I met Ben a couple of months ago by accident when I and my eternally-un-named friend wandered into his gallery to see DRB’s matchbox show. It then turned out that Ben had been a regular heckler at late comedy performer and promoter Malcolm Hardee’s legendary Tunnel club… had directed The Prodigy’s Firestarter rock video… and used to work for Ridley Scott’s TV/film commercials company. But, last night, he was Ben Oakley, artist, with his show of “Pinhead Paintings” described thus:
“Using original portrait photography and fashion/media prints, he hand tints then stencils over the flesh of the subject using everyday safety pins and spray paint with fascinating results. Though still instantly recognizable, each portrait takes on a peculiar almost Alien/tribal feel that transports them out of their original era and setting, into a more fitting modern day environment. All the paintings are presented in original worn frames to evoke the thought that they once sat on your grandparents’ kitchen wall and no-one batted an eye lid.” The prints included, I think, three of the Queen (Elizabeth II not Freddie Mercury) and one of Jesus. So it is good to see Ben retains a respect for past values.
Meanwhile – and, yes, there is a connection, dear reader – Vivienne and Martin Soan are in Leipzig, preparing for their Pull The Other One comedy club show on Saturday night. Martin was a long-time co-performer with Malcolm Hardee in The Greatest Show On Legs. Before they left for Leipzig, Martin & Vivienne were suggesting to me that an art gallery should be set up with a permanent room dedicated to work by Anonymous. “The people choosing what to include in the Anonymous Room,” suggested Vivienne, “would not know who had submitted the works. They would just choose what to exhibit on the merit of the art itself.”
“The stuff could be by a 4-year-old boy,” explained Martin, “or it could be by Tracey Emin, but no-one would know. The idea would be to get away from celebrity in the Art world.”
It will never happen.
Though it should.