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.
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