Come back next Tuesday for Judith's latest!
I met artist Tim Southall in the mid 80's when I moved into a tenement block in Somerstown (now immortalised by a film of the same name), situated between Euston and St Pancras stations in London. A tough Irish politically active area, so I was told. We were warned to stay out of certain pubs and mind our own business and all would be fine and it was. Except for one hungover Saturday when a friend and I ventured to the local shop and were chased by a gang of visiting football yobs (I was wearing a red white and blue stretch number with matching socks and platforms) - proximity to the main line stations on certain Saturdays could be risky! I hoisted my skirt up, off with the platforms, and we ran back into the maze of flats unharmed. Tim was my neighbour, we became friends. The whole building was full of artists, musicians, designers, professionals and the odd layabout. Jeremy Hardy, the hilarious, dry alternative comedian lived above me. Nightlife was in abundance and the scene was boiling over with clubs such as The Mud Club, the Asylum at Heaven, La Scala (all nighters) the Electric Ballroom and later Taboo, the Bell in Kings X was a regular meeting point, and the list goes on and on. Tim was a dedicated student at the Royal College of Art. We partied hard but work came first for Tim. My motivation and creativity came from what I was going to wear, constant new outfits using fabrics from Shepherds Bush market or Dalston. I was wearing bright colours, stripes, stars, polka dots - anything loud with kids' toys made into earrings, such as the big bright numbers I loved. A crazy, fun, carefree period when again I found myself in the midst of some hot talent. Tim was always at work or finding inspiration. He took me to The Chelsea Arts Club and numerous shows. When the time came for Tim to get his final show ready, to my delight he found inspiration in me for some of the wonderful, vibrant silkscreens. I love them so much they make me happy and proud to look at. Me a muse, who would have thought? So with a smile on my face I will let Tim carry on as he has kindly sent a few words to go with the pictures. Thanks Tim for capturing that moment in time in such a fabulous way.
'JUDITH' SILKSCREENS, 1985
Judith and I became friends in 1984 while I was in the second year of my masters degree at the Royal College of Art. I was immediately drawn to Judith with her larger than life character and crazy approach to life: a sort of smack you in the face and hope for the best, mad, living it large existence that I was desperately trying to create in my own life. Of course, there was also an echo of the age in this, a precursor to the Big Bang and excesses of the later Thatcher years. And Judith seemed to me to be the very embodiment of this age. Then there was the flip side; lurking in the shadows of those good times were all our demons, desperately trying to escape.
In the ‘Judith’ series of silkscreens, I was trying to capture all of the above and at the same time use Judith as a funnel for my own creativity. Much of my artwork rests on taking what might seem everyday and turning it into something special, fun or celebratory, often juxtaposed with pathos: Give Me A Drink… is a good example of this dichotomy swigging from the bottle in a bikini setting, not that Judith would ever be seen in a bikini! Dashing Away with the Smoothing Iron shows a woman in a more passive role while also being a reflection on Judith’s profession, whereas Plug me in and make me go-go is an electrifying piece – Judith as a real live wire, stylishly dancing on the spot; I am a Woman of Steel, sees Judith fighting for the right to party.
I should perhaps mention ‘colour’ along with comedy and vibrancy, and size; these are the largest silkscreen I have made to date and of course, looking back now – 27 years later things look very different, but still, no subject has inspired me to work to such a scale.
Tim Southall 2011
Header photo of Judith Frankland by Denise Grayson