All illustrations by Gackland.
I first encountered the prolific Gackland two years ago when we shared a desk at Amelia’s Magazine. At the time he was operating under the guise of journalist, clinic writing exhaustive opuses (under the pseudonym of Gareth David) such as Cheesy Rider, more about where he dove nose first into the smelly underworld of the cheese night/pub quiz hybrid. Investigative reporting aside, prescription this polymath is also an accomplished musician and an artist. (He studied Fine Art at Coventry after doing a Foundation at Chelsea). And it is this art that will get an airing in the next few weeks at the Brick Lane Gallery. Entitled BOOM! (opening night June 8th), the exhibition has kept the artist extremely busy for the past few months, creating a prodigious body of work that I was able to take a sneak peek at when I went round to Gareth’s house a few weeks ago. The plan had been to interview him and see the man in action, although as befits a multi-tasker and all-around good guy, he spent most of the interview giving me a guitar lesson. But we managed to talk a bit about his art, I’m pleased to say.
Could you define your art and its message? Or would that be over-simplifying it?
I’m really just responding to the call of an addiction with my art. I’m addicted to conventional wordy, chatty communication, too, but I often find that there are notions that can’t really be expressed that way. Really beautiful, subtle possibilities that words fail need to be painted. I once had a massive stab at communicating my Ronald Reagan portrait in words to a complete stranger and got maybe 40% of the way there, but only because there was a really tasteful live bongo electronica band on and we were standing in front of the painting anyway with brains full of beer. To get the full 100% with that magic stuff, person A needs to paint it and person B needs to look at it.
You and I have spoken about recurrent themes in your work; could you expound on these themes to our readers?
My previous arty phase was very laborious. I would have complex one-issue monoliths of canvas. I’d give myself one go at saying what I needed to say about x subject, plan for weeks, do a reading list, weave my subject into a heavy, heavy compositional labyrinth. They were my Sistine Chapels. The new stuff really just feels its way around vaguer notions of experience. Like what is happening when I listen to music? How should I feel about the fact the Universe doesn’t care for me? And most obviously, aren’t patterned blobby organic forms lovely?
Turning to the work that you will be showing in the gallery; what can visitors expect to see in your exhibition? And please enlighten us about the Gack-Pack.
The bulk of the Brick Lane show will be the new style Gackland thing. Oil paintings and drawings that explore that unwordable how-it-feels-being-a-unit-of-life comic beauty. There will also be my recent labour of love, the Rolf Harris portrait – done from life. And I’ll even have a couple of giclee canvas prints of my old epic work. That stuff looks really good in miniaturised form, and it’s so right to democratise – I suppose I mean cheapen – political and philosophical Art.
As for the Gack-Pack, it’s yet a further democratisation of Art. If you’ve got £18, you get a unique, original, ten-centimetre square signed drawing, six stickers, and a ticket to Gack-Lottery, which is a chance to win and direct my next painting. I’m selling hope. Cheap.
You are also an (very talented) musician and writer. If your house was on fire and you could only save one thing, would it be a paintbrush, guitar, or pen?
Everything’s economic, as Groucho Marx once said. These things are all replaceable. Between them things there, it’s the guitar, but really, I’d try and grab as many paintings as I could. And my signed Rolf Harris book, of course.
I know that Rolf Harris holds an esteemable place in your heart. Why is that exactly? (Although no explanation is needed when we look back to his Cartoon Club days).
These are tricky days for Art. I just feel that Rolf, though he wouldn’t claim to be a Van Gogh or Rembrandt or whatever, shows more of the spirit of creating things than anything that the establishment is willing to go near. Most of the Art that came out from under the shadow of Saatchi was obsessed with being perfect and slick on one hand or throwaway and careless on the other. Everyone wanted to be a completely unassailable fortress, risk-free. But Rolf… Rolf is the answer. Rolf lets you see him creating, he talks you through it, panting rhythmically and most importantly, every Art tutor, gallerist and wannabe hates him. Also, I saw him spilling his guts to Mark Lawson on BBC4 and his disappointment with his time at Art School brought highly personal tears to my eyes. It wasn’t just the vodka-fumes.
Gackland in his natural setting, multi-tasking as per usual.
Apart from the Brick Lane exhibition, where can we find (and buy) your work?
Well obviously, there’s no better place than the Brick Lane Gallery for your needy citizen’s Gack-demands. But there’s also the web. Just visit Gackland and you can see loads of work. Not much of the new stuff just yet, but that will be going up sometime after the Opening Night’s happened, which is June the 8th. And the website leads you to the rest of my fledgling online presence, enabling you to pester, complain, haggle and abuse through facebook and even twitter, if you’re into that. I’ll quite likely be in a beer garden with my sketchbook at the time, but I’ll probably get back to you before Winter if you’re funny.
BOOM at the Brick Lane Gallery (free)
Opening Night: Wed 8 Jun, 6-8.30pm
Open daily until Sun 19 June, 1-6pm.
Brick Lane Gallery 196 Brick Lane, E1 6SA
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