you're half way there. Not that this was a topic when teenage Duggie Fields left his rural England home flanked by an army camp for London, architecture school, jazz, blues, and soul clubs. Finding nothing stranger than his remote home with tanks maneuvering in the front yard, he joyfully dived into the London scene - sharing a flat with Syd Barrett (Pink Floyd) and hanging out with Marc Bolan (T-Rex). Although not as groovy as the streets of London he switched to the Chelsea School of Art, looking at art history from a conceptual, philosophical, almost rhythmical, standpoint. Not shy, he enthusiastically integrated himself in the flow of it all, taking, using, and remodeling as he pleased, giving everything a new life form -- Duggie. Carving his own post-pop style with large scale canvases, bright, blocky colors and razor-edged black outlines he celebrated repetition way before it was trendy to scratch a record. Stylishly groomed with a distinctive forelock, Duggie and his paintings with trademark cut off, bleeding limbs, and a vivid language of life, dancing, and sex, became phenomena in themselves. In 1983, recognizing market potential the Japanese beauty giant Shiseido even went so far as to temporarily convert a warehouse into a gallery simply to show a Duggie Fields exhibition. Integrating him into an overall marketing campaign, the company showed cartoonesque versions of Duggie in TV commercials, on billboards and department store displays. On a more grassroots level, straight copies of his work started appearing in all forms and shapes, including clothing, restaurant murals, and even trashcan decorations. What for some might be worrisome or a reason to fight (for royalties) is rather amusing to Fields; he views it as part of a natural process. In the course of this game, in 1978 he quite happily copied a painting of Marilyn Monroe that someone had done in his style. Incidentally, technology has since become his best friend and play-partner. Nowadays he copies, sorry, samples, his own previous images and remodels them to his current liking. New psychedelic backgrounds appear where previously a single color reigned. Or new drawings are scanned and reworked without first awaiting the stamp of time. Celebrating the (art) world as one's playground with a working(!) computer with lots of memory (!) everything is possible according to Fields. At least, that's what he is proving to us, learning the ropes with his DIY techno technique of animating his paintings to become hand-drawn style pop videos. In these pieces his portraits of fabulous nightlife queens move to his very danceable, self-made, self-sung songs on in house CDs. Having been involved in the worlds of art, fashion, style and music for some time, he shows us a very individual way of sample your own - do it yourself and do it well.
IN THE ACT, AND AFTER
JUDY MARLE, 1991
Chelsea School of Art in the 1960's and there are two basic modes of picture-making on the menu. Life, from naked models: or non-life, nonfigurative painting on a large scale. Duggie Fields ignored both options. The nearest he appeared to get to colour field painting had a very small, very distinct Donald Duck tight-roping along a bisecting horizontal. His work was then, and has remained ever since, firmly in the European easel-painting tradition, which is not to say it is not often large. But it does not invite you into it, does not solicit participation in that way: it confronts you, smack on; the sensation is that of being looked back at by another presence. Subconsciously, you square up to these paintings. They will never be part of the wallpaper. Discretion is not in their brief. Their treatment is never less than emphatic, and so are their themes: sex, faith and art. The bare facts of the art-school life room have, for Duggie, always paled beside the enchanted jungle of manufactured images that grows with luxuriant abandon out of the spiritual and commercial compost of our century; images that, drenched in our longings and our fantasies, pulse with a fiercer life than the unprocessed anatomical data. The paintings sprout from a heap of compost Duggie always keeps to hand, that is always on the go: a pile of images that have caught his eye and are clipped, stripped, and tossed on the heap until the time comes when they suggest a painting. A combination of formal qualities and nascent thematic stirrings provoke a beginning, and the full significance of the image is gradually unwrapped from the often prosaic appearance. Postcards from the seaside, mass-produced images of Great Art, fifties booklets of bodies beautiful, sixties ads, exercise manuals, illustrations from museum catalogues....these are Duggie's DNA, the stuff of life. The source image then goes on a journey. Physically, this is easy to describe. It's character suggests an image, and a situation, that is explored through drawings which gradually take on an equally insistent formal configuration; this in turn imposes demands on the overall structure of the painting. The rectangle becomes a dense web of overlapping and often conflicting demands that are felt on several distinct levels, the emotional and the aesthetic being the two main sounding boards. From the series of drawings is brought one Master Plan, a squared up image which is transferred to canvas. Putting on paint is a time-demanding, laborious process during which major developments invariably occur. Hitting precise depths of tone, of saturation, and being equally sharp about width and weight of line, takes weeks of work which has about it a mesmeric quality. Laying down paint in layers this svelte has about bit a mechanical air, but the painterly intelligence is constantly monitoring the situation. Anything might happen. Spiritually, what happens to these source images on this voyage from scrap heap to painting is a kind of irradiation. It is as if, in a flash, they have been exposed to, a dose of Human Life As Experienced in Big Cities of Today. The dose is a cocktail of hilarity, excitement, vitality, anxiety, hysteria, of control and confusion. It is both life-threatening and life-enhancing, not always in equal measure. From this process, run of the mill and cozy images emerge with a baleful glow: they have been turned into totems of our time. Dangerous totems, juggling Angst and Glee with gay abandon, their poise mocking their mutilations, their quotation shadows mocking their illusion. They achieve the grand simplicity of icons: but, after an instant seduction, these mutant images nibble at the edges of your brain with a malevolent insistence. With supercharged manic vitality, they turbo-charge their way into your mind. Days after your first encounter, you discover that you can't put them down. The paintings are brimming with a sexual presence that is disturbingly separate from what the picture is actually depicting: the more abstracted the form, the greater this sexual allure. Erogenous zones zip through this oeuvre, bright in crimson, or tricked out in chains: but it is the apparently inert subjects, a sacred rock in a Japanese garden bearing oriental hieroglyphs, or an African carving, that put out a sexuality so insistent that it is Bunuel's films, more than painting, that comes to mind. Curiously their pre-potency is allied to their distance from an evident Humanity. When the image is a giant phallus, the effect is of a monument, formally magnificent but sexually removed. There is, I should add always a sense of sadness in this work, a longing for sensations that remain elusive. Duggie grew up in a chemist's shop in the middle of the English countryside, in the middle of the 1950's. Back of the store where he played, was a forest of pop-outs, of stand-ups, and cutouts, of eyes and lips, lashes and teeth, nails and tongues. The colour was radiant , luscious, never less than neon, and they sang the siren songs of impossible encounters, impossible fulfillment, otherworldly happiness. The slippage between their promise and the external reality of an army base in postwar Britain is, I think, the beginning of an art based on the rub between our desires and our reality. In his work the desire is never mocked; destined to travel without ever arriving, his images are never less than hopeful. Sprung, at the last moment, from the dread clutches of cliché, these paintings bound into a life that is unmistakably our own. It is to us they speak.
PETER YORK, Harpers & Queen, 1980
What is it that makes today's art so different, so appealing? Marilyn Monroe's dress is up -that shot where it's blown up over the grating - but her head is off, sliced like a neat red ham. So is her arm, off like Venus de Milo's. Opposite her is a neoclassical torso wearing a jockstrap with a faint but familiar pattern on it - a Jackson Pollock - which matches the abstract splashy patterns on Marilyn's dress . . . more Pollock. Over in the corner is a bright little set of primary rectangles - a Mondrian. It's not absolutely clear where everything is, a Dali desert perhaps . . . And some other little patterns, twiddly things, a touch of the Miro's, In the background. The picture, this picture, is all in the brightest of Fifties coffee-bar modern colours - shocking pink and such, but the effect is what the untutored describe as punk, Marilyn of course is Art, that shot is sacred, seen in posh books, while the rest is Commerce, or art pop, as seen in Fifties textiles, Formica, etc. Art about art, art about fame and photographs. It's Duggie Fields. This isn't a real Duggie Fields. There isn't one of his pictures with precisely those elements in it. But that's the sort of thing you find. Once, a Japanese artist made up a Duggie Fields pastiche from these sorts of things. Fields saw it and said, 'I didn't do that' - so he did one like the pastiche, only better. Art about a pastiche of art about art.
DUGGIE FIELDS - A REPORT BY ANTHONY EVERITT
Ikon Gallery 1980
When Duggie Fields was an art student in the late 1960's, he painted abstract pictures - hard edged, geometrical, flat coloured Just as he was completing one canvas, he decided, on the spur of the moment, to add a small image of Donald Duck. It transformed an abstract composition into a figurative one: the non-referential geometric shapes reassembled themselves into the simple, childlike, painting of a house. The canvas infuriated his teachers, but it proved to be more than a lighthearted gesture. "My work had been conceptual in effect, illustrating mathematical equations. I had been thinking of how to produce; I had not responded to, or looked at, what I was producing. I thought I was doing one thing, but found I was doing another." Fields accepted this discovery and allowed himself to become the figurative artist who had been struggling to break through an abstract manner. However, that was not the end of the story. His best work still retains a balance between abstraction and figuration. This balance, or dualism, is echoed (in his conversation) by other pairs of ideas, art and life: body and soul: flesh and cosmetics/costume . "Every motive contains it's opposite; positive implies negative; up implies down."
Art and life.....
Duggie Fields is the son of a country chemist and was born in 1945. Although without any ambition to become an artist, he took up painting at the age of 13. He probably saw some examples of gestural or Abstract Expressionist painting on television and began to experiment in a similar manner - for example, painting outdoors and letting the wind blow the paint about on the canvas. His parents were Sunday painters and reproductions of Renoir and Van Gogh hung on the walls of his home. But, in retrospect, the visual imagery that interested him most was drawn from other sources. "My father's shop was full of advertisements - for electrical components and cosmetics. An Exide ad flashed like Op Art. In a room at the back, old ads were stored - icons of women." This room had a forbidden quality, for his father also did veterinary work and put down cats there. At these times he was not allowed inside, and for many years was not told the reason why. Another forbidden source of visual imagery was a W.H.Smith's bookshop near his home. As a small boy he browsed through the magazine racks, stealing glimpses of the relatively discreet pin-up publications of the day - "doll-like people without pubic hair." Whether or not these recollections are a nationalization after the event, Duggie Fields is as preoccupied with his response to artistic imagery as to the patterns and experience of life. Of course, his paintings not only reflect commercial visual culture, but also some key emblems of modern art. Mondrian and Dali are frequent explicit presences. "I don't see the separation between art and life. Mondrian is just part of the environment. So other people's paintings are as much part of life as anything else. By putting them in my pictures, I am questioning how art relates to life." This relation is embodied, with a jokey or at least playful seriousness, in his own home - a flat in Earls Court. The living room is a three-dimensional Duggie Fields painting with a Jackson Pollock floor; murals on the walls which incorporate a Mondrian and the surreal panoramas of Dali; a pastiche of a de Stijl chair (on display in this exhibition). He lives in his art. Abstraction and figuration..... Fields is hostile to minimalism - that form of abstraction which reduces a composition to its bare, sometimes even blank, essentials. "Less is less, more or less." He argues. At one time, he believed that "the empty canvas contained all possibilities. Anything you did to it, any mark you made was a limitation. But I find I enjoy doing things to blank canvasses." A conceptual approach to aesthetics is antithetical to his central concerns. Scornful of an art which offers an analysis of preconceived compositional "systems" or which raises logical or theoretical questions on the nature of art, he sees himself as a painter in a traditional sense. By this he means that artists should be preoccupied by the medium they are using and, probably, also that they should be concerned with the insoluble paradox of form and content, of finding a way of making patterns and at the same time doing justice to real life. That is, how can a painting be both a composition and a true representation ? Fields excludes certain trends in twentieth century art from an imaginary museum where his own canvasses mingle with the masters of the past. Between 1964 and 1968 he studied fine art at Chelsea School of Art, after a brief abortive period training to be an architect. Following a visit to the United States and four weeks on National Assistance, he sold a painting. Ever since he has made an adequate if uncertain living from his work, and has never (like many artists) resorted to teaching. After his shift to figuration, he developed an approach to drawing which allowed him to present just enough information for the image to be "read" as a figure while keeping it as close to possible to abstraction. He has tended to set human figures in a recognizable, but ambiguous narrative context. In other words, it is clear that something is happening to the people in his pictures or that they are doing something - but it is not usually clear what. Narrative is implied rather than stated. With the passage of time his landscapes or interiors have become increasingly abstract: meanwhile, his figures, geometric at the outset, have become increasingly realistic.
Body and soul.....
A detached eroticism pervades much of Duggie Fields' work. He is fascinated by the de-personlalised sexuality which marks a good deal of the commercial imagery of everyday life. Although he aims to present the people in his pictures as "subjects not objects", they are at the same time depersonalized by his rigorous simplification of style and by the abstract context in which they are often placed. Fields has a strong awareness of style. "Patently, art is linked with fashion and style. My paintings refer to those things." He sees style as a means of differentiation - the arrangement of experience into categories forms "patterns": these patterns can then be distorted, elaborated, extended - and this is style. The definition suits the poised, referential nature of Fields' work. In particular, it agrees with his reduction of representation into a language of semiabstract visual formulas. But style is also a tactic by which people define themselves. Fashionable clothes, cosmetics and the sexual iconography of advertising and mass media can represent distortions or elaborations of personality; they are a means by which a person can give himself/herself an idealized and readily comprehensible alter ego. But this use of style represents an at least partial rejection of the real self. In terms of the dualism between body and soul, cosmetics can be interpreted as evidence of a spiritual initiative or an effort towards transcendence of self. If so, it is a peculiarly restricted kind, being often based on alienation or estrangement. Fields understands this and although he appears to relish the imagery he borrows and exploits, he is aware of its limitations. "Hopefully my images reflect - but also oppose and undermine". He aims to catch "the uneasy coexistence between the physical and the spiritual."
BERNARD DENVIR , MAY 20 1971.
Morandi's bottles point up the significance of the search for a suitable iconography amongst artists in an age which possesses no generally accepted system of visual reference. Most - Bacon _ is an outstanding example - build up one from the depths of their own psyche, and hope that the experiences which they adumbrate will be sufficiently general to strike resonances in everybody's imagination. Some however, utilize a syntax of imagery which is accepted as likely to consciously provide a commonly accepted series of responses. Typical of these is Douglas Field, a young artist whose first one-man exhibition was held in April at the Hamet Gallery. He has seized, with an almost morbid intensity on the imagery and atmosphere of the 'Thirties - bound inevitably to create sensations of nostalgia, revulsion, or whimsical affection - and spun out of them the language of a visual passion. Wedge-shaped coal scuttles, streamline furniture, immense platform heels and peek-a-boo toe caps - the whole language of ArtDeco is spun onto large acrylic covered canvasses with titles such as "Red Sails in the Sunset". It could very well have become a decorator's art - an exercise in that kind of nostalgia which so appeals to the English, and on which John Betjeman has built the whole of his poetic reputation. In fact Field has avoided this trap most successfully. The sharpness of his approach is accented by the jagged edges of the figures, the mordancy of the colouring, the formalistic composition in which every element is posed with almost excruciating logic. It is not only the textiles, the accessories and the architecture which are redolent of the age to which they belong; so are the curve of the lips, the arch of an eyebrow, the configuration of a nipple. They are exercises in the visual language of the 'Thirties stripped of it's irrelevancies, seen sub-specie-aeternitatis, and flavoured with those visual spices which form such an important element in the Pop Art pot-au-feu.
THE NAUGHTY BOY'S URGE TO SHOCK
BRIAN SEWELL The London Evening Standard, 12 November 1987
Snuffed out by Paris Style. DUGGIE FIELDS is a painter of whom no one should take the slightest notice. In his hands paint is dead colour and drawing a thick insensitive, unvarying line. His work, as another critic has observed, is stylish - but to me that is a derogatory insult, suggesting empty nothings paraded with bravado. That he has had a measure of popular success is not surprising. He paints images that have immediate appeal to the homosexual Mafia that is one of the least attractive subcultures of the art market, and trendy liberals feel compelled to bend over backwards to avoid seeming narrow-minded and illiberal. He has, moreover, the kind of personality that invites exploitation - to advertise his 1983 one-man show in Japan both the artist and his work were splashed all over the Tokyo Underground on hoardings and on television in a nationwide hype. Nostalgia. Recalling the horrors of Japanese occupation in Burma, Singapore, the Philippines and elsewhere in the Pacific, I quite see why the Nips gave him so enthusiastic a reception. His pictures must have filled them with nostalgia for the heady days when they could decapitate at whim any Anglo-Saxon prisoner or spike Filipino babies on their bayonets. Young Duggie Fields, a cult figure with the farrowings of King's Road and Carnaby Street, likes lopping of the limbs of his figures, slicing through their necks and skulls, and arranging in elegant patterns the stylized tears of blood that spring from these calamities. His images are not, however the horrors of war but of pornography. I have not been to New York since 1979, and I do not know if the atmosphere there now is the same as was a decade ago. I did not care for it. The art world then thought it amusing to chop fresh cannabis leaves into its salads and make cookies with the resin. It openly snorted cocaine and jabbed syringes into anyone foolish or dazed enough to share the experience. Worst of all, it gloated over what was called "snuff' pornography - that is extreme sexual sadism in which the victims die of beating, strangulation and ex-sanguination from the stumps of severed limbs. The films were, I hope, in some way faked, but they were horrifically real; in printed pornography they were supported by crude drawings in which the sadistic imagination could be specific to the last detail, and twice as foul. Duggie Fields' latest exhibition seems to me to reflect these horrors. If his imagination has arrived at his present set of images without the external stimulus of this kind of pornography, then the poor wretch is out of his mind. If, however, snuff pornography is the source of his stimulus (and he too was in America in the mid-seventies), then I have never seen more disgustingly deplorable pictures on the walls of any London gallery. Trash Were there some comment in the work the subjects might be acceptable, but there is nothing to suggest that Duggie Fields has any response other than an overgrown naughty boy's urge to outrage. George Grosz and Otto Dix could use such images and make them work, eliciting from the spectator the anger and disgust that they themselves felt. Fields apparently feels nothing, and is happy to employ the flat primary colours and primitive outlines of American comics to popularize his fetishes. Trash comics and pornography are not his only sources. Throughout his working life he has made punning references to Dali, Miro, Leger and Fontana - "Miro, Miro on the Wall" is a title typical of his level of visual wit - but larding the horrors with borrowed surrealism is no camouflage for the paucity of his ideas and skills. It was with relief that I slipped into the Marlborough Gallery a hundred yards down the road, to see the early drawings of Lyonel Feininger ... Young Feininger makes young Fields look as appetizing as a punk rocker.
TALES OF THE BIG APPLE
WALDEMAR JANUSZCZAK, The Guardian 17 November 1987
Duggie Fields decapitates the Statue of Liberty . Last Thursday the Evening Standard ran a shaming "art review, purportedly a critique of an exhibition of paintings by Duggie Fields by the Standard's famously feisty art critic, Brian Sewell. I am not an admirer of Duggie Fields' work. He is a producer of slick sub-Pop icons in a flat outline style reminiscent of early Patrick Caulfield. Fields has long been obsessed with other art-styles - it is one of the least attractive characteristics of his work. His paintings dispense quotations from Mondrian, Pollock etc. as if they were cheap reproductions available in the local supermarket. In this spirit, in his new show, he adds the typical ruined classical statue, the Venus de Milo or the Apollo Belvedere, with missing arms and heads, to his range of references from art styles of the past. It seems that Duggie Fields is popular in Japan. This is what Brian Sewell had to say about that: "Recalling the horrors of Japanese occupation in Burma, Singapore, the Philippines and elsewhere in the Pacific, I quite see why the Nips gave him so enthusiastic a reception. His pictures must have filled them with nostalgia for the heady days when they could decapitate at whim any Anglo-Saxon prisoner; or spike Filipino babies on their bayonets. Would the writer dare refer to "the Yids" or "the Pakis" with the same nonchalant viciousness? However you read this paragraph it clearly opines that the Japanese are a nation of murderous sadists who enjoy Fields' work because it fills them with nostalgia for the atrocities they committed in the second world war. This is bigotry. The writer may have a reason for remembering the Japanese war effort with abhorrence. He has no right at all to brand the entire Japanese nation, young and old, ex-soldiers and babies as bloodthirsty maniacs. There are in some of Duggie Fields's works - but by no means in all of them - severed heads and arms and stylized splashes of blood. They are not particularly reference to ancient classical sculptures and they result in a set of mutilated figures with some sort of ambitions to comment on modem life. The titles: Sign of the Times, The Cut and Thrust of Big City Living, make that reasonably clear. And certainly the marriage of slick painting style and figure mutilation is a terribly unhappy one. But to suggest, as Brian Sewell does that the images of violence could have been inspired by watching snuff movies in New York in the late seventies is absolute conjecture. The writer claims to know about these movies from his own visits to New York at the time. He leaves his readers the impression that he had seen some himself ("The films were, I hope, in some way faked, but they were horrifically real") and can therefore recognize their influence in Fields' work. Which provokes the question what was he himself doing in the audience?
DECLINE OF THE ENGLISH AVANT-GARDE................................................................................. by DR.NEIL MULHOLLAND
Image is allusion, the only constant is change. Glamour is perceived in the illusory nature of the transition of the subject to the object (private to public) expressed as myth. Personality is the inherently surprising manifestation of direction under will. The necessity for motivation within an infinity of chance/choice creates constant conceptual crisis. Shifting perspectives, viewpoints are all relative, limbo is around the corner. (89)
This much is demonstrated by one of the earliest manifestations of Jencksian åpost-punk art¼ in Britain, the adolescent historicist neo-kitsch of Duggie Fields. As a student at Chelsea School of Art during the mid-1960s, Fields had experimented with Minimalism, Conceptualism, Constructivism, before developing „a more hard-edge post-Pop figuration¾.( 90)
I had a very strong conceptual phase when I did algebraic equations that I made visual imagery from and it completely dictated the image. Then I got more organic. Then I went through a very minimal period again with just triangles and squares. I stuck a figure of Donald Duck into one of the 5ft canvases made from squares and triangles of bright colour. I got shouted at. The whole art department got brought to see this painting in horror and I thought I had obviously found a direction .(91)
89. FIELDS "SEEING IS BELIEVING" IKON GALLERY, 1978
90. MARY ROSE BEAUMONT 'BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE' DUGGIE FIELDS:PAINTING, ALBEMARLE GALLERY, LONDON 28TH 0CT. 20 NOVEMBER 1987
Although the direction that Fields had chanced upon was highly synthetic, it initially owed a great deal to the 1960s Pop-Art interest in pin-up magazines and comics. Miro, Miro on the Wall (1973), for example, paid homage to Richard Hamilton¼s punning use of mass media sources as a means of subverting the canon of art history. In 1975 Field¼s decided to merge 60s style with what he seen to be the å70s Style¼, the Body-Art preoccupation with fetishism and self-abuse, severing the heads and limbs of his figures. Fields¼ first use of this device came in 1977 with Against the Inertia of the Seemingly Static Whole Each New Harmonic Incorporation of Life Seemingly Impinges as a Dynamic Perversity, a painting titled after a quotation from the architect Buckminster Fuller. This painting achieved Fields some degree of fame when, along with Conversation Piece, it became available as a David Shepherd-style poster published by Motif editions in the early 1980s. The central figure comes from an advertisement in a fashion magazine of the late 1950s. [...] Then, with the memory of the missing limbs of the Victory of Samothrace, [...] he painted this figure with a flying skirt. Behind her (missing) head was originally a plain black square, perhaps a nod in the direction of Ad Reinhardt. Whist the picture was still a sketch Fields saw in New York an exhibition of Lucio Fontanta which he found powerful and unexpectedly moving, and as a result he decided to slash the black square. ...Dynamic Perversity not only mocked the allegedly radical cutting actions of punk and 1970s performance art, but of avant-garde as a whole. Unsettled patterned relationships between pictorial elements were deliberately overstated, and sources absurdly eclectic: making the pointed suggestion that style and content were both subservient to the vagaries of fashion. Pubic hair was positioned on the outside of the clothing in order to allow Fields to „reduce to the figure to a straight line and still keep the quality of organic form.¾ This device also permitted Fields to signal the figure¼s loss of identity, substituting darkness for light as she becomes a stylistic icon, disappearing into the undistinguished surface of self-image signified by her glamorous clothing. Fields also allowed the flat ground to cuts into her body, severing her head and leg. The frigid manner in which the paint is applied inflates the meaning of this cautious cutting action. There is a distinct absence of the thin washes, daubed expressionistic fervour, of the twisted, smeared and flayed flesh favoured by many British figurative painters. Fields, rather, chose to carefully build, his paintings, suggesting that to be reduced to nothing is an end, that it represents a kind of stability, whilst establishing an ironic clash with the latent violence in the treatment of the figure: Fields believes that when his figures are mutilated, perhaps even because of the amputations, appearing comfortable with their incapacitates, they represent the dominance of mind over matter, the spirit transcending the flesh, obliging the viewer to empathise with the metaphor for the human condition. Indeed, by virtue of its conceitedly harmonious and elegant structure, ...Dynamic Perversity dismays in its denial of åimaginative¼ life-force, alerting us to the consequences of this denial for culture and our own sense of self. In 1978, Faure Walker obliquely suggested that Fields to had surpassed the experiments of Kitaj and Hockney. Fields¼ work, Walker believed, lacked an what he regarded to be an unnecessarily stifling concern with social communication, dealing rather with the „question of how to correlate style and function when both are in an indeterminate context, of how to make art without being preoccupied with the appearance of making art.¾ In comparison with COUM and Glitterbest, Fields was less interested in comprehensively shaping his work¼s reception environment through revolutionary gestures, although maintaining an expanded field remained a priority. Like Glitterbest, Fields had planned to conquer the fashion industry, producing hand painted shoes and cut up, breastless dresses in order to explore the possibility of continuing to work following the dissolution of distinctions between art and anti-art. His answer was to challenge the artworld¼s hostility to style, a project which had much in common with the revivalist sartorial pranks initiated by Glitterbest fashion in the lead up to the seminal 1981-2 Pirates Collection. Johnny Rotten would wear a velvet collared drape jacket (ted) festooned with safety pins (Jackie Curtis through the New York scene punk), massive pin-stripe pegs (modernist) a pin-collar Wemblex (mod) customised into and Anarchy shirt (punk) and brothel creepers (ted). Like a pirate you plunder everything you want from your world culture... it¼s like your treasure and you take everything there that is great, warm, human... [Figure 14.12 Malcolm McLaren and VivienneWestwood, Pirate Collection, (1981)]: Fields adopted similar tactics of attrition, estranging historical art forms in order to subvert and deny the value systems that accompanied them. Stylistic clichÈs, things that are already modified, are the vehicles for Duggie Fields¼ paintings. The people in his pictures have been selectively bred according to the dictates of Standard Glamour until their accessories - cocktail gloves and jock straps, chic chains and evening wear - are essential to their existence in the way the arms and legs and tops of heads are not. They are extreme Presentation, incarnate: and they pose in landscapes winking with beacons of the Greats of Modern Art, themselves everyday clichÈs of Style. Although flavoured with motifs from artists he admired - Miro, Mondrian, Dali, Bacon, Pollock among others - Field¼s reverence for them seldom influenced the style of his work since his appropriational procedure was adopted to produce a celebratory visual play as opposed to an åart argument¼. The construction of a successful art argument would have ensured his work art status, achieving its relevance through its represented knowledge. While returning to an art of objects, Fields¼ was attempting to produce works which would make questions of status redundant, heightening the prospect that we may choose visual artworks rather than written texts for the important information on culture¼s unfolding ways. This idea is partially clarified if we consider that one of Fields¼ most representative works was the decoration of his flat at 29 Wetherby Mansions, Earls Court Square, London SW5 [Figure 14.13]. First he designed a sofa in the shape of a pair of lips n legs, in homage to Man Ray¼s lips painting and Dali¼s Mae West sofa... [...] Next he designed a chair with arms in the shape of a palette, and a magazine rack to match. Made of cheap blockboard in simple shapes, it is Fields¼ personalised version of the Rietveld chair. The palette thereafter became his trademark. A shrouded shackled figure lurks in the corner behind the modern television and video set-up in the bedroom, and on the only visible bookshelves Barbara Cartland sits cheek by jowl with Brian Aldiss, Walt Disney with Picasso. Fields spent twenty years recontextualising all recognised markers of art in the same instantly recognisable, brash Pop style; using flat areas of vivid colour on which forms were outlined in matt black produced an aggressive, hard-edged quality. Fields lovingly refined the abstract aspirations of the ubiquitous mod-Bauhaus home and institutional design of the 1950s and 60s, with its penchant for petroleum-based plastics, vinyl leatherette, and acrylic fibres. Windows were covered with red and black plastic strips, some walls were painted to simulate wood, others with small versions of his landscape paintings and relieved with found objects such as the torso of a mannequin, a wickerwork plantholder in the shape of a pair of plaster legs, and plaster hands. The coffee table, firescreen, telephone and power sockets were painted in tachisme, while black and white paint was splattered on the floor, Jackson Pollock-style. Given that the exuberant, period colours and fantastic designs of such works emphasised design over structural efficiency, everything that Fields¼ touched was reduced to the common aesthetic denominator of surface, giving the impression that style was infinitely more important than taste: „impartiality and exploitation of the artificiality of painting goes along with Field¼s stated interest in style as an autonomous force, quite capable of surviving in the twentieth century media-landscape whilst severed from its original roots.¾ Fields vocabulary ceased to be attached to any message, this semantic disengagement underscored by manneristic historical citation. In this Fields had much in common with his Pop predecessors, especially Andy Warhol, yet there remain factors which link him directly to his time. It is advantageous to relate Fields¼ preoccupation with style to the media expansion of the later 1970s, a boom which permitted the flow of images on an unprecedented scale. Although COUM had sought to manipulate and subvert the mass åaestheticisation of culture¼ by striking at the market, Fields preference was increasingly for multi-media modes of signification which would simply compete against those of the mass media for capital in the marketplace. Like McLaren, Fields¼ took the Situationist concept of detournment not as a weapon with which to terminate culture, but as a tool which would allow him to pick away at the threads of cultural history in order to produce a slickly co-ordinated consumer package. In all of this, Field¼s followed McLaren¼s programme of ådetourning detournment¼, re-establishing and celebrating cultural stereotypes, rather than disrupting and exposing them as a product of alienation: „It is hardly surprising, given the strength of the Situationist International¼s narcissism, that this current could be developed in the 1970s and 1980s into an apolitical aesthetic of extremism.¾ In the pop world, this concept was having similar effect as McLarenite New Romantics maligned the nihilism and amateurism of Punk, re-establishing the perfectionism of pure åpower-pop¼, while placing increasingly greater emphasis on image and åproduct¼. From this emerged a superficiality that would often border on neurosis. Following Fields¼ line of reasoning Steve Strange, ex-frontman of punk outfit The Moors Murderers , formed the åcollective studio project¼ Visage in 1979 with Blitz DJ Rusty Egan, Midge Ure and Billy Currie of Ultravox, and John McGeoch, Dave Formula and Barry Adamson from Magazine. Announcing it „leisure time for the pleasure boys¾, they quickly found themselves invited to all the right cosmopolitan parties with rich high profile social termites so despised by punk, and henceforth became the music press¼ whipping boy. Robotic beats, banks of varied synthesisers, flattened vocals, and the message of terminally repeated choruses concealed the void between dead-end daily jobs and night time fantasies of the åNew Darlings of Decadence¼, who, deriding the conventionality of fashionable outrage, heralded the new order of posing: „New styles, New shapes / New modes, they¼re to roll my fashion tapes / Oh my visage / Visuals, magazines, reflex styles / Past, future, in extreme / Oh my visage.¾ The 1982 retrospective album The Anvil (Polydor), named after New York¼s infamous leather ån¼ bondage dive, was launched at Strange¼s very own Paris fashion show. The album cover saw Strange in a Luchino Visconti movie still photographed by the master of soft porn and presentation incarnate, Helmut Newton. Inevitably, Saville was responsible for the ceremonial graphics. Yet Fields¼ desire to substantiate and enrich his own image by depicting his own body as the source his style had preceded this quintessentially New Romantic trait. When Fields¼ highly stylised image was not cropping up in his pictures, the belligerent lines of his punkish clothes and hairstyle were being mirrored in the equally contrived signature of his draughting manner. Warhol¼s blank gaze was, in effect, replaced by the winning smile of the PR man. Fields „pushed the boat out for the new sensibility, self-conscious, equivocal, eclectic, Post-Modern.¾ While seeming to jettison the well-worn Pop Art preoccupation with the mass-media¼s account of glamour and stardom, Fields was in fact presenting himself as the luminary, as his own product endorsement. What remains remarkable, however, is that this preoccupation of Fields¼ went unnoticed during the sixties and early seventies. It was then that Fields had had his first taste of fame, sharing his flat with Syd Barrett: „[Syd] swapped his mini for a pink Pontiac Parisian push-button convertible. Riding around town in it was excruciating - everyone used to come up and stare inside at us.¾ Although Fields went on to paint portraits of glam-rocker Marc Bolan and punk luminary Sue Catwoman, his status remains as the post-punk artist, a tag clarified in 1980 when his acrylic painting Acquired Mannerisms (1973) was reproduced on the sleeve of Careful, by Californian new wave band The Motels (Capitol/EMI Records Ltd.), while his kiss curl androgyny, bondage fetishism and souvenir collecting mentality were being echoed by Soft Cell¼s Marc Almond. The media having acquired his tastes, Fields, like Glitterbest, was celebrated in the early eighties as an exemplar of the laissez faire, post-modern artist capable of manipulating the media for his own ends. Although his work was featured in a number of serious art magazines [Figure 14.14 Duggie Fields on the cover of Artscribe], it was more common to find him in Vogue, Interview, Harpers and Queen, High Fashion, Elle, The Face, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, and Playboy, the higher reading figures of such publications allegedly bringing increased publicity and sales. In 1983 in the Shiseido Perfume Corporation of Tokyo was so impressed by Field¼s popularity and entrepreneurial spirit that it created a gallery especially for him. 40 pictures were shown between 19th and the 30th of January, at Suzue Gumi, Dai San 3 Soko, Takeshiba, Toyko. Meanwhile, the artist and his work were simultaneously featured in a television, magazine, billboard and subway advertising campaign for Shiseido perfume throughout Japan. For both left and right-wing populists, this signalled the beginning of a cherished post-modern dissolution of the boundaries between high and low, art and commerce - a disposition which became fully triumphant with the professionalised generation of Young British Artists (yBas) in the late 80s and early 90s. Others were not so welcoming. Considering Fields¼ move in the wake of conceptualist and post-structuralist critiques of the author, the colourful costume of funk and fun which formed Fields¼ disguise was grudgingly denounced by a number of artists and critics as a corrupt device for exploitative artists to initiate an ingeniously covert åjustification¼ for the artist¼s re-participation in the heavily authorial game of modern western art. Fields was accused of infusing the market-place by transforming painting into a vacillating performance of vacuous motifs, indulging in aimless history-hopping rather than exercising a serious and long-established critique of representation. The nihilistic vision portrayed in Po-Mo was a dying myth from its inception. œthe irony and inauthenticity of much recent painting is a carnival celebration of the artist as trickster. Whether done in the name of åpopular culture¼ as in the work of Duggie Fields et al, or in the name of åhigh culture¼ in the historical eclecticism of recent German and Italian painting, the effect is the same: the re-presentation of history as farce.¾ In refusing Kitaj and Hockney¼s ålegitimised¼ art exit, Fields was also accused of aiding the populist philistinism of the Conservative Selsdon Group¼s consumption aesthetics. York regarded Fields as an important guide „to the new [Thatcherite] Leisure Class that came up after¾ him, a new moneyed class which rejected the academic values of the middle-classes, replacing the „pedantic rationality of ågood taste¼ [...with...] a pluralism of pleasure.¾ Although this appears to undermine York¼s claim that Fields¼ particular brand of Post-Modernism denied åcultural hegemony¼, it does so in a highly oblique fashion. Eclectic Po-Mo became the dominant style at the turn of the 1980s, before it became the style of the new ruling class, the YUPPIES. However, Thatcher¼s emphasis on self-fulfilment, authenticity, and freedom of choice had an obvious appeal to participants in the sixties cultural revolution, many of whom were impresarios such as Fields. Hence, in Po-Mo liberalism, the consumer is king, driven by the desire to maximise pleasure. Fields was a part of the raw, uncouth, socially, psychologically and sexually insecure new elite who were either unable or unwilling to attain the åacademic values¼ associated with citizenship, values which had secured some members of the excluded a safe path to success since the war. The fact that such changes easily swept through all aspects of visual culture at the end of the decade was not necessarily to Fields¼ advantage. The felt-tip graffito and typewritten amateurism of Xeroxed punk fanzines such as Sniffin¼ Glue [Figure 14.15 Mark P, Sniffin¼ Glue, No.6, January 1977] South London Stinks, Ripped and Torn, London¼s Outrage, Vomit, and Rotten to the Core could be detected in the early issues of Terry Jones¼ iD (an anacronym for åInstant Design¼). However, this magazine was quickly transformed into a market leader, as the editorial emphasis switched entirely to fashion, its punky credentials distancing it from advocates of the ågraphix¼ style found in anti-Vogue fashion journals of the late 1970s such as VIZ: Visual Arts, Fashion, Photography. With Garrett occasionally helping out with design, iD succeeded in switching the British Fashion Press¼ emphasis away from prosaic interviews with åThem¼ designers such Zandra Rhodes and the Logan Brothers, and their artist friends Fields and Dick Jewell. Instead was lucid reportage of the outrageous fashions being worn by unknown, working class revellers on åthe streets¼ and at venues such as Blitz in London¼s Covent Garden, where nightclubbers had been turning up as living works of art, dancing and trying to be seen. Here was a sharp, timely contrast to the grubbiness of punk. Theatrical get ups; swashbuckling pirate clothing, Kabuki masks, make-up, and transvestites were all welcomed. Chelsea setters such as Fields, Jewell and Andrew Logan were all regulars, but found themselves regularly upstaged by sad Pierrot clowns, majorettes, toy soldiers, puritans and Carmen Mirandas hailing from the suburbs. VIZ went into receivership, while the Steve Strange inspired åEighties Set¼ took off. Following two entire editions of The Face (English for Visage) devoted to them, a host of Romo clubs such as St. Moritz, Hell, Le Kilt and Le Beetroot were spawned. åThe Now Crowd¼ suddenly became an international movement, åThe Cult with No Name¼, with an article in Time, and lavish spreads in Continental magazines from Stem to Vogue. Figure 14.16 (left) Terry Jones, Page from iD March 1981, showing street styles ranging from Traffic Warden to Punk. Figure 14.17 (right) Steve Strange and Rusty Egan sporting the Ruritarian Toy Soldier Style at Heroes, Covent Garden, 1978. Such Po-Mo plays with the odd, the surprisingly kitsch and the historically redundant, openly invited the erasure of historical claims to knowledge made by the academic estate. The refusal to define limits (since everything is aesthetic there is no åreal¼ difference to speak of), could be seen to be complicit with an increasingly conformist Thatcherite society. In this sense, such liberalism denied difference, limiting any discussion of åPo-Mo¼ to an empty re-introduction of the referent, an ahistorical re-investment in already codified and established åstyles¼. Punk¼s corrupt zone of intersection, mediation and cross-pollution, was further diluted to scepticism, irony and the replaying pre-established formulas. As such, Fields¼ wholesale denial of åauthenticity¼ might be seen to have provided a powerful practical guide for the aesthetic masking of the effects of Thatcherite economics by a plethora of ostentatious Po-Mo embellishments: There is no understanding in this attitude that culture is something which can be lived, that different cultures can be incompatible and antagonistic. What the attitude also reveals is an implicit imperialism: it is the affluent Westerner who can afford to exploit the exotic and åprimitive¼ cultures of foreign - usually Third World - lands. Members of Culture Club gave idealistic reasons for their borrowings: they saw themselves as harmonising åthe family of man¼. Such harmonisation can easily be achieved at the level of imagery but not so easily, alas, in reality. With hindsight, however, it might appear that such criticisms would have been unfairly waged at New Romantics such as Fields. I think most of us are very brutalised by the environment we happen to live in. Its nobody¼s fault particularly, but, certainly what you label glamour, can be a counteracting force. So can be used and needs to be used as such. To place blame Fields paintings for the effects of Thatcher¼s monetarist policies certainly seems over zealous, if not sensationalist. Indeed, Field¼s status as an entrepreneurial artist has been somewhat misconstrued. Fields¼ claimed that his involvement with Shiseido, was a matter of necessity rather than design. Ironically Fields, was a much a casualty as a benefactor of Thatcherite arts policy aimed at ådemocratising the culture industry¼ by turning it over to the private sector. The politically motivated cuts in Arts Council spending which necessitated that artists look elsewhere for funds created an environment in which Fields had to increasingly suppress his desire to paint, in order to pay his bills as an advertising agent. Fields¼ interests, it would seem, were powerless in the face of the Conservative¼s beloved åpublic endorsement¼. The passion for ådiversity¼ manifested in Post-Punk åart¼ was dramatically at odds with and accompanied increasingly harsh governmental and policies towards the disenfranchised. Although painters were certainly better able to progress in their careers as åprofessional artists¼ following Fields¼ lead, it is important to remember Walter Benjamin¼s caveat that to give the åmasses¼ an opportunity for åself-expression¼ without a corresponding economic and social equity is a characteristic of fascism. Contrary to the Conservative¼s pre-election promises, it would seem that in the early 80s, culture was not endorsed by thematics decided by the public, but by the interests of big business. But, did Thatcherism provide us with the åculture¼ we deserved? To suggest that situationist theory has been hijacked by the capitalist media is to credit the former with a critical rigor it did not achieve and the later with a totalising power it does not possess. [...] if we accept that the situationists not only created the total revolutionary critique but that this critique has been recuperated, then we resign ourselves to whatever fate society allots us.
REVIEW OF NEIL MULHOLLAND's book
MULHOLLAND, Neil. The cultural devolution: art in Britain in the late Twentieth Century.
Aldershot: Ashgate, 2003. 220 p.: ill.; 25 cm. ISBN 075460392X. Price: £49.95.
In The cultural devolution Mulholland traces some of the 'practical/theoretical shifts' witnessed in the British art world, starting with the period of the International Monetary Fund crisis of the mid-seventies and ending with our current state of post-young British artist hiatus. As he puts it in his introduction, Mulholland aims to trace the ways that åideological change from Keynesian culturalism to monetarist populism generated and financed the new art of the era: from proto-punk performance to postmodernist object sculpture.¼ In contrast to other recent books on our recent history (Julian Stallabrass¼s High Art Lite and Matthew Collings¼s Blimey! spring to mind) Mulholland finds space for such unfashionable subjects as the furious debate over åart and society¼ at the end of the seventies, the ådynamic perversity¼ of Cosey Fanni Tutti and Duggie Fields, the åNew Spirit in Painting¼ mania of the early eighties, the åNew Glasgow Painting¼ of Stephen Campbell and Ken Currie et al. and the åNew British Sculpture¼ of Tony Cragg and Bill Woodrow et al. The book closes with a critique of the young British artist scene of the nineties and an alternative reading of that period focusing on ex-Glasgow School of Art students (the Scotia Nostra) of Douglas Gordon and Ross Sinclair et al. With the seeming failure of recent exhibitions such as Protest and Survive at the Whitechapel ‚ which sought to recreate a lineage between the artists mentioned at the start of Mulholland¼s book and those at its end ‚ the question now has to be, what forms of cultural devolution will we witness in the new century?
on wetherby mansions
Living in Maximal Style
My life in this apartment started in the beginning of 1969, previously I had shared thirteen different homes with family, friends and strangers; it has been my home ever since. Initially I occupied it with others, one in many ways become a rock icon, who still draws the odd pilgrim to my door looking for his long departed traces. There are three rooms, hallway, kitchen, bathroom and balcony, overlooking a now traffic-calmed street of Edwardian mansion blocks, lined with London plane trees watched leafless, come into bud, leaf, and fall again, whatever has gone on inside this space, the constant immediate vision of the outside world. At night, the extinguishing lights of the buildings opposite, as the numbers occupying them have fallen as their prices have risen over the years. The sounds I hear, the continuos rumble of the main roads nearby, passing traffic, planes, people, children playing, developers developing. Periods sometimes calm sometimes noisy, cycle through time and memory.
Along with terrace cafes, millionaires mansions in streets lined with pungent blossoms, georgeous hidden garden squares and Victorian cemetery of splendour, the area co-exists with hourdes of tourists, exhibition centre visitors and exhibitors, cheap hotels, bed-sits, hostels and brothels. The streets can teem with crowds from football to rock concert fans. There, the drug-dealers, prostitutes, pimps, homeless, the dangers of the inner city, an area on the edge, calm co-existing with chaos. On its perimeter I had lived through psychedelia, art school and Swinging London in the 1960s.
Sharing it, I first occupied the one with the balcony, then the other two rooms, before expanding into the whole. On a visit to New York in 1975, planned a transformation of the room imprinted on my senses I had lived, worked and stored my possessions in previously. On return it became an extension of the landscapes developing then in my canvasses, removing the figures from inside them by extending their landscape through the room as murals, horizons, panels and objects into the third dimension, the world of the picture came into real space. Its occupants became as a result figures in a painting before imagination, now the unreal become the real. At least that was the idea, and it lasted until the ceiling fell in the mid ¼9os.
The result, change formed from necessity, obsessional behaviour, the on-going desire to oppose entropy and the decay that is the natural material condition, gravity affecting everything. As much as I may produce, the very structure of the space I live/work in has been in a state of attack, from minor water incursions to major floodings, now a second ceiling in a state of collapse. Hard not to ignore the realities of nature in the making of art, it is due, overdue, for replacement in the immediate future, and I contemplate disturbance again. Incoming rain has damaged most rooms at some time or other, repeatedly often in the same places, over decades. Each time, living with the circumstance, I have tried to incorporate visual traces into design stimulants.
References surround and multiply, both inwardly and outwardly they inform. Inspiration from many sources, the decay of the classical, romance of the ruin, the works/homes of such as Picasso, Dali, Matisse, Miro, Mondrian, Francis Bacon, Kurt Schwitters, many others, some conscious some unconscious. All echo from my mind into the space around, the sphere of influence, which in the 1980s I likened to a åWeb of Perception¼. Long before I understood, took part in the digital web of now.
The space I inhabit, in one way or another, began to be photographed over 30 years ago. Pictures of it have been shown somewhere in a magazine, book, exhibition of some sort, every year since. Published in Australia, Russia, Japan, U.S.A, France, Holland, South Africa, Germany, Italy, U.K, exhibited in the Victoria And Albert Museum, filmed for television here, in Poland, Germany, France, U.S.A, Russia, Japan, it started being labelled åRetro¾ in the early 1970s, a ¼Gesamkunstwerk¼ by the mid å70s, defined as åPost-Modern¼ in 1977. Many attempts at self-definition later, in the mid 1990s, I formulated my MAXIMALism mini-manifesto. Co-existing with a creative entry into the virtual space of digitised computer-generated media, came the words that attempted to fix the concept, MAXIMALism=minimalism with a plus, plus, plus.
Like most observational statement, mediated attention is always somewhat bizarre, re-assuring, amusing, stimulating, functional, and confusing. To me, this space is home, the essential part in it being my personal centre of creativity, where I work, rest, sometimes play, and showcase output. It functions as such for me, though is minimally hospitable to others, physically uncomfortable on many levels. It is stuffed, if not over stuffed, with things acquired over the years, dominated by the often large, bright, bold, ambiguous paintings I have spent most of my waking time making, which occupy all available wall space, exist in stacks I squeeze past to reach kitchen and bathroom, with the many other objects, some 3 dimensional some now digital, made alongside them.
Furniture is mostly made for, or customised by me, alongside found period pieces from markets, skips, and gifts, chosen when on the edge of taste, now often found in contemporary reproduction. The background is predominately white, the floor grey, black accents throughout. Reflections, in the mirror-panels which have slowly spread over the apartment, in doors, around window-frames, avoiding wall-space where a painting might hang, create myriad small patches of light and colour, vistas multiplying both space and imagery. Throughout this, the paintings present their own views into otherness, at the same time being of and reflecting the space they were made in, exist in now, are an intrinsic part of. Images, from the past side-by-side with those of the present, in a cyclic progress from art manifesting in life manifesting in art, or at least some kind of expression of it.
The definition of an ideology necessitates both speculative conjecture and perceptual intuition of motivational impulses. On entering into virtual space my working world expanded in ways and means unforeseen. Coming, with the creative spread from the canvass and the home around, into areas of music production and animation, developed from spheres of influence and input into unexpected combinations of work/play, the manifesto, first written, became a mini-cartoon, comic, and self-produced spoken-word dance-track. Physically, the virtual world gave more space, forced me to learn new tools, new techniques, to expand from the confined real into it. In the process, I was maximalised
My home, one of privileged existence at a price, had kept me to this spot, sometimes wonderful, sometimes trapped. I have walked its floors for many miles, for years breathed only its air, seen only it¼s horizons. Certainly spent the greater part of my life in this enclosed, defined space, and most of that on my own. The need for solitude to create, to function, to work, has taken precedence ultimately over other domestic occupations, pleasures, past-times, relationships, and entertainments.
I came to Maximalism, it seems, as a journey, occupying principally, continuously, one place, this place, this home, like a static traveller through time, spiraling around myself through decades, whilst outside the world changes/remains the same, as I do, inside. The digital added dimensions to what were hitherto possibilities, bringing new ability/learning previously impossible/improbable, adding to what I now find myself doing. The result partially of my over-full, over-lived-in dwelling, need waiting to be fulfilled/defined. Concurrently, occupying both spaces, the constant awareness of self flows inward and outward to include the objects of extended identity, now into the virtual timeless space of the digital that appears to have no boundaries, now back into the real. Living with a plus, plus, plus, sometimes.
DUGGIE FIELDS. JUNE 2003
Out of here.
Mick Rock¼s photographs of Syd Barrett are images that haunt many lives, mine included. I started writing this piece about them with one eye on the reality TV show åJungle - I¼m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here¼. Thinking about Syd, again, it strikes me there is some analogy here of what he experienced in the surreality of his life. In many ways, in many eyes, Syd became a celebrityœ. and wanted out. Celebrity came to him through his looks, his charm, his intelligence, his talents and skill; but somehow amongst the mayhem of his success, he over-balanced. Sensitivity and heightened sensation, paranoia, confusion, ego and inertia, caused him ultimately to withdraw inside himself, to escape attention, to get out of here - the real jungle outside, inside. My story with Syd started somewhere in the mid-sixties, sharing with many others a home in Cromwell Road. To some, this is a place of alarming mythology. To me it was both home, and centre of creativity, filled with many amazing and wondrous events and beings, of whom Syd was one of the most charismatic: magnetic and edgy, provocative, stimulating and fun, but even then already both wanting to be the focus of attention, and needing to stay behind a locked door to escape it. By the start of 1969 we were living in the home in Earls Court I still live in today, more than 30 years on, and whilst I haven¼t had any contact with him for over two decades, the echoes of his life still ripple through mine, constantly. The floor-boards of his room, now my studio, are long covered over, but I¼ve often had his pilgrims at my door. They¼ve come from Denmark, Yugoslavia, Australia, expecting to find I don¼t know what, lured by the music and the myth, sometimes on their own or in groups. I¼ve had Lithuanians quote his words to me and Italians play me their musical tributes; many demands for history, anecdote and information over years; even an American request to perform two Syd Barrett songs in the place where they were created (I buried myself in my computer for that encounter, but did appreciate the chocolates sent to me from Colorado as a thank you more than 5 years later). Bizarre occurrences, and yet sometimes the odd bit of inspired outcome, such as an English house version of 'No Use Trying'. His output, though small, has a potency that seemingly still reaches out across continents to touch minds in new generations constantly. Whilst the myths surrounding his departure to a place we hope provides him with more inner peace are tinged with the sadness at the loss of his light, undoubtedly there was a magic to the man that lingers in many consciousnesses. The photographs in this exhibition capture him at a point when his departure wouldn¼t be too far away. Huddled in my brown herringbone double-breasted Brick Lane åDemob¼ over-coat, too small for him, in his pink velvet trousers he sits dishevelled on the turquoise and orange striped floor, Iggy, naked as she frequently was, in the background. These are the iconic images that fuel the myth. Mick Rock had also been a resident of Cromwell Road, and so as photographer wasn¼t an outsider; part of the scene, he had a charisma of his own, was a passionate talker, and also one of the few then to actually get a camera and document the world around him. The pictures of Syd are amongst his earliest intimate portraits of Rock friends and legends. Syd was relaxed in his company, as much as he was at this time relaxed in anybody¼s. They show him prepared for the shoot on the one hand, and at the same time, show his ambivalence to the situation. I may or may not have been around during the session ‚ I don¼t remember. Looking at them now it seems that Syd had probably only just woken up; barely washed, unshaved, he looks still to have back-combed his hair and put some kohl around his eyes. At some point he changes from his polka-dot print Hung On You trousers into the Granny Takes A Trip splattered velvet ones. The room is disorganized to the same degree that he is; the floor is painted, but it was not cleaned first, and I remember the dust, matches, hairs, and cigarette ends stuck to it: accidental paint foot-prints, un-reached boards and the marooned bed; in one photo a paint-pot, paintbrush and coffee cup are visible next to the mattress, whilst Syd sits in his underwear in the un-made bed, guitar in hand, abstracted in a teenage Tracey Emin moment of precursive iconoclastic style significance. The outdoors shots show Syd, sometimes with Iggy again (this time dressed but barefoot), in the street outside the flat. He is wearing his white Gohil Cuban-heeled boots, and with guitar-case poses with his near-derelict car. The car too has it¼s own mythology. Later on I identified it as the car used in the film of Joe Orton¼s „Loot¾, but I first saw it at Alice Pollock and Ossie Clarke¼s New Year¼s Eve party at the Albert Hall ‚ a memorable event itself where both Amanda Lear and Yes (separately) took to the stage for the first time. The car was the prize of the raffle and was soon being driven around by Mickey Finn (later to join Marc Bolan in T.Rex). But we would all be somewhat paranoid sitting in it as it was such an attention getter-a 1950¼s pink Pontiac Parisienne convertible-a rare sight itself in London then, without the colourfulness of the characters inside. Mickey one day drove up in it and drove away with Syd¼s mini in exchange. It remained, Syd never drove it once, unmoved and soon unmoveable on the street outside for some time, slowly being stripped, plastered with threats to have it towed and dumped by the police and the council, and getting very dirty, until Syd incapable of dealing with it, gave it, so he said, to a passing stranger. It was seen being driven around South Kensington soon after. Syd stares out of these photos, the occasional smile crossing his face, not yet åLong Gone¼. These images stir distant memories in me now. Living with Syd was a mixed blessing. Likewise, living with the on-going mythology of his life, as it was, and must be, for him. Creativity always comes at a price. The artist¼s requirement for solitude is in constant conflict with the performer¼s need for an audience. Appreciation and rejection add to the tension. Stimulation overload imploding as the subject becomes the object of other¼s mythologizing at the expense and confusion of it¼s own sense of self. Celebrity may be a by-product of success, fortune a reward, but maintaining balance in the eye of the storm, possibly just the luck of the draw. For in reality, we are all celebrities to ourselves in the jungles of our own imaginations, and like the game show, some will last to the end, and some won¼t. And some like Syd, leaving behind the mediated reflections and echoes of their lives, will exit into No Man's Land. Mick's pictures of Syd captured the moments just before, only we weren¼t to know it at the time however much we felt his dis-ease. Retrospection adds potency to the images, and of course, respect to the man.
Duggie Fields, May 2003
ALBEMARLE GALLERY catalogue 1987