Wednesday, 11 March 2009

contact report: meeting Le Gun

Pete and I have been awake for an hour. I’m explaining why it’s fine for me to give him my phone, his out of battery, because I will get to this place, this advertising director class meet thing place at 3 and meet someone we know with a mobile phone. Then I can call him and we can meet up and swim victorious to Euston station.

The way to move around in London is as if you were playing a massive guitar solo, psychedelic like you’re on all the acid in the world. Manchester you can navigate like you’re the rhythm section. But all the Real Players in London have this solo style of movement down and it comes out like some insane free jazz jam fest love in everyone soloing on top of each other.

The air in the tube is obviously very stale but always in motion and that gives it a weird quality. But I’m going to see Le Gun which means I need to get to Hackney and walk a fucking year having got the Overground which I was completely unprepared for.

Le Gun is described as an “art collective” and it’s also the title of a magazine that these people put out from their studio in London. I’m there to speak to this guy, Chris, about what it’s like working in this studio, why get a studio, how’d it get started, show him my portfolio all that good stuff but when I arrive he’s not even there.

Some guy, thick accent (Dutch?) talks to me as if I’ve got a film camera right in his face and he’s trying to get into his car. They called to get Chris down and I have to let him in at the front door. He seems on the edge of bemused and offended and I’m mumbling and incoherent, in an almost high school politeness and he’s about to lead me into the studio I had to leave to get him when he stops and starts talking to this woman.

It turns out her name is Shonagh Rae (thanks Pete) and she used to teach him back in college. I did ask but I can’t remember where it was he studied.

It is a weird coincidence and I feel sort of like an overused bar of soap being crushed, moulding to the fingers, expanding around the pressure. I was going to sink away and be the most awful student guest possible but now Shonagh Rae has kicked the door in and is being as teacherly as possible, asking what Chris is doing now, what his plans are, how he got started in the studio. I might as well be holding her fucking hand.

Chris had been at that studio for about 4 or 5 years and they all knew each other there. Although everyone was working very quietly and separately, it was like being in a library amongst strangers. I got the feeling this was my fault, I brought the library strangeness to the back of their necks and they did not want me there.

I hadn’t been impressed with the stuff on the website but the stuff that was hanging around was much better and more impressive in person.

Chris’ work seemed very separate from the rest of Le Gun’s workers who seemed to lean more towards graphic design but you could have called it illustration and literally no one on earth would have given a fuck.

But Chris’ stuff was all hand drawn, reminded me of a lot of Robert Crumb insanity and independent comic kitschness, but not in an embarrassing student way, though almost. He showed us his portfolio, exactly the same model as Andy Pavitt’s and everyone else in the college class, mine having an extremely minor difference in the strap that holds it closed. Those portfolio store jerks must make so much cash from that portfolio edition and really where do you look to find a goddamn portfolio anyway?

Chris' portfolio features alot of more commerical work as he calls it, the same leg of stuff as featured on the website, with his personal stuff being more spilling and ravanous, to use a couple of words.

Next door there is this print room and everything outside is white, it’s a small gallery sort of a warehouse studio thing where any second a dead body might swing down on a rusty hook. There’s a piano made from cardboard on it’s side and some other cardboard furniture, classier than it could sound.

Alex Wright is a man I meet in the printroom who talks like he’s a really nice guy but has a beard and doesn’t smile. He mentions hearing Stockport has a good reputation, coursewise, and asks about Gary Prendergast. And when I write this I haven’t but he asks me to say to Gary P that he says hi because they used to work together in Manchester. He was even on Eleanor Mulhern’s course at Manchester, I think, and my mind has twisted to the point of breaking, like a coke can in a vacuum.

Sister Rae leaves us and I’m sort of anxious to go too, to this 3pm advert guy thing meeting and Chris says goodbye to Shonagh Rae and I say fuck it and hang out for a bit longer now the ice has broken and I haven’t really taken any solid information punches.

I remember being awake five minutes speaking to Ian and Gary saying I will call them if I can’t get to the 3pm meeting so they’re not waiting around like the Earth’s Assholes while I flap about in Camden market eating the worlds worst fajita which is what I ended up doing because Pete has my damn phone.

Chris takes me upstairs to meet Neal Fox who draws in a slightly, slightly calmer way to Neal. Nick Cave is playing and Neal is very friendly. He smiles more than all the other Le Gun guys, for real. The bond is instant and mountainous. Chris starts rolling a cigarette. I feel like I’ve butted in on a conversation at a party, a little bit like I’m being endured but less than how it felt downstairs. I show them my portfolio and they like it ok. We like the pen says Chris, about the different in our work, and they give me some names; Hannah Bags (couldn’t find anything), Geoff Granfield (love his use of negative space), Robert Shadbolt (don’t like how many smiles he draws, although it implies he is lovely – or psychotic).

Chris says I should have showed my portfolio to Shonagh Rae, that her work was similar, and having seen her work I wish I had too.

They’re talking about how dated collage work can get, how I need to make this style my own. They like that I’ve used some hand made print things and shapes.

Neal sees the piece I did about the crossroads, selling your soul to the devil to play a mean guitar and he tells me about a piece he did about Robert Johnson shaking hands with the devil and I say well I did the same piece look and we laugh the sneaking laugh of kings.

His drawings are massive. The paper stretches across a 10 or 12 foot wall and is at least six feet high on a scroll I’ve never seen the equal of in size. And the drawing that’s up is not even half done yet, there’s another eight foot of it to be drawn.

Neal’s working in this little studio by himself, big papers and books and all sorts everywhere, a big sofa by the window. He has the right idea working up there. That’s a room I would want in a house, let’s leave all that studio nonsense to the non smilers. Let’s work slow and alone, fast is other people.

Outside I dial my number at a payphone and Pete doesn’t answer. I buy a hat at Camden Market.


Pete Adlington said...

You're damn straight i had your phone. The two calls i recieved on that thing coincided with my meeting at Mixmag. I hold those two callers (you and Ian) responsible for the total lack of commissions rolling in from the worlds largest music magazine.

Pete Adlington said...

oh yeah, the teacher in your story goes by the name of Shonagh Rae, and her work is fucking awesome, and I'd have loved to have met her. She's on Heart agency. I heard her and Arnaud Jones had an affair. A brutal, violent affair.

Alun Richards said...

I hate all things visual, as you know, but this story is great in itself. It feels almost journalistic, actually, like you're writing for some obscure and incredibly cool arts magazine. Like Vice ( a good way?).

Alun Richards said...

Obviously Vice isn't obscure.