London Art Spot: Perry Sullivan

Not for innocent eyes, Perry sullivan draws on themes of sexuality, human form and politics to create a body of work that sometimes has a shock value with that can’t-peel-your-eyes-away sort of appeal. Some are disturbing, some may be offensive, but his goal is to draw on real bits of life that people can relate to rather than pretentious conceptual art that’s not always so easy to understand.

Perry is a master of line, light, shadow and form that gives life to the figures in his paintings. He will be showing them off at the Brick Lane Gallery until tomorrow so there’s still time to pop in.

For this week’s London Art Spot, he’s answered all of my (sometimes cheeky two-part) questions about his goal to make traditional figure painting appeal to a more contemporary audience, shares one of the most memorable comments from a buyer and of course gives us an eyeful of images to get a real feel for his work.

LLO: Which aspects of London life most influence your creativity?
PS:
The history. When I go to galleries and museums I think of all the people who have been a part of the city’s culture and I am pleased to be part of that in some small way.

LLO:  There’s sexuality, human form, some religious and mythological elements… Talk us through some of the common themes that flow through your work.
PS:
I would like to think the common theme in my work is humour. Being British I love to take the piss and there is a great deal of tounge in cheek in my work. I started to copy superheros from comic books as a kid. I think if I wasn’t a painter I’d be a cartoonist as I love to have a pop at deserving targets such as celebs, bankers, footballers, the church, politicians, etc. These are themes I return to time and again in my work.

LLO: If we wanted to walk around a recent exhibition of your work with an iPod, which songs would you recommend as a soundtrack to complement the mood of the show?
PS:
The Banana Splits Theme

LLO: You say you want to revive traditional figure painting and bring it into the contemporary world. How do you approach your work with this goal in mind? Which elements are most important to accomplish this?
PS:
Hang on, that’s two questions. Do I get extra brownie points or somthing? I set out to make my work say something to people who may feel that art is just people pushing paint about and slaping themselves on the back for doing so. (Frieze Art Fair). I want them to be able to connect with the painting in a real way, to know what it is they’re looking at and then go on to see deeper into the work. I think that once again humour is a helpful element and of course sex.

LLO: Do you have a muse?
PS:
Me. Sorry, did you mean someone I adore who fills me with love, hope, energy and light? Still me I am afraid.

LLO: One of your other interests is books. What are you reading now? Do you find that what you’re reading tends to have any influence on your artwork?
PS:
At this moment I am reading my Open University coursework as I am just about to start on my history degree. Just wanted to do something fun. You would think I’d say a Nigella Lawson cookbook looking at my work. But apart from those early years reading comics I don’t think what I read (outside Saturday’s Guardian) has any effect on my work.

LLO: Which painting are you most proud of right now and why?
PS:
The last one I did for the Brick Lane show called ‘Lest We Remember’. I am proud of it not because of the painting as such, but of the style. I was running out of time if I wanted to get it in the show so I put the paint on quicker and looser when I realized it had a real freshness and energy. I felt that I was in charge of the paint and it was going to do what I damn well wanted it to do as there was no time for debate. I love Rembrant’s work as it got looser and looser and I thought to myself ‘I get it’. You can’t see a photo of it just yet as it’s still in the exhibition but if you get down to the Brick Lane Gallery before Oct 4th you can see it in the flesh.

LLO: What has been the most memorable comment you’ve had about your paintings? Did you agree with it?
PS:
“How much? You robbing bastard!” No really, it was at one of my exhibitions when a woman came up to me after looking at my piece ‘Soft Cell’ and with tears in her eyes said “Thats how I feel”. Well what could i say? She brought the painting. Don’t think I didn’t notice this question as well as number six was also in two parts. Iam going to put in for overtime here.

LLO: Are there any other London-based artists you admire?
PS:
Luican Freud (is he still alive?)

LLO: What are you working on now?
PS: I am working on a still life called ‘The Beautiful Game’, it’s about corruption, greed and sex within football. So rich pickings there.

Thanks Perry!

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Listen to a Londoner: Neil Arnold

Listen to a Londoner is a weekly interview with a Londoner – someone who lives in this city, born here or elsewhere. If you want to be interviewed, email littlelondonobservationist@hotmail.co.uk.

Neil Arnold, 35

Neil is a full-time monster-hunter and author. He runs the Beasts of London blog, has just had published PARANORMAL LONDON and has recently written a book on monsters in London folklore.

LLO: What sort of beasts are lurking around London then?
NA:
My research covers mythical beasts, as well as the more complex folkloric stuff, and very real creatures. The flrsh and blood beasts lurking around London are mainly ‘big cats’ – puma, black leopard and lynx. These have been observed from as far and wide as Shooters Hill (Surrey puma of the 1960s), Sydenham (the ‘beast’ of Sydenham – subject of a huge hoax in 2005 when a man claimed he was attacked by a ‘panther’, although a black leopard did chase a jogger through a wood in Dulwich last year and domestic cats have been found eaten in the area), Cricklewood (a lynx was caught in a back garden by London Zoo in 2001)…however, you’d be surprised the amount of other strange beasts reported. Alligator found dead in a Dollis Hill pond, Crocodile in a Peckham bath tub, eagles, vultures escaping…London is a concrete jungle quite literally!

LLO: How long have you been interested in beasts and what sparked the interest?
NA:
I became interested in monsters around the age of nine when I was given a book on mythological monsters, but also a film called ‘The Legend of Boggy Creek’ was very influential as a child.

LLO: How did you develop your reputation as an authority on the subject?
NA:
I simply realised that no-one else was doing it. I took a risk, gave up my day job, and decided i wanted to follow my dreams and become a monster-hunter. With over two decades of experience, it’s been an amazing journey, and quite a weird one!

LLO: As a full time “monster hunter”, what’s your most interesting find?
NA:
It does get a bit weird sometimes, and that’s just the people I’ve met over the years! However, it’s just a huge buzz researching cases throughout the world. Some are more sinister than others, and others quite down to earth, but also it involves a lot of documentation and it’s great unearthing very old newspaper reports of escaped beasts or monster sightings. I’ve seen ‘big cats’ in the wilds of Kent, been to Loch Ness, but London has reports of vampires, dragons, giant rats and killer foxes….

LLO: Best place to go for a taste of paranormal London?
NA:
Certainly one of the strangest places is Highgate Cemetery which in the 1960s and early ’70s was the setting for a vampire panic, after many witnesses described seeing a seven-foot tall, red-eyed spextre behind the North Gate of the Western cemetery. It’s a tremendously gothic place.

LLO: Tell us a bit about your latest book.
NA:
Paranormal London is my third book and it’s something very different. I’ve read so many regurgitative books on London folklore, ghosts ,etc, and I wanted to write something different. The book is full of short tales regarding monsters, strange beasts, the occasional UFO/ghost report, but most concerns very obscure mysteries and sheds light on more known mysteries such as the Brentford Griffin, the Highgate Vampire, Spring-Heeled Jack, etc.

LLO: What’s a typical day of “monster hunting” like, anyway?
NA:
It depends…most of my time concerns writing, but at any point I could get an interesting call from a witness, or film something with a news crew. Not many people are out there ‘in the field’ as such, and I’ve had some odd experiences from being shot at, to being threatened by Satanists. It’s a colourful life!

LLO: You wrote The Saturday Strangeness on Londonist for a long time. Since this is being posted on a Saturday, want to give it one more go today?
NA:
The Saturday Strangeness was Londonist’s longest running feature, but they suddenly ended it. I’d love to write something similar again…London has so many unknown stories just waiting to bewilder audiences!

LLO: Touching on a few other interests, where’s your favourite place to catch a gig in London?
NA:
I used to go to gigs all the time in London, particularly The Marquee when it was on Charing Cross Road, and also the Astoria. I like the Appollo, and Forum, and also Camden Underworld is cool for smaller bands.

LLO: And the best place to deck yourself out in 60’s fashion?
NA:
I think as a monster-hunter people expect me to look like some bearded, wizard-type in a safari jacket, ha! I love ’60s culture and tend to pick stuff up in markets really because then you tend to find an item noone else has, rather than the more commercial stores which are destroying the boutiques.

Thanks Neil!

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