Graham Crowley's Book Launch

On Thursday 30 May, artist and writer Graham Crowley will be launching his new book at The Prince’s Foundation School, 19-22 Charlotte Road, London EC2A 3SG.

A Love of Many Things

A mix of essays, interviews, reprinted articles and original artwork.

Graham Crowley’s paintings are pretty amazing, he’s also a wonderful person with a generous spirit and a fascinating brain. Previously Professor of Painting at the Royal College, I met Graham when he was doing tutorials through Zeitgeist Art Projects. Every tutorial I had was incredibly galvanising, inspirational and a bit mind boggling! (in a good way).

Graham wrote an essay about mine and Twinkle’s collaborative artwork in 2014, for our exhibition in Vienna that summer. he has been supportive of mine and Twinkle’s artwork for many years. It’s an insightful and inspiring piece of writing that explores our collaborative artwork, our individual practices and also the music we made in The Fairies Band in the early noughties. It was really exciting to hear from him earlier this year when he contacted us to let us know he would be including this particular essay in his new book. It’s an honour to be a part of this! Good luck to Graham for Thursday evening.

The essay is set out below:

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‘Affluence and Avarice’

When Mama met Dada.

‘We will teach our twisted speech to the young believers’. The Clash 1977.

Once upon a time; long, long ago in a Britain that time wishes it had forgotten, a significant majority of artists behaved in a manner that was informed by socialist and humanist values. But as the remnants of the YBA’s and Thatcher’s children, the ‘me’ generation, turn into cynical, self-absorbed middle-aged ATMs and cash cows, it’s refreshing to find work that is politically and emotionally engaged. No politics please; we’re British.

The ‘toxic’ trinity of capital, celebrity and the media is now well established as the dominant culture. Young Farmers and YBAs united in Tory values.

‘I must create a system or be enslaved by another man’s; I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.’ William Blake.

Tinsel and Twinkle are instinctive socialists. They believe in equality and collective action. Previously, much politically motivated work would have claimed its authority by occupying the high moral ground whilst becoming – as one commentator put it – ‘poor art for poor people’. It became didactic and rhetorical. A constipated mix of convention and dogma. This was also the hey-day of victim culture.

During the intervening forty years a lot has changed. Tinsel and Twinkle are aware of this rich and complex legacy and behave accordingly. Their work is affirmative and often political. Never didactic. They enjoy what they’re doing. But more importantly; they believe in what they’re doing – whether they’re painting or making music. They strive for some sense of authenticity in an inauthentic world.

They choose to paint because it still offers them the opportunity to discourse and to ‘play’. Play is an often belittled and misunderstood term that lends life value and meaning. Play makes life bearable. Play 1 – Work 0.

Their work is influenced by the spirit of Dada and the attitude of fin-de-circle composers like Erik Satie. It was Satie who sold whistles in the foyer during performances of his operas so that the audience could express their disapproval. At its core, the work of Tinsel and Twinkle reflects the values espoused by the Guerrilla Girls of 1980’s New York and the Riot Grrrl movement of the 1990’s.

‘My karma ran over my dogma.’ Anon. San Francisco 1960’s.

The assertion that addressing issues surrounding identity, racism, misogyny and poverty would make work somehow relevant no longer holds water. It’s seen as posturing. Particularly problematic in this context is the work of Anselm Kiefer which has come to be regarded as monumental political kitsch. Utter bombast. Tinsel and Twinkle’s work addresses both performance and painting with equal and parallel conviction. This is pursued with a healthy sense of the absurd. Hogarth would’ve approved. The fact that the ‘hard-of-thinking’ regard painting that is humorous as slight is a reflection of convention and prejudice. Tinsel and Twinkle’s work illuminates the fragility of understanding. They’re work spins a fine but sceptical thread. Scepticism is often wilfully misrepresented as cynicism. This is done in order to neutralise any doubt. It’s ‘No scepticism please; we’re British’. Any expression of dissent is immediately labeled ‘negative’. Caring is fast becoming a liability. Conversely, in this rather apolitical climate cynicism is seen as sophisticated. We should remind ourselves that sophistication is a form of decadence. Sophistication has become a euphemism for world-weariness and a form of self-defence. It’s too easy and down right lazy.

‘The Shaggs, they’re better than the Beatles – even today.’ Frank Zappa.

Let’s play. Anyone who still regards play as something facile, childish and dissipated should think again. How often have you dreamt of going  to shows with titles like ‘We Kidnapped A Banker’?  It beats the mind numbing – Recent Paintings – hands down. What next? ‘We Kidnapped A Banker And Posted His Body Parts Back To His Wife’? I’m fairly confident that I’m not alone when I say that I’d love to see that show.

It’s also worth mentioning that their approach is informed by their long-term friendship. In fact friendship and interdependence are central to their work. They’ve been ‘playing’ together since they were 9 years old. Playing in this context carries multiple meanings.

Within their cosmology Tinsel and Twinkle ‘run’ a bank. But the only currency that The Bank of Tinsel & Twinkle really trade in is hope, wrapped in gentle satire. Faith in a better future. Confidence that only they can make their lives richer and the world a slightly better place. Start small and think big. After all – this is it.

‘If I had to lay bets, my bet would be that everything is going to hell, but, you know, what else have we got except hope?’ Richard Rorty in interview 2003.

‘Just go out and do it’. That was the rallying cry of the 70’s punk movement. It’s this sense of self-reliance that’s at the centre of their work. Don’t take no for an answer and don’t ask permission. Tinsel and Twinkle offer a different state of mind. There best work offers hope. Not only do they collaborate as visual and performing artists; in 2012 Tinsel and another friend, Catherine Magnani founded ‘A Side B Side Gallery’. Tinsel and Twinkle have shown there. It’s the kind of gallery that offers emergent artists an opportunity to exhibit their work in London. Tinsel and Twinkle offer us social awareness instead of social autism.

‘There’s no such thing as society.’ Margaret Thatcher 1984.

Music has always been an important part of their partnership. In fact, to described their collaboration as a partnership is selling it short. What they have is a is a longstanding friendship. They seem to know how to share. In 2000 Tinsel and Twinkle along with Sparkle and Lindsay Lights started Pushing Pussy Records. The name of the venture is self-explanatory; it’s a record label that specialises in promoting music by women. They take their inspiration from acts like Hole, Courtney Love, The Slits, The Raincoats and to a lesser degree The Shaggs. There’s a theme emerging – the double entendre. An established ingredient of british institutions like the Carry On films and Whitehall farces.

When it comes to performing; The Fairies Band can really cut it. The group which includes Sparkle and Tinky, at its height became an eight piece outfit that played with the urgency of punk but with the musicality and power chords, reminiscent of bands like Guns ‘N’ Roses and The Strokes. Their song Random Boys should’ve been adopted as a post-punk, feminist anthem. It’s punk, but served in a mouth-watering Gillray inspired sauce, topped off with a twist of Austen. It’s all beginning to sound rather English. The Fairy Band plays tunes like the memorable Pink Socks Rock (‘Fuck My Hole’), a haunting little ballad about the lives of everyday screwing folk and their unbridled lust.

‘Just go out and do it.’ Anon 1976.

Since the early 1990’s the market has set the agenda for the public museums and galleries. Any discourse that doesn’t involve celebrity is marginalised. It’s probably worth mentioning at this point the toxic effect that all that dirty money, celebrity and the media have had upon the market. This has led to a return to the shiny, a-political wall furniture, which has always been popular with the nouveau riche. Liking things is rapidly becoming a lazy  way of expressing ones prejudices and sensibility. A blatant reflection of a consumerist mentality. The constant and nagging desire to buy stuff – to shop. The media and the internet are constantly cajoling us to ‘like this’. The only intelligent response to the ubiquitous internet thumbs up logo is a middle digit. As droves of middle-brow academics ‘theorise desire and consumption’ – the market thrives. These texts are both esoteric and politically benign. They acquire an almost symbolic status and – unsurprisingly – go largely unread and ignored. They’re tokens. The critic George Steiner has described such texts as ‘academic Kabbalah’.

‘Oh bondage – up yours’. Poly Styrene of X-Ray Spex 1977.

Tinsel and Twinkle are the kind of people that take the past and the present  personally. They’re involved and  care. Their work may appear immediate, but it’s always studied; they respect the craft of painting and aspire to become ‘better’ painters. They strive to understand themselves and their practice. Their work combines a sense of injustice and anger with good humour and common decency. They’ve embraced empathy.

‘The bird a nest, the spider a web, man friendship.’ William Blake

The idea that they could grant wishes is as absurd as it is brilliant. A blatant suspension of the rational. An invitation to The Land of Far, Far Away for lunch with Shrek. The fact that they claim ‘to make your wishes come true’ is as generous as it is barmy. But isn’t that what we all want to hear? All this when society is becoming increasingly fragmented and our democracies all over Europe are starting to crack. Fairies 1 – Politicians 0. Fairy culture or fairy-lore as it’s described in ‘The Burning of Bridget Cleary’ by Angela Bourke. A fascinating and remarkable book about misogyny and female emancipation in rural Ireland in the early 20th century. The author describes fairy-lore as a guide to good husbandry which is backed up with the threat of a grave punishment meted out by the fairies. Supernatural coercion.

‘The fairies break their dances

And leave the printed lawn.’  A E Housman 1922.

Imagine, you’re on your way to work. It’s an overcast, cash strapped Monday morning in London’s New Cross. The rush hour traffic hurtles past inches away and ‘The Fairies’ are out and about granting wishes to unsuspecting passers-by. The Fairies are dressed in denim hot pants. They’re toting magic wands and wearing faux-gossamer fairy wings. It sounds likes rather like the synopsis for a new sit com on Dave.

In the early 20th century things were different. Fairies were everywhere. As a child I was told that fairies lived ‘at the bottom of the garden’. One garden in rural Cottingley is particularly relevant in this context. It was here that two teenage girls, Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths took their now famous faked photographs of fairies. The paintings of the Victorian Richard Dadd are now synonymous with fairies. The authenticity of Tinsel and Twinkle’s fairies isn’t in doubt. They exist and they’ve been seen playing in the traffic on the A20.

‘Culture is an observance. Or at least it presupposes an observance.’ Ludwig Wittgenstein 1949.

Tinsel and Twinkle don’t shrink from moral issues. They know where they stand and if you hang around long enough – they’ll let you know too. They’re aware that the kind of work favoured by the market celebrates the gulf between rich and poor, the indifference of male dominated politics and the criminality of banks and multinationals. It’s not all politics though; their recent paintings demonstrate an increasingly ambitious grasp of their practice and a restlessness that is symptomatic of their need to create.

They steer a very fine course between the vernacular idiom and a subtle sense of self mockery. Generosity and decency prevail. Hogarth would have approved. There’s a genuine tenderness and a sense of celebration rather than the narcissism and sense of entitlement that has pervaded so much work recently. On four; one…two…three…

‘Oh, girls, they wanna have fu-un.’  Cindi Lauper – 1985.

Graham Crowley

London 3rd May 2013.

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A brief bibliography;

Blake by Peter Ackroyd.

Music in The Key of Z by Irwin Chusid.

The Burning of Bridget Cleary by Angela Bourke.

Culture & Value by Ludwig Wittgenstein.

The Banquet Years by Roger Shattuck.

ART CAR BOOT FAIR 2019

Tinsel & Twinkle present ‘Love Your Freedom of Movement’

Art Car Boot Fair 2019 (This years theme is LOVE!) 23 June 1-6pm

Cubitt Square, Stable Street, Kings Cross, N1C 4BT

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At the Art Car Boot Fair 2019, Twinkle and Tinsel want to celebrate and shout from the rooftops about our Freedom of Movement.

Our Freedom of Movement is under attack. One of our citizens rights is dangerously close to being removed from us. And once it has been taken away, it will be difficult to get back. Freedoms are hard won and easy lost.

Our Freedom of Movement enables us to live, love and work in 27 other countries. It gives opportunities to people from all works of life, from bar staff to barristers, from truck drivers to scientists to live and work in the EU countries regardless of your wealth or status. 

It enables musicians and artists to cross borders without visa fees and charges for the work they do. It enables students to apply to universities in any one of the EU countries to study with the same rights as nationals. And more recently the EU announced free train travel around Europe for all 18-year olds. 

Our Freedom of Movement even allows us to retire in the sunshine, whilst sipping sangria in Spain! 

Our Freedom of Movement is reciprocal right. We must never underestimate the invaluable contribution to UK society from other EU citizens who have chosen the UK as their home. Doctors, nurses, fruit pickers, teachers, shop keepers, the list is endless as is our appreciation of them. So, we want to ask, why would we want to lose this right? Answer: WE DON’T!

Come and see Twinkle and Tinsel at the Art Car Boot Fair for your very own protest art championing this precious citizens’ right. 

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Monks Road Social

A new release by Monks Road Records featuring my artwork on the cover. This is a 7” AA vinyl featuring Dr Robert and Pat Dam Smyth, the first in a series taken from the forthcoming Monks Road Social LP.

it’s very exciting to see the paintings I made now on the cover of these 7” records!

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ART POLITICAL WORKSHOP AT DULWICH COLLEGE

We were invited to be artists in residence at Dulwich College during Dulwich Political week, Twinkle Troughton and I ran a workshop for the students called 'Homes and Dreams'.  We created a 'street' full of protest banners and signs, using street finds, wood and cardboard. 

The students created some amazing artwork! We were so impressed.

Q&A AT DULWICH COLLEGE MASTERS LIBRARY

'Priced Out' is now in the library at Dulwich College, thanks to the amazing Director of Art & Design - Sue Mulholland. I was invited to do a talk for the students about the book today, followed by a Q&A and book signing. The old masters library is an incredible room filled with dusty leather bound books from floor to ceiling, I was not expecting Priced Out to end up here!

Priced Out was published by Dunlin Press

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ARTWORK FOR THE BLOW MONKEYS NEW ALBUM

Earlier this year I was approached by Dr. Robert from The Blow Monkeys, he wanted to know whether I would be interested in creating the artwork for their forthcoming album.  Of course I said yes! (I've always wanted to create artwork for an album cover).

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The album will be released on vinyl on October 7th, with a launch night at the 100 Club in London to celebrate. It's out on Monks Road Records.

I haven't seen the actual vinyl yet, but I got a sneak preview of the proofs which was very exciting!

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Thank you!

Thank you to everyone who came to the book launch, thank you to Atom Gallery for hosting it! Thank you to everyone who bought books and postcards, and listened and helped us to celebrate the launch of Priced Out. And the biggest thanks to Dunlin Press who were the most supportive publishers I could ever have had the privilege to work with.

Booze was drank and the gallery was filled with talented, interesting people, it was a lovely evening and one of my last nights in London as an official London resident in the city. A few days after the book launch we set out on a new adventure, leaving our home of nearly 20 years to move to Glasgow.

Priced Out

Back in 2016, independent publishers Dunlin Press approached me to ask if I would like to create a book with them.  Priced Out is my debut book and it tells the story of my life as an artist in London, and how and why I started making artwork about the crisis in London housing.

"Priced Out is a personal and powerful look at the declining state of housing in the capital through the eyes of an artist.  It traces the high rises in cost of rented accommodation, the spiraling property prices, and skewers the reasons why artists, who contribute - like so many others - so much to the character, wellbeing and uniqueness of London life, are being priced out of the city."

Dunlin Press

The book will be launched at Atom Gallery, 127 Green Lanes, London N16 on 3 August 2017, 6-9pm. atomgallery.co.uk

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Diaries of the Domestic

My daughter Joni was born on 3 November 2016, later that week Donald Trump was elected as President of the U.S.A.   Shocked and in disbelief, I found it hard to process the news. All of a sudden the ideas I had for my next art project didn’t seem to be urging me on with quite as much force anymore.

The enormity of the Trump thing is terrifying, it is like a permanent heartache, a niggling worry, I go about my daily life and occasionally I forget, but it always comes back. I’m not ready to make any work about it yet, perhaps I never will. But the arrival of Trump, combined with the arrival of Joni have somehow meant that I am not ready to make the work I had planned to make during my maternity leave.

I’ve always got a billion ideas buzzing around in my mind, the installation I want to make, the 25 colour screen print that I can visualize layer by layer, the T-shirt project! The series of paintings.  But they all need money, and they all need time.

The arrival of baby Joni has brought so much joy, the days are filled with precious and magical moments, but each day and week is also filled with frustration, repetition and tiredness.  Whilst having a rare moment to sit down with a cup of tea, in amongst piles of laundry, in between feeds and after multiple nappy changes, I find myself staring at instagram accounts of artists, consumed by an overwhelming feeling of wanting to paint. Daydreaming about the unknown future point in time when I can make that installation, and finally finish that painting series that I’ve been planning for so long.

So I started painting with what I had, limited resources and limited time.  Objects from around the home, painted quickly - 30 minutes here, 30 minutes there. Whilst Joni sleeps.  I painted the washing hanging on the clothes rail, the bouncy chair (the pram in the hallway?!).

I’m not sure yet what these paintings are, or what they are leading to.  My artwork is usually an expression of my emotions, thoughts and opinions, it often comments on social injustice. During a time of political turmoil, these paintings don’t do that! But at least I am painting, and they are documenting a most precious and frustrating moment in time.

#domesticity #painting #motherhood #frustration #joy #wishing #hoping #daydreaming #longing 

 

It's Finished!

I have been working on a commissioned painting for a record label since September, and today I finally finished it! Monks Road Records will launch in Spring next year, it is an independent label which will specialise in vinyl and analogue.  

I was asked to create a mythical Monks Road, a place filled with a community of artists and musicians. I created a composition based on a mixture of familiar architecture in East London, terraced houses in Stepney, 1960s council blocks, Victorian shops with flats above...The painting is 2m x 1.5m and at the moment it is waiting to be shipped to the label headquarters in the New year.

Exhibition opening this Friday 2 December

Some of my screenprints will be on display at the launch exhibition for Atom Gallery's new premises this Friday.  

'Excited State' is an exhibition of contemporary screenprints, linocuts and letterpress by 23 artists.  Everything in the show is for sale, I will be selling some screenprints on paper which were made for Dismaland but weren't shown.  Could they be the perfect house warming gift? Or a nice christmas pressie?! Priced at £125 each, they are 2-3 colours, low editions, and each one has a hand painted element. 10% of any of my sales will be going to the housing charity, Shelter.

Private view: Friday 2 December 6-9pm

Atom Gallery: 127, Green Lanes, N16 9DA

New Painting

'Studio Flat in Kings Cross' oil on board, 41 x 65 cms. This piece is based on an image of a flat which was advertised online for £737pcm, and rented within half a day.  All the essentials for a 'Studio Flat' were shoved into this tiny space, there was barely enough room to open the kitchen cupboards without the bed blocking them, I'm not sure how anyone would cook in there! The advert quickly went viral, with thousands of people sharing it in disbelief.  The sad thing is that many flats like this rent in a similar amount of time, such is the shortage of decent housing, people will take what is available at an inflated cost, and many (but not all) landlords continue to exploit this situation in London.

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Commission

I've been busy in the studio working on a commission, the painting is for a record label which will launch in 2017.  I've been creating a mythical street landscape which is based on the architecture of East London that I've come to love and know so well.  

I took my camera out for the day and wandered the streets, photographing shop fronts and the flats above them in Shoreditch, high rise council blocks, little terraced houses in Stepney.  Having this commission to work on has been a nice change from my own projects, something entirely different to focus on.

I will have more info to share about this commission and the record label soon, plus an image of a finished painting!