Hollywood Visions of Newcastle by Patrick Snape; Tyneside Coffee room from 21st November – March 2014
Hollywood Visions in Newcastle is the creative brain child of artist, poet, performer and general all-round creative type Patrick Snape. Patrick hails from the West Midlands and has a liking for Pot Noodles and ‘oney (in his tea which must be black). Forgoing the wilds of the West (Midlands), he headed up north during the reign of The Thatcher and forged an underground career as an artist: master print maker, digital artist, poet and Tom Wait and Bob Dylan influenced performer.
I love Newcastle but often focus my attention on his history and its elegant classical architecture. I was intrigued when I found out about this exhibition Hollywood Visions in Newcastle which successfully juxtaposes the playful and glamorous with the stark and thought-provoking, in order to create striking and atmospheric images set in an urban lanscape. I caught up with the artist (digitally of course!) to ask him what it all means!
‘For the past year or so I have been photographing in and around the city of Newcastle. On one occasion I imagined the elegant and classic image of Rudolph Valentino appearing on a graffiti strewn wall. This led to a series of works beginning with Valentino and then embracing other actors and figures from the golden age of Hollywood; Charlie Chaplin, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Bela Lugosi, Clara Bow.
With this series of digital montages I have been attempting to form a bridge between to the two eras; the Golden age of Hollywood and contemporary urban Britain; comments by association, a dialogue between the past and the present.’
Which artists have inspired you the most and how have they influenced your work?
Artists who have inspired me are Picasso, Braque, Miro, Matisse, and movements such as Pop Art, Dada, and in particular Surrealism with artists ranging from Magritte, early Dali and Max Ernst. The photographs of Man Ray and the films and drawings of Jean Cocteau still intrigue and excite me and photo montage and surrealism continue to exert a strong influence on my work which is evident in the Hollywood Visions in Newcastle both in technique and the use of unlikely juxtaposition of imagery.
I visit exhibitions regularly and occasionally see artists whose work inspires, motivates and influences my own approach (approach sometimes rather than style). A recent example of this was an exhibition at the Baltic art Gallery by Coventry based artist George Shaw noted for his highly detailed suburban landscapes, eerie paintings of the Coventry council estate where he grew up, devoid of people and bristling with atmosphere. Like the Belgium surrealist René Magritte Shaw creates mystery from the mundane, but unlike Magritte Shaw keeps it straight and factual, no juxtaposition of images, just eerie underpasses and deserted street corners. I always attempt to create atmosphere in my work, whether through the use of shadow and light or the choice of imagery, sometimes all those elements.
Hollywood Visions of Newcastle counterpoise the often decayed urban landscape with the glamor of Golden Era Hollywood – how do you feel this comments on post economic melt-down society?
The question underpins my main motivation for creating the Hollywood Visions in Newcastle. The Golden era of Hollywood was born in an age of economic depression and financial meltdown. In a sense I am creating a bridge between the two eras, allowing the characters from the past to speak to people today, a comment on our own economic depression. In one work Chaplin’s tramp from his masterpiece Modern Times is huddled in a H&M shop window whose message to the waves of passing public is a huge red and white sign announcing one word: SALE. I see the appearance of the figures from the Hollywood era as ‘projections’ of which the public are either aware of or completely oblivious (people, myself included, walk past or around homeless people, both seeing and ignoring). The appearance of the tramp and his girlfriend in the shop front is noticed but the flow of human traffic doesn’t cease. (It is important to remember that the actual members of the public who appear in my photographs are themselves oblivious to the fact they have become part of a tableau involving characters such as Valentino, Chaplin and Fred and Ginger!)
As a songwriter I became interested in the 1920’s, 1930’s period of music and wrote a collection of songs titled 3RD Degree, the song it’s self was influenced by the syncopated rhythms of Fred Astaire’s Puttin’ on the Ritz. This in turn led to my first Hollywood Visions in Newcastle work inspired by watching the movies of Rudolph Valentino, in particular The Four Horsemen of The Apocalypse in which Valentino performs a tango that today would terrify the Strictly come dancing audience! A powerful piece of drama, evocative and sensual.
Looking at a series of photographs I’d taken around Newcastle city I imagined Valentino’s sullen beauty appearing in a subway and from that point on I created many Valentino works, watched his movies and researched his life, but then Chaplin appeared in a shop doorway advertising electrical goods, then Fred and Ginger danced in the sky above the Tyneside Cinema, Bela Lugosi trapped in a phone box, the Third Man in Grantham RD. and the three grizzled and gold hungry characters from the epic The Treasure of Sierra Madre emerged from the security grid of Reid & Sons Goldsmiths; the blur of a cyclist peddling past, two men lost in the business of communicating with the ubiquitous mobile phone, and the unintended irony of a hair salon positioned above the Goldsmiths (In an early scene in the Treasure Of Sierra Madre Bogart’s character Fred C.Dobbs visits a barbershop and receives a particularly severe haircut, considered one of the worst three haircuts in film history!)
Hollywood Visions of Newcastle utilises photography and digital techniques to create very atmospheric and striking images, how would you counter critics who think digital art is not ‘pure’ art?
I gave this question a great deal of thought and the best answer I can come up with is that all the artists from the past I’ve mentioned, Picasso, Man Ray, Magritte, Dali and contemporary artists such as the technology hungry David Hockney, would all and have been excited about the possibility of new digital technologies. I’m certain Picasso would have had a laptop in his studio along with his easel. Artists tend to avidly embrace any new medium that offers a new way of creating images and seeing the world in a new light. It’s the mind, the thought, the ideas that count, whatever the medium or media.
When photography first appeared critics thought it would spell the death of painting, but artists were freed from the tyranny of pure representation and made incredible leaps with movements such as Cubism, Futurism and Surrealism. conversely photography became seen as an art form and an important tool for artists. I find working on a laptop and experimenting and playing with various software and creative programs as satisfying and fulfilling as the traditional print mediums of etching, lithography and silk screen printing.
Being an artist is a bit like being Doctor Who; a constant cycle of regeneration, becoming a new version of yourself but retaining memories and mannerisms of the former self. Regardless of the sweeping and startling changes of style we see in Picasso’s massive output (the ultimate ‘regenerator’ and who in printmaking and sculpture ferociously embraced new technologies and techniques) his work is always identifiable as being the work of Pablo Picasso.
I can’t imagine not ever making another etching or drawing with pencil on paper, but right now digital art is my favoured medium.
Does your art have a political message?
The challenge I gave myself with both my songwriting and visual art has been to make works that have a social context and reflect on the times I live in, but at the same time are not overtly political in the sense that I’m telling people how to think or what party to vote! I see myself as part of a lineage of artists and musicians who combine the political and personal. As I pointed out earlier the Hollywood Visions in Newcastle do carry a social and cultural message; a fusion of the past and present rather than just nostalgic evocations of the past.
Details of how to visit this exhibition are found below.
Thank you to Patrick Snape for taking the time to answer my questions, and for allowing me to post a taster of his up-coming exhibition.
Hollywood Visions in Newcastle brings together classic photography with contemporary digital technology to create a parallel world of urban cityscapes populated by ethereal images from the heyday of Hollywood: