Suffolk artists prove that David Bowie continues to inspire
- Credit: Archant
David Bowie had many faces, many guises and many musical personalities – from Ziggy Stardust, to Aladdin Sane, to the pale-faced harlequin of Ashes to Ashes. And to mark the first anniversary of Bowie’s death Suffolk-based printmaking collective Off The Press have created a new exhibition which celebrates the diverse nature of Bowie’s talent.
The exhibition, called Scary Monsters and Super Creeps, is being staged in the bar of the Abbeygate Cinema in Bury St Edmunds. It is in keeping with the collective’s policy of creating pop-up exhibitions which allow the public to encounter art as part of daily life rather than being forced to go to a gallery.
The trio at the heart of Off The Press are textile artist Anna Bird, printmaker James Treadaway and graphic designer Sam Foley, who pursue their own projects and work as well as commissioning work from other artists which make up Off The Press exhibitions.
Nineteen artists were approached to contribute work to the exhibition which was designed to mark the first anniversary of his death. “We also wanted to do something positive to celebrate what would have been his 70th birthday as well,” said Anna.
“The organisation of the show came together very quickly. We were fortunate that everyone we asked came back very quickly with some great ideas.
“It just shows what Bowie meant to everyone and we spent Christmas and New Year printing everything up. So the show has come together in a very short time.”
The idea behind the exhibition is to have a show which explores the various looks that David Bowie had over the years from the bubble-perm of the late 60s, through the glam-rock years of the mid-70s, to the 1980s Thin White Duke right up to the austere look of Blackstar and Tin Machine.
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“David Bowie is visually so rich that we knew our artists would have a lot of fun with this show,” said James. “Also, because of the short turn-around time we were incredibly chuffed that everyone found time to contribute something and some of them with commercial work were incredibly busy in the run-up to Christmas but no-one said they couldn’t do it.
“Everyone found time and I think that says a lot about the importance of Bowie as an artist and why they wanted to create new work to remember someone who thrived on creating new work and spent a lifetime reinventing himself so he never became stale or predictable.”
The range of artists asked to contribute also guaranteed a wide variety of work.
These include print makers, graphic designers, children’s book illustrators and fine artists. “What we have is a wide range of different takes on the life and career of David Bowie.
“Everyone sees something different and that makes for a fascinating show,” said James.
The collective came together through the Smith’s Row Gallery and from various print-making workshops that they attended. They formed the collective to stage an alternative film show and exhibition at the Abbeygate Cinema and contacted various local artists to contribute prints for the exhibition. “It has just grown and developed from there,” said James.
“We are passionate making art both accessible and affordable and that includes using interesting and unusual spaces to show the work.”
Anna added: “We want people to engage with the work and to inspire their imaginations and themed exhibitions by local artists is a nice way to do this.
“We love working with local businesses, getting space within their premises and it makes the whole thing a community project. It makes daily life just a little bit different, a little surprising and enjoyable.”
She said the collective also works with recent graduates helping them to adapt to life beyond university. “James works at West Suffolk College on their further education courses and I have worked at Norwich University of the Arts and we see a lot of students who finish their degree and they don’t really know where to go next. We try to help them find their feet in the outside world.”
Sam, who met a lot of young artists through his work at Bury’s Smiths Row Gallery, said it is important to try to provide a platform for emerging artists so they can establish a name for themselves.
“I like the fact that you can have a graduate exhibiting alongside an established artist. Working as an artist can be a lonely, isolating experience, so contributing to a mixed exhibition provides not only a different stimulus, it also provides contact with the outside world,” he said.
Anna said they approach a wide variety of artists with a brief for an exhibition and then wait for them to interpret that brief in any way they want.
“The result will be a hugely varied and entertaining show, although we do tend to specify the colours they can use, in order to create a cohesive look to the show.”
n David Bowie: Scary Monsters and Super Creeps, curated by the Off The Press collective is currently on show at the Abbeygate Cinema, Hatter Street, Bury St Edmunds. Work is for sale.