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Gee Vaucher - The Mirror

Artist Gee Vaucher is interviewed on today’s Woman’s Hour (25 January 2017), discussing her ‘Introspective’ exhibition at Firstsite in Colchester, which continues daily until 19 February 2017. The interview is just short of nine minutes long, and features brief clips of songs from the Penis Envy album.

The show can be streamed (in the UK) from the BBC iPlayer Radio.

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Daily Mirror - 10 November 2016

THE DAY OF DONALD Trump’s election as US president, Gee Vaucher’s acclaimed 1990 gouache on card Oh, America (originally commissioned for the cover of the 1989 Tackhead album Friendly as a Hand Grenade) became something of an (almost wholly unattributed) internet meme, shared numerous times on the social web, as people responded to the news of Trump’s victory at the polls.

In the UK, Oh, America has been appropriated as the front page illustration for the Daily Mirror‘s post-mortem on the election – it’s now confirmed that the Mirror used this image with the knowledge and permission of Vaucher, and that her artistry is credited on the front page of the print edition of the paper, and inside.


UPDATE: 12 November 2016:

The Mirror has now published a piece describing the selection process around Gee Vaucher’s artwork:

Gee Vaucher - The Mirror

Gee Vaucher’s artwork ‘Oh America’ and the story behind the Daily Mirror’s historic US election front page

IN THE INEVITABLE avalanche of social media fallout that followed Donald Trump’s astonishing victory, one image struck the mind more forcefully than others.

The words ‘Donald Trump elected President’ are arguably all that’s required to convey the full impact of the 2016 US election result.

But in today’s digital world, where news travels as fast as a tweet or email, national newspapers face the unenviable task of summing up the story in a few words and a memorable image, but better than has already been done online – and hopefully better than its competitors.

That’s when an inspired editorial decision is required.

“We knew we wanted to create an iconic front page to mark Trump’s amazing and historic victory, so we were all keeping an eye out for something striking,” said The Mirror‘s Editor-in-Chief, Lloyd Embley.

“It was morning editorial conference and our picture editor, Michael Rye, was showing the senior team a selection of images relating to the US election.”

“And suddenly – bang! There it was. It was perfect.”

The image in question came from the inevitable avalanche of social media memes that followed the election result.

The next task was to find out where the image originated, who owned the copyright, and whether permission for its use was available.

Fortunately, not only did the image prove to be a cult artwork, but the British artist behind it, Gee Vaucher, is about to enjoy her first major retrospective exhibition.

“Michael tracked down Gee and she kindly gave us permission to use it,” says Embley.

“Every day is a special day editing the Daily Mirror but seeing that front page on the news stand will live long in my memory.”

Oh, America

The image is titled ‘Oh America’ and was created in 1989.

When The Mirror asked Gee for a comment to accompany our article she offered the following words.

‘Give us justice which is not the searing spite of revenge, peace which is not the product of war nor dependent upon it. Give us freedom where now there is only servitude.’

The words are by British punk poet-philosopher Penny Rimbaud, Vaucher’s lifelong creative partner, and have previously been superimposed over a version of the image.

The artwork – gouache on card – has also previously been used as the cover of an album by hip-hop group Tackhead on 1989’s Friendly as a Hand Grenade.

WHO IS GEE VAUCHER?

The Dagenham-born artist is a pioneering figure in the DIY and protest art scenes and has been working for more than 40 years.

She first rose to prominence in anarcho-punk band Crass in the late ’70s, who performed under minimal lighting in front of video collage backdrops, often created by Vaucher.

Born in 1945, Vaucher spent her formative years working as a political illustrator for publications including The New York Times and New York Magazine.

Her work straddles the gap between the absurd and the harrowing, focusing on political, personal, environmental and humanitarian messages. Her works are often collage or photomontage.

Throughout her career, she has produced books and ‘zines, allowing her the control to produce and disseminate work through her own channels and on her own terms. Her most recent work, A Week of Knots, was published through Vaucher’s own Exitstencil Press.

The radical counter-cultural touchstone, who designed the sleeve for The Charlatans album Who We Touch among others, was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Essex in 2016.

WHERE CAN I SEE THE ACTUAL ARTWORK?

‘Oh America’ features in Introspective, the first major British show of Vaucher’s work, which takes place at Firstsite, Colchester, from November 12 2016 – February 19 2017.

You can see more details about the exhibition here.

Gavin Alley. 2016. Gee Vaucher’s artwork ‘Oh America’ and the story behind the Daily Mirror’s historic US election front page, Daily Mirror, 10 November. http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/gee-vauchers-artwork-oh-america-9231864.

 

oh-america_1990_gouache-on-card

Gee Vaucher, Oh, America, 1990.

Gee Vaucher’s Introspective exhibition opens at the Firstsite gallery, Lewis Gardens, High Street, Colchester CO1 1JH on Friday (11 November 2016).


UPDATE: 12 November 2016: Interestingly, in the copy of The Mirror front page Tweeted in the Crass and Southern Records accounts (presumably from the first edition London copies printed early on 10 November), the image does not include a credit to Vaucher’s in the top-left hand of the image (as seen in the later editions, including the one above).

 

Below is a blow-up of the additional small credit on page 13 of the print edition of The Mirror:
 
Gee Vaucher - Oh, America credit - The Mirrror

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Twenty three of the exhibition pieces from the recent The Art of Crass exhibition are on show as part of the Punk in the East festival taking place in Norwich.

The Art of Crass pieces are on show in the The Alley, 20 Brideswell Alley, Norwich NR2 1HX (Wednesday: 11:00-18:00; Friday and Saturday: 11:00-23:30; Sunday-Tuesday: closed). Entry is free, and the exhibition runs until 3 December 2016.

The full programme of the festival can be found on the Punk in the East site.

 

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Gee Vaucher - poster for Introspective exhibition

THE POSTER FOR the upcoming Gee Vaucher ‘Introspective’ exhibition at the Firstsite gallery in Colchester has been released.

The exhibition runs from 12 November 2016 to 19 February 2017, and admission is free. A series of events, talks and performances will also run in parallel with the exhibition (details and ticket prices to follow).

Firstsite
Lewis Gardens, High St, Colchester CO1 1JH
http://www.firstsite.uk.net
http://www.firstsite.uk.net/page/gee-vaucher

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Gee Vaucher - exhibition

Gee Vaucher (1945) is an internationally renowned political artist living outside Epping, Essex. She is best known for her radical creativity, montages and iconic artwork for the infamous anarcho-pacifist band Crass. Employing an eclectic range of styles and techniques, coupled with an essentially DIY aesthetic, she creates powerful images exploring political, cultural and personal issues. She sees her work as a tool for social change.

This retrospective survey of Vaucher’s work is her premiere in the UK, bringing together for the first time a comprehensive collection of her paintings, collages, prints, photographs, videos and sculptures plus installation work and rare archive material.

MORE DETAILS OF the events that will accompany Gee Vaucher’s upcoming ‘Introspective’ exhibition, which will run from 12 November 2016 to 19 February 2017 at the Firstsite gallery space in Colchester have been published. Not all of the specifics are yet known, but these are some of the dates for the diary…

  • Friday 11 November 2016, 18:00-20:00: Private viewing of the exhibition, on the eve of the main opening; opening party
  • Saturday 19 November – Sunday 20 November 2016: The Print Project Workshop (featuring the Letterpress gang from Shipley)
  • Thursday 24 November 2016: Screening of ‘Angel’, a film by Gee Vaucher; followed by a Q&A session.
  • Friday 25 November 2016: Penny Rimbaud performs with “assorted musicians & words”.
  • Saturday 26 November 2016: Artist and Curator tour of the exhibition.
  • Thursday 1 December 2016: A discussion and debate on Gee Vaucher’s work with: Rebecca Binns, George McKay, Brandon Taylor & Stevphen Shukaitis (plus Gee “maybe stirring the soup”).
  • Friday 2 December 2016: Eve Libertine and Charles Webber. Eve Libertine has written the lyrics for & is co-director of an exciting new chamber opera Room of Worlds for live voices, electronics and video. The opera charts the physical and psychological journey of a woman in a patriarchal landscape of domesticity, love and loneliness, through medicine and memory, to the edge of madness. Room of Worlds is based loosely on The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and is the result of an ongoing collaboration between electronic artist Charles Webber (composer/video) & experimental vocalist and ex-Crass chanteuse Eve Libertine.
  • 13 January 2017: Penny Rimbaud reads the poetry of Wilfred Owen
  • 14-15 January 2017: Monoprint workshops with Eve & Pandora
  • 28-29 January 2017: no.w.here Film Workshop for Young Women

Full details of these and other events are still to be announced.

Firstsite
Lewis Gardens, High St, Colchester CO1 1JH
http://www.firstsite.uk.net
http://www.firstsite.uk.net/page/gee-vaucher

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SEAN CLARK CURATED the recent well-received The Art of Crass exhibition in Leicester, which developed to include a series of live performances and other events to complement the main exhibition. With the exhibition now completed and the artwork packed away and returned to its creators, The Hippies Now Wear Black invited Sean to reflect on the experience of putting together this distinctive exhibition of Crass creativity…

I’m sure it’s all been a bit of a whirlwind, but how do you feel that the exhibition went?

Well, I’m only now just starting to take stock! It went incredibly well though. There were over 200 people at the opening, both Penny’s and Steve’s show were sold out and there was a steady stream of people coming to the exhibition.

How has feedback been? What sort of things have visitors been saying?

Feedback has been universally positive. I’ve literally had people coming up to me in the street in Leicester saying thanks for putting it on. These have been people who were already Crass followers and, importantly, people new to the band and its members. We had a “feedback wall” up in the gallery and there were some great comments too. I photographed them all and will be putting them up on theartofcrass.uk soon.

Did you achieve the sort of visitor levels you hoped?

I genuinely didn’t know what to expect. I initially put the exhibition together because I wanted to see the work in a gallery setting myself and I through there would be some interest. As the project it grew – with new works being added, and then the gigs – I got the sense that it would do pretty well, but you never know. Interest on Facebook does not always translate to people coming to an exhibition.

Have you any sense of how many of the people visiting the exhibition were encountering the work of Crass for the first time?

I can’t be exact, but I think it was pretty much a 50/50 split. A big surprise for me was just how many Crass followers there are out there. People in council jobs, heads of arts organisations, people who run companies and many others have all told me about their own “Crass stories”. For people encountering the band for the first time I think it has been quite inspirational.

Penny Rimbaud in conversation at The Art of Crass exhibition

Penny Rimbaud in conversation at The Art of Crass exhibition

Did you have any criticism about filling the exhibition space with old punk stuff from the 1980s? Did anyone question the relevance of the material?

I was expecting some criticism and had come up with a few ideas for responses. However, I didn’t need them. I think when you look at the work in its entirety it is unquestionably interesting “art”. Even the copies of the flyers we put up were interesting. When you look at them individually you see might see a scruffy hand-made thing, but when you see 20-30 of them together you something beautiful. It gives you a unique insight in to the band.

I decided not to have any music by Crass playing in the gallery because I wanted people to take a fresh look at the art that emerged from this group of people

Have the events and performers been well supported too? Have you been pleased with how the performers made use of the context of the exhibition?

Without wanting to sound to gushing, all the performers were amazing! When it became clear that I would be able to put on both Penny, Eve and Louise (Cobblestones of Love) and Steve Ignorant and Slice of Life I wanted to make sure that there would also be opportunities for local performers to share the spotlight too. There is a performance night in Leicester called “Anerki” and I’ve been to a couple of their events. They have a really creative mix of poetry, music, performance, comedy, hip-hop and they provided a 45 minute support set for Cobblestones of Love and then curated 4 hours of performances on the final day of the exhibition on the 18th June. Then on the evening of the 18th we had local bands Jesuscarfish, Brassick Bears and Not My Good Arm playing before Steve and Slice of Life came on. Everyone was so generous with their time.

How simple or difficult was the selection process for the exhibition – you could have filled a space many times larger than the one you were working with?

I probably could have filled a space twice as big. Certainly if I had included books, records, photographs. “ephemera” and so on. I think, though, the size was about right and the artwork on display made for a very coherent exhibition. If I do it again elsewhere – which is on the cards – I’ll consider adding a bit more if space allows.

It’s clear that several former members of Crass have been extremely supportive of the exhibition; that must have been really gratifying!

I contacted Penny Rimbaud and Gee Vaucher first and they were very supportive. Penny then put me in touch with Eve Libertine who was similarly enthused. I emailed Steve Ignorant and, again, he was great and offered to do a Slice of Life gig. I also had a chance to meet Dave King (who designed the Crass symbol) and he generously added some work to the show. I got to meet Mick Duffield (who made videos for Crass performances) just before the show and he said it was fine to show his video work. I tried to contact Andy Palmer a couple of times, but he didn’t get back to me and I respect that. I’d have happily included work by Phil Free, Joy de Vivre and Pete Wright but couldn’t find a way of getting in touch.

Not all the ‘artistry’ or the artists of Crass were represented in the exhibition though (Andy Palmer’s paintings or Mick Duffield’s video work, for instance). Was that any sort of disappointment?

I did include some of Mick’s video work in the area outside of the gallery and would like to make it a more integrated part of the exhibition in the future. You’ll find links to his videos, and more Crass-related things on theartofcrass.uk website. I found Andy’s website on-line and think his paintings are excellent. I’d like to get one to put on my wall at home! I wouldn’t include anything in a post-Crass context without his permission of course.

Fight War Not Wars - The Art of Crass - Leicester - June 2016

Looking back, is there anything major that you would have done differently if you were starting the process afresh?

Nothing major. It would have been nice to have a longer gallery slot, two and a half weeks was not really long enough. But LCB Depot in Leicester gave me the slot they had for free, so I can’t complain!

Have you a favourite anecdote or story that came to your attention during the exhibition?

Well, having said that everything went really well, there was one negative in that we had a strongly worded “noise” complaint from a local resident about the show on the 18th June. I mustn’t be dismissive of it, but in the email the person said that, “the music (with screaming and screeching) is of a kind that 99% of population would consider extremely unpleasant”. It’s possibly the best review I’ve ever had!

Is the intention that the web site will continue indefinitely as an online resource? Will it continue to be developed or will it be maintained as a ‘fixed’ archive?

Definitely. I’m in the process of finishing off the website – with full documentation of the events. I plan to keep collecting Crass-related stuff when I come across it and will keep adding to the website. It would be great to combine it with other collections in the future and see it exhibited again in the future.

Is there any potential for the exhibition to go on tour around the country in future? Have you had any offers?

I’ve alluded to this a couple of times. Yes, I think a tour of some sort would be great. I would like to see it going to unusual places around the country – not just London and big cities. I’m up for offers from potential galleries, a couple of offers have come through already. I might see if I can get some Arts Council funding to cover the costs, otherwise it’s a case of “Do It Yourself” again.

if you want to understand what Crass was about then I think you need to look beyond the eight or so years the band was around for

Have you considered compiling a book out of the exhibition – artworks, plus history and commentary?

Perhaps a catalogue more than a book. But let’s see what happens. The artists deserve recognition both individually and collectively and there are some interesting stories in there that are perhaps not part of the accepted “Crass” and post-Crass history. Gee Vaucher is about to get a long-overdue retrospective in Colchester and I think she will come to be seen as one of the most significant artists to emerge in the UK in the latter 20th century. It would be interesting to see Penny’s writing and artwork presented as a “body of work”. Likewise with Eve and the other former members. In fact, you’re convincing me, perhaps a book would be a good idea!

What is your own personal take away from the event? What did you learn through curating and organising the exhibition (either about Crass or about curatorship)?

I think that the most important thing is that there is more to the people involved in Crass than being in Crass. All of the ex-members I have spoken to have done plenty of other things. In fact, if you want to understand what Crass was about then I think you need to look beyond the eight or so years the band was around for. I intentionally called the exhibition “The Art of Crass” because I thought this would be a good way to explore this idea, and at the last minute decided not to have any music by Crass playing in the gallery because I wanted people to take a fresh look at the art that emerged from this group of people. I think it worked.

Exhibition curator Sean Clark (second left) with Slice of Life

Exhibition curator Sean Clark (second left) with Slice of Life | photo: Simon Balaam

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Yes Sir - Coldspring Records - 2016

The challenging / provocative / controversial / suspect / distasteful / unconscionable (* choose your adjective) Coldspring Record label are to release a CD version of the live reworking of Crass’ 1983 album Yes Sir, I Will performed at the 2014 Rebellion punk festival.

The label previously announced (August 2015) and then summarily cancelled (September 2015) plans to release bootlegs of live Crass performances. This latest project appears to have the active support of performers Penny Rimbaud and Eve Libertine, with Gee Vaucher providing artwork for the packaging.

Yes, Sir, the Truth of ᴙevolution is scheduled for release on 27 June 2016 and is available for pre-order.

CRASS WAS THEN – THIS IS NOW. WAKE UP TO IT

Crass’ album, Yes Sir, I Will, was possibly the most angry and hard hitting attack on the political/military/industrial complex ever consigned to vinyl. Written by Penny Rimbaud in 1982 at the height of the Falklands conflict, it seethes with righteous indignation over what he saw as a pointless but vicious exercise in vote catching by a government whose popularity was severely on the wane. So powerful was this critique that it led to threats of prosecution by that very same government, threats which were typically used by Crass to further their attacks on it and its tyrannical leader, Margaret Thatcher.

Over thirty years later, in 2014, Rimbaud was asked to participate in the Rebellion Festival, a yearly punk gathering held in Blackpool, UK. Realising that the opening date of the festival closely coincided with that of the euphemistically named ‘Great War’, Rimbaud and the festival organisers agreed that as an appropriate response they should open the event with a performance of Yes Sir, I Will.

In preparing for this performance, Rimbaud began to question the relevance of some of the content of Yes Sir, I Will. It seemed to him that much of it was pertinent only to the time in which it was written, a time when a genuine social uprising had appeared to be a very real possibility (one that was violently and conclusively squashed during the miners’ strike of 1984). But times change and there was, he now felt, an element of aggression within the work which veiled its essential message of love and peace; it was a passion that could all too easily be mistaken for blind anger. With this in mind, and inspired by John Lennon’s ‘All You Need is Love’, he set about rewriting ‘Yes, Sir’ from what he describes as a more Taoist viewpoint. Through replacing screams of anguish with laments of love, he was largely able to satisfy his wish to change Yes Sir, I Will into an expression of compassion, that being the hugely demanding realm of love in its unconditional form.

For the Rebellion performance of the now retitled Yes, Sir, the Truth of ᴙevolution, Rimbaud was joined by Crass’ lead vocalist Eve Libertine plus a group of leading musicians from the London jazz scene with whom they’d worked extensively in the past. Named ‘L’Académie des Vanités’, the band consisted of Eve Libertine/vocals, Penny Rimbaud/vocals, Louise Elliott/sax, Kate Shortt/cello, Jennifer Maidman/guitar, Phil Robson/guitar, Thad Kelly/bass and Gene Calderazzo/drums. The live recording of that show, presented here, captures all the tense excitement created by presenting a primarily punk audience with complex poetics of love, accompanied by equally demanding freeform, improvised jazz. However, as had generally been the case with Crass’ output, wild, willing and worrisome, it would be wise to expect the unexpected. Equally, through its progressive and colourful imagery, the vibrant packaging designed by Gee Vaucher shows a refusal to harp back to the illusory golden past of punk dreams and conceits.

‘We are poets, armed with the cobblestones of love, unconditional, uncompromising, beyond need of proof.’ However, if proof is needed, it will most surely be found in the content of this radical, imaginative release.

CD in digipak with 28-page booklet.

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