Saturday, 25 April 2009


Last night I had the great pleasure of attending another Friday night event at the V+A, and this week saw the turn of Jamie Reid in conversation. This wouldn’t have been my first choice, but H wanted to go so armed with the preliminary knowledge that he’s an artist and used to work with the Sex Pistols, off I went to learn more about him first hand.

Hate to say ‘I told you so’, but it wasn’t that great. I think maybe if you are a huge fan of the Sex Pistols and wanted to ask Jamie questions about them or Vivienne Westwood (which people unashamedly did) then it would’ve been great fun, but I guess I might have set my expectations of Jamie himself too high.

It started off really well with Jamie introducing himself as an ‘artist, anarchist and graphic designer, among many other things’. He passionately talked us through a slide show of all of his earlier and famed works using them to illustrate his life timeline. It transpired that Jamie went to Croydon polytechnic college with Malcolm McLaren (hence the Sex Pistols connection) whom he lost contact with after college. After leaving art college Jamie was part of a group of artists that started a collective called Suburban Press (see imagery below). This was a community led initiative which highlighted local issues, but also campaigned for increased civil rights and most memorably spoke on behalf of the miners during the strikes of the late 1970s. It was his experiences at the Suburban Press that really informed Reid’s artistic style and he went on for many years to create propaganda for and against numerous political campaigns. When the suburban Press closed after around four years Reid decided to move to Lewis in the Outer Hebrides and rather randomly received a letter from Malcolm McLaren telling him all about a great new band he’d discovered called the Sex Pistols. He requested that Reid move back to London to work with the Pistols on album artwork and promotional materials. After accepting McClaren’s offer Reid recalls moving back to London and ‘suddenly my work was in all of the newspapers before the Sex Pistols even had a record deal’.
Among the best of Reid’s iconic works with the Sex Pistols are ‘Fuck Forever’, ‘Anarchy in the UK’ and 'Never Trust a Punk'(pictured above and below).
The story of Reid’s life seems to get a bit blurry at the point where he claims that the lovely Dame Vivienne and Malcolm ripped him off when they opened their famed store on the King’s Road called ‘SEX, and used his prints on t-shirts and other merchandise’. As you might have expected after they parted ways the subjects of Reid’s work changed dramatically with him focusing several years (on and off) creating ‘repetitions of imagery and emblems’.

When the discussion had moved on from the Sex Pistols things got a bit confused and became quite philosophical and a bit too highbrow for me. At first I thought it was just me being a bit restless and grumpy (I blame the crutches!!), but the audience seemed a bit stumped to think of relevant questions so Jamie continued talking about his inspirations and motivations which is when I got lost.

Among his inspirations are druidism (an ancient Celtic religion where nature was worshipped), romantic poets such as Blake and the artist Jackson Pollock. Great insights were:
Who killed Bambi?
Colour is power- so always has a presence in his work. He believes in the healing powers of colour
Assertoric (a proposition in Aristotlean logic) lets him see the magic and order in things
So weird ramblings aside it was worth going to find out more about him and who he is. Recently he has done some great things such as his fashion collaboration with Comme des Garcon which launched in 2007 with his propoganda art plastered all over the exterior of Dover Street Market (see imagery below). Reid mentioned in the lecture that the Tate galleries have just purchased some of his early collages from his Punk series, so would be great to look out for them next time I visit the Tates. Whilst I haven’t written many positive things about Jamie Reid’s lecture I do really like his work and think he did great things for the progression of graphic design. I really like his early pre punk artwork as it was really relevant for the time period and admire that it had a political message. Another thing I really liked was his use of typography and that his best works were created largely by collage.
Images of Jamie Reid artwork courtesy of Google.

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