The Driving Force


The driving force in my life as an artist has been my need to rework the world around me much of which has been disjointed and chaotic. Growing up in London during the blitz and having parents separate partly because of this and wartime austerity slipping down the social ladder and from the age 11 living in government housing. Being forced to learn to box my way out of trouble. I ran away from home an number of times. The only good thing that happened was I won a Junior Art Award at 13 that allowed me to attend art college full time and start my career as an artist.

I can look back and see the difference I have made in all of places and situations that have been in. From being on the organizing committee for Britain’s first POP art splash in 1962 with the student show the Young Contemporaries whilst at the Royal College of Art. To launching Graffiti as an art movement with the Canal Zone Concept in 1979. Mentoring has always been an essential part of my development and inspiration. I have always picked up a spark when as a mentor there has been a need for change in my world and and the world around me. The Spark In those with a strong and original persona wanting to break out and reach new heights and levels of brilliance.

Mentoring

Dudley EdwardsDave Vaughan 
While I was Artist in Residence at Bradford Art College UK from 1963 to 1964, I connected with these guys, when they were on an NDD course there. I let them stay in my London studio and introduced them to an early ‘Swinging London’.

Ian Breakwell @ Derby College of Art
I met Ian when I was teaching at Derby College of Art. My artwork, then being published in the underground magazine ‘Arcade” gave him some inspiration. He later developed a reputation as an art filmmaker with a radical flair.

Guillaume Gallozzi
Guillaume was working as an apprentice printmaker to Leroy Neiman when I first met him. He was in his teens then, and spent much time with me in my Canal Street loft starting in 1978. He connected with Rudolf at the Canal Zone and the two of them began planning to run a gallery there, as part of the multi-media art space that I had been envisioning on three floors of the building. However, the dream died in September of 1979 when a group from London, conducting a Festival for The Mind, Body, and Spirit managed to burn my loft down. Guillaume and Rudolf went on to open the arts/nightclub club ‘Pravda’. This, too, turned out to be a short-lived venture, as the Fire Marshall closed it down on opening night.

I showed my work for the first time in New York at Guillaume’s gallery Braathen Gallozzi on Duane Street in 1981.

In 1979, while still at the Canal Zone (my loft on Canal Street), I promoted several talented graffiti artists. Among them were:

Jean Michel Basquiat
The zenith of Jean-Michel’s career came in the 80’s. He died in 1988.

Lee Quinones
Fortunately Lee is still with us as easel painter being represented by Barbara Gladstone Gallery New York.

Jenifer Stein:
Jean-Michel at the Canal Zone Event and became his girlfriend. The two of them I first met Jennifer when I was creating the interior of the New York nightclub, Trax, in 1977. I took her on as my assistant. She met lived in my loft, and stayed on while I was traveling in Europe in 1979 trying to promote graffiti there, with some of the larger works created at the Canal Zone.

Ramellzzee
I met Ramellzzee when he was a student at FIT (Fashion Institute Technology) in New York. I spent time with him in 1979 at a space that I called ZU, which was the brainchild of European rock music entrepreneur Georgio Gomelsky. Ramellzzee was promoting what he then referred to as Gothic Futurism.

Georgia Peskett
Though she always exhibited an artistic flair I first began to realize the extent of my daughter Georgia’s talent on our first collaboration. We worked together on an installation for New York night club Danceteria in 1985. Georgia came to New York in 1985, and lived with me in the Hamptons. She has become an accomplished artist in her own right, and for almost three decades we have occasionally collaborated on installations and murals.

Jonathan Odds
Jonathan was one of my students at Middlesbrough College of Art. He started on the storyboard/comic strip course as a mature student, I was struck by his individual style and he liked my interest in underground publishing i.e. Arcade 1964-66 He is now a self-publisher of comic book titles.

Baljit Dhamia
Was a student enrolled on my course at Middlesbrough College of Art when we met, Baljit had worked as ceramic decorator specializing in Rococo. A local hair salon in Middlesbrough approached the College looking to have murals painted, and I, sensing that Baljit had the necessary skills, recommended him for the job. He has been successfully painting murals ever since.

Cristina Almeida
A Hispanic high school student in Northern California, where I now live, Cristina approached me to guide her through her senior project, a 20ft mural for an exterior wall at the local high school she was attending in Boonville. She wanted to do it in the spirit Diego Rivera. The subject was of the classroom (the other side of the wall) where she had spent much time learning English. Her twin sister and friends were all included in the mural, along with herself.

Welcome to the future

Selfie and web painting significant because it dominates my digital studio.

Also webs and tensile structures have been a fascination for me since 1958 when as student Guildford College of Art I painted my first murals for “The Spiders Web” a local coffee bar. The owner  a Dutch national was an ‘Outsider’ and was banned entry into the snooty local “Boxers” coffee shop. The Spiders Web the alternative and was the hub for the local ‘beat’ set. I had been on the road like the Kerouac book and was just resuming fine art studies after a two year hiatus playing in jazz joints in and around London.

I later used tensile grid structures in 1970 for the original Fiorucci store in Milan Italy.

This at the time was termed industrial aesthetic with a heavy dose of POP, some say it was one the first in the Post Modern movement.

In 1979 I created a 37 ft diameter geodesic dome for the ‘Festival for Mind Body & Spirit Festival’ in my Canal Street loft aka the Canal Zone. I had also been applying a monorail dry cleaning racking system as a display system for garments at Unique Clothing Warehouse on Broadway in 1978. Cloning the same system for Macy.s and other department stores across the US.

Unique Clothing Warehouse was the downtown Fiorucci and hipper, Fiorucci had opened up on east 59th street. That store was a cloned version the Original Milan Store. A book was published by Rizzolli covering the history of the company and a new franchised store version is being planned by a British company.

In 2001, I started to create shadow box images using reverse perspective ‘the aviarists’ being the first. In the last year from 2016 I have completed vertical versions employing spiral staircases that double as DNA metaphors. The first (shown) is of my partner Diane’s Blue Grass Band the Wild Oats, they have been playing together for more than 20 years, they are in other words ‘like family’. other staircases like the Beat Poet’s Jack Kerouac’s ‘On the Road’ and for Trump’s Inauguration ‘Despots’.

All of these have the tensile metal staircase that give the content a weblike DNA binding structure.