Archive for October, 2010

33. THE HENDRIX SUITE Part Three – ‘Flying–V’s & Guerilla Art’

October 24, 2010

After the stripes and the mural had been established as the design basis for ROOM 5001 at the Cumberland Hotel, we began the process of collating and co-ordinating all the other items needed to complete the ‘WOW’ factor for the project.

Although the budget had considerably increased it wasn’t limitless and so a great deal of time was spent by all of us to ensure the highest standards were constantly maintained within the new budget. I worked on finding art and creating my own work for the room; Cynthia and Mary concentrated on researching and finding the furniture, fabrics and interior elements the room needed. This was no easy task. The suite had to be opulent and luxurious, rich in texture and colour and true to the period – although Cynthia and Mary decided a ‘modern take’ on the 60’s was a positive creative approach. G-plan furniture, candlewick bedspreads, Indian throws and a cornucopia of hippy memorabilia may have been an accurate representation of a 60’s interior but hardly one to inspire Hendrix fans or to fulfil a brief for the luxury and sense of decadence the suite demanded.

Opulence, decadence, luxury, lavish fabrics, customised furniture and original art – all to reflect the flambuoyance of Jimi Hendrix – point in one direction: expense. In the quest to provide the highest quality, the room design changed constantly as Cynthia and Mary found new materials and items of furniture that were more exciting, more authentic or had been supplied by people eager to be involved in the project. Although this was, for me, at times frustrating – having to constantly re-think and re-design much of my artwork (and where it would be placed most importantly) – it meant the design was ‘progressive’ and not bound by pre-conception alone.

I thought the room needed much more psychedelia and found two one-off, ‘artist’s proofs’ of a very limited edition by a Brighton artist called Screen Prince … represented by the wonderful Art Republic

I loved them – a perfect modern ‘homage’ to the original iconic poster from the 60’s. I presented them to the Cumberland Hotel and the response from everyone at the meeting was extremely positive – so I bought them. Unfortunately, at the last minute – a few days after I’d had them mounted and framed – Mary and Cynthia decided they shouldn’t be in the room as they ‘weren’t good enough‘. Not in my opinion obviously! I was very surprised at the sudden change in mind at such a late stage but, by this time, I’d taken more of a back seat on the project – not because I cared any less or that the quality of my contribution would be diminished in any way, but I did sense fundamental differences which I believed could cause problems. I wanted a more adventurous environment (more Rock’N’Roll I suppose) where Hendrix imagery became an integral part of the interior design not just the art on the walls. It was hugely disappointing to abandon ideas I’d presented but I did recognise, as I’ve said before, the room was not an art exhibition or an egotistical showcase for Andie Airfix. I guess that’s why I work as a designer in the music industry – not as an interior designer.

A great friend had an idea for the Hendrix Editions though. In a wonderfully anarchic reverse-take on guests removing objects from hotel rooms, she has seriously offered to book the room for a night and put the editions up on the wall! Genius.

Don’t Steal Bathrobes – Infiltrate & Add Art.

Watch that wallspace !

Flying V’s & Limited Edition Prints

There had to be a guitar. How could there be a room dedicated to the world’s greatest guitarist without one? Inconceivable. I did manage to track down the original FLYING V – famously hand-painted by Hendrix himself. I discovered the FLYING V actually goes on tour and what’s more astonishing – wherever it’s displayed it’s accompanied by two ‘bodyguards’. It’s the kind of security level usually reserved for Heads of State or Crown Jewels. So … no way of borrowing that for the opening night then.

I was very generously ‘gifted’ a Flying V guitar through GAK Guitar Shop in Brighton – and in stepped ‘Zoli the Magnificent‘. Between us (mostly Zoli) we created a perfect replica …

It was certainly a labour of love … every coloured section on the body of the guitar was vectored and templated by Zoli so each could be individually applied to the facia where the design appeared – NOT all over the guitar. The result was as finely-tuned as the original guitar must have been.

Before we get to the Airfix Edition, there’s another contribution I love. It’s a detail but, as they say …

During one of many flying visits to the room as it was under construction (mostly to triple-check the measurements for the mural it has to be said – I had paranoia on a level unprecedented!), I wandered up to the room as a Hendrix fan would who’d booked the room for the night to see if there was anything we’d missed. There was. Coming out of the lift I couldn’t find the room amongst all the other identical doors and numbers in the corridor. Concentrating entirely on the interior we’d missed an important trick – the exterior. It was soon rectified …

The edition I created, specifically for the Hendrix suite, was based on the Rolling Stone cover image used on their Hendrix commemorative issue in 1970 …

Rainbow Haze‘ is based on the colour palette we’d established for the room and contains affectionate references to Andy Warhol and the Beatles ‘White Album’ . It was a real joy to create. Hopefully it captures the essence of the 60’s – the colour, style and format from a period in art history which introduced the concept of ‘multiples’ as a new art form – a saleable item that would find its way into numerous homes and not just a few select and elitist galleries. For many artists it also introduced the use of innovative print techniques which allowed such an adventurous and challenging concept to flourish. Thankfully – It still does.

In the next blog …

WIN an Edition. Click here for Edition details

Later …

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32. More Brilliance

October 21, 2010

I have a literary mission at the moment. In order to complete my novel ‘MALAYALAM‘ – a thriller set in Mumbai in the year 2050 – the story now insists I have eleven extraordinary encounters, discovered randomly, which become part of the final few chapters. One of them appeared very recently in the wonderful city of Granada in Andalucia.

At one of the stone archways leading into the magnificent Alhambra Palace (probably the finest example of Moorish architecture in the world) I saw a young man playing a musical instrument I had never seen or heard of before ..

The instrument is called a hang and it’s exquisite sound is totally bewitching. One would be forgiven for thinking this was an instrument from an ancient civilisation – created to emulate ‘the music of the spheres‘. In fact it was developed in Switzerland less than ten years ago. Tempered to scientific perfection it’s notes vibrate directly in tune with the human body. Unfortunately I don’t have a recording of the what I heard but, to give you an idea of the instruments capabilities, here is the hang played by a virtuoso – the incredibly talented Liron Man. Make sure you watch until the astonshing finale.

HENDRIX SUITE FINALE to be posted tomorrow.

Later …


31. Brilliance

October 18, 2010

Last week politicians worried how David and Ed Miliband would deal with Prime Minister’s Question Time (personally it’s brother Glen I worry about) and we saw the triumphant rescue of the Chilean miners – coinciding with, and sublimely over-shadowing, Margaret Thatcher’s birthday celebrations. There were two other events worth more than a mention.

DAME JOAN SUTHERLAND – ‘La Stupenda’
(1926 – 2010)

Pavarotti, who as a young man was taken under her wing when she toured Australia in 1965, described Joan Sutherland as ‘the Voice of the Century’. It was as powerful and as influential as that of Maria Callas and was a force that celebrated opera like no other in the 20th Century. Her true beauty lay, not only in her extraordinary talent as magnificent as it was, but in her dedication to modesty and in recognising she was blessed with something that transcended ego or fame. Her great friend, Dame Norma Major, said last week – ‘a great light has gone out’.

HOWARD JACOBSON – Man Booker Prize winner.

For years Howard Jacobson has not been recognised for his considerable literary talents, believing with admirable conviction that the greatest literature must, at its most basic, be entertaining. He has been compared to Shakespeare and Roth amongst others but his talent is dissipated by such glib comparisons.

He would repudiate I’m sure the phrase ‘comic genius’, knowing the word ‘comic’ is used too often with little understanding of the depth and weight the word demands. The word ‘tragedy’ immediately invokes a seriousness which encourages gravitas and substance. The word ‘comedy’ – equally, possibly more important a concept to understand – is too often deemed trivial, superficial and of less value.

Humour is the brightness in our lives, a way of looking at the world which is vital to our well-being. Congratulations Mr Jacobson on winning the Man Booker Prize and thank you for encouraging an approach to writing which provides optimism and compassion rarely expressed so eloquently.

Next …

The final part of the Hendrix project … other artworks for the suite

30. The HENDRIX SUITE Part Two – The Mural

October 6, 2010

Rock’n’Roll and Interior Design – unlikely bedfellows

After Mary and I secured the Hendrix project I had to think seriously about my specific contributions. The brief from the hotel at our first meeting was clear and enthusiastic. The ‘WOW’ factor was mentioned several times. We now had to move to Stage Two – providing JIMI HENDRIX concepts.

To me the project had two clearly defined objectives; first I had to create a HENDRIX centre-piece for the room; secondly the exciting environment had to be comfortable for hotel guests to stay in. The HENDRIX EXPERIENCE was not an art gallery, or a showcase for 60’s interiors; it was a living space where guests could relax in a stunning room, centred around a rock legend, whilst enjoying all the luxuries of a 21st century hotel.

Cynthia, Mary’s senior associate, set the precedent – a dazzling interior contribution. Stripes in orange, green, purple, pink and blue began at floor level at one end of the room, headed straight upward to the ceiling, where they swirled across the length of the room, then dropped back down to the floor again. My contribution had to be equally striking but, crucially, had to be complimentary to Cynthia’s bold vision. Although I knew what I wanted as a centre-piece, I needed to do serious technical research to make it happen. It had to be a mural. How could there be a 60’s room without one? Time-constraints and very limited access to the room meant what I wanted to do had to be produced ‘off-site’. I had no idea how that could be done. On top of that uncertainty – I had serious opposition to the mural idea from the interior designers. The suggested framed picture above the bed, to me, was simply too conventional an interior design concept for a Rock’n’Roll Suite that demanded something far more adventurous and innovative.

Fearful I would end up producing the Hendrix equivalent of a fishing village scene above a bed in an hotel in Cornwall, I held my ground – determined to find a way to produce the Hendrix mural I had envisaged. I had faith I would find a way to make it happen, so I fully concentrated on producing design roughs for the next meeting with the Cumberland – to persuade all involved I was absolutely on-track.

Research for the mural was pretty straightforward – no need for academics – I just had to remember why it was I ran away from home in 1962 to hitch-hike to Carnaby Street in London – specifically to buy a pair of emerald-green, bell-bottomed, crushed-velvet hipster trousers I’d seen in a magazine. (yes – I know!), and to remember my influences as a teenager and art student at the time.

Without a doubt, Robert Rauschenberg was first and foremost in my mind. A giant of pop culture in the USA he was probably more influential than Andy Warhol. The painter’s painter, he brought innovation – not only in terms of subject matter – but he also devised new art techniques and mediums like no other artist. He was then, and still is, a major influence for me – not only in my work but as mentor and visionary in my philosophy of life in general.

What else (apart from trousers) was a visual influence for a mural? Psychedelia of course; Bridget Riley; OZ magazine (I treasure the ‘Schoolkids’ issue I still have); the political, musical and sexual revolution that was so important in the 60’s; and – if you were fortunate enough to be around at the time and at all interested in music – you could not fail to remember how art was embraced by a new generation of sleeve designers …


Jo, a great friend and fellow artist recommended Zoli, of Exhibit Printing in Brighton, to help. Jo’s contacts and her ‘finger-on-the-pulse’ radar is second-to-none so I took her recommendation very seriously. Also, as Zoltan was the only other entry under ‘Z’ in my phone book, the name itself seemed a good reason to make contact. Adding the entry brought images to mind of a conjuring duo – ‘Zoli and Zoltan – Magicians Extraordinaire‘. It turned out, as far as Zoli was concerned, not to be too far from the truth.

If any of you have created a Photoshop file at the resolution necessary for a crisp detailed print you will understand that creating a 12 x 9 foot image at the standard resolution of 300 dpi would normally require the memory of a NASA computer programming a space-flight to galaxies way beyond our solar system. My computer simply produced an alert which said ‘You ARE kidding!‘ I put it to Zoli and he was unphased by the problem. It became a serious challenge. With the diligence he’d mastered for his architect’s degree, he has applied his considerable knowledge to cutting-edge print technology. It seemed appropriate that, as Hendrix was an innovator, bringing on board state-of-the-art technical advisors to fulfil his musical vision, we were attempting to do the same with the art-piece to commemorate him. 

When the ideas for the mural were unveiled at a second meeting with the Cumberland – the reactions could not have been more affirming. Keith Altham, confidante and the only journalist in the Hendrix entourage, who attended the meeting as an advisor, said “Jimi would love that.” Mary Gannon, the interior designer, also openly admitted she’d changed her mind – having seen my proposals for the piece.

Lessons? GO FOR IT!

Nothing innovative comes out of reticence or perceived limitations. Already, what Zoli and I have created together, has provided opportunities to develop more large-scale art I hadn’t thought possible. My recent move to Brighton was partly about consolidating and developing my art – and now, through a new genuine collaboration, horizons have appeared that are wonderfully challenging and exciting.

NEXT: WIN a HENDRIX EDITION, ‘Rainbow Haze’, on the next blog.

Acknowledgements:

I have at this point to thank my mentor, dear friend, and financial and philosophical advisor – Lily Rendle-Moore. Without her invaluable assistance on the project, it would, without doubt, have collapsed within days of its initiation. The problems I have had to deal with, as distressing as they have been, have always been put into perspective by her audacious approach to life and her relentless insistence I enjoy myself at all times, at all costs. Thank you Lily.

Now Lily – I know you’re only twelve darling, and you’re annoyed I haven’t mentioned you on the blog until now, but would you mind removing that enormous, lethal-looking water-pistol that’s pointed at my head.

Thank you darling – you are just SO OMGenius. I Love You XXX

29. Walker Brothers & the divine Scott Walker

October 2, 2010

30. THE JIMI HENDRIX SUITE – Part Two
– ‘Rock’n’Roll and Interior Design’ follows … 

… but it would be impossible not to mention THE WALKER BROTHERS at this juncture …

Contemporaries to Hendrix (he often supported their headline act) they were a hugely successful pop phenomena between 1964 and 1968. The combination of the brilliant songwriting of Burt Bacharach and Scott Engel’s towering vocals (and astonishing good looks!) ensured their fan club was bigger than that of the Beatles at the height of their fame …

At the party the Cumberland Hotel generously threw – to thank those involved in creating the HENDRIX SUITE  – I met Gary Walker. It was great to meet him but particularly as I’d indirectly referred to him in my Hendrix mural. It was Gary who provided the Zippo Hendrix used the first time he set fire to his guitar. In my Hendrix mural I’d carefully placed a beaten-up old Zippo to look as though it was sitting on one of the two bedside cabinets. Working on an art piece 5 x 2.5metres I was extremely pleased how realistic and perfectly placed it looked. An obscure reference maybe – but it’s all in the detail …

Sadly, the Walker Brothers broke up, citing the usual ‘artistic differences’ but it was clear Scott Engel (by now Scott Walker) was having serious problems dealing with fame and had already attempted to take his own life …

Thankfully, though troubled, Scott and his DIVINE voice returned and he produced amazing solo work – THAT voice more powerful and more beautiful than ever. I strongly recommend you check out his portfolio of work – diverse, soulful, heart-wrenching and always enigmatic, he is pure joy to listen to. Here are a couple of the one’s I love but there are many, many more to check out …

See you soon … for more on THE HENDRIX SUITE