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A Chat with Horace Panter

Horace Panter was studying for a degree in Fine Art when he and some friends formed a little band called The Specials. Several albums, tours and trips around the world later, art is back in the frame for the musician and painter who has used these opportunities as inspiration for his work. We caught up with Horace to chat influences, icons and what's up next.

Horace Panter at work in his studio

Fred Perry: Hi Horace, talk us through your most recent work:

Horace Panter: I’m currently working with a screen printer in Birmingham. After having read a book on Warhol, I liked the way he used a process that removes the artist, while at the same time using the process to make the work very personal. Also, I like the idea of fake, so I want to do a fake Warhol. I’m also looking at the idea of mixed media, collage and the like. I’ve recently met up with a Scottish artist, Colin Brown, who does some cool collages; I saw his work in a gallery in St Andrews and they reminded me of some of my ʻChicago Bluesʼ pieces so I bought one. I’m always referring back to the work of Joseph Cornell because he is an important influence. In terms of painting, I’m doing some faux-religious stuff. I’m fascinated with the symbolism of all those Fra Angelica Giotto, early Renaissance painters- I’m convinced I’ll end up painting real icons!

'Hound Dog Taylor' by Horace Panter

FP: You were studying art when you first formed The Specials - do you think your art and music inspire one another, or are they very separate disciplines?

HP: They are separate disciplines. As a musician (I’m a bass guitarist) I’m dependent on drummers, singers, guitarists, etc., and I’m a very good team player. This is very different to painting, which I view as my ʻsolo careerʼ. Where the two disciplines converge is in the marketing. I’ve used a music-business model to get the work seen; my wife is my Malcolm McClaren!

FP: Is there any particular music you listen to whilst you work?

HP: When I’m doing my Blues paintings, I listen to Blues! I have difficulty with multi-tasking; I could never do my school homework with the TV on. I generally work in silence – total concentration.

FP: Are there any particular visual artists who have inspired you, or whose style is evident in your work?

HP: I’m like a chameleon…or the Borg! I assimilate a lot of stuff I see: Henri Rousseau, Peter Blake, Wayne Thiebaud, Robert Indiano, Kenneth Noland, Mark Rothko, Ed Rusha, and traditional iconography. I have some cool books on Australian Aborigine Art and I was really impressed with what I saw in Beijing a couple of years ago. I suppose Pop Art is my biggest influence, but I’ve started looking a lot at American 19th century Realists. I think The Borg is the best description of my influences and tastes!

'Scarecrow' by Horace Panter

FP: Several of your paintings feature other noted musicians - do you see art as a means of paying homage to your heroes? Is there a reason behind these pieces?

HP: I love The Blues and I have always wanted to describe the music visually, not just paint a picture of Muddy Waters, but try to describe the music itself. The Blues wasn’t tidy, wasn’t polite, neat. It was visceral, brash, came from the heart, rather than the head. I’ve tried to put that over in the work. And yes, absolutely, these paintings are a homage to my favourite Blues practitioners!

In another galaxy altogether, I saw an exhibition of Stanley Spencerʼs ʻGarden Paintingsʼ that I thought were beautiful, so I painted a picture of a scarecrow in a kitchen garden with him in mind - trying to ‘channel his spirit’ I suppose. One of my favourite Wayne Thiebaud paintings is of a pair of shoes and I’ve just gone out and bought myself a new pair of Doc Marten brogues that are currently sitting atop a desk in my painting studio!

FP: Do you have a favourite piece, or a project you are particular proud of?

HP: The ʻFruit Girlʼ paintings probably, although ʻPunk Rock Girlʼ and ʻBeijing Street Sweeperʼ both have something special about them. Of the Blues paintings, ʻHound Dog Taylorʼ and ʻStevie Ray Vaughanʼ are my favourites, although ʻBo Diddleyʼ and ʻMuddy Watersʼ seem to be the most popular. If there is a painting I’m NOT proud of, you don’t get to see it!

'Muddy Waters' by Horace Panter

FP: Youʼve been in several successful musical groups, but your painting is a solitary project. In your mind, what are the pros and cons of creating individually and as part of a group?

HP: As I said earlier, being in a band involves tight team work and working for the benefit of the group as a whole. Painting, as you remark, is a solitary occupation ... all the decisions, successes and failures, are my own! I enjoy my own company so I have no problem with immersing myself for hours on end in the process of realising an idea on paper. The studio is probably my favourite place. Having said that, I can’t deny that being on a stage playing bass guitar is close to heavenly!

FP: Finally, what’s coming up next for you - more music, or more art?

HP: The Specials are about to announce plans for 2013, which I’m really looking forward to. Regarding the art, 2012 has been a very positive year and has put me in a good position for 2013. My work is represented by several galleries in the UK and even one in Singapore: White Room Art, Leamington Spa and Bath; Number Nine Gallery, Birmingham; Contemporary Six, Manchester; Metropolis Art, Bournemouth; 1 Love Art, Bristol; The Artists Gallery, Aberdeen; Icon Gallery, Singapore. So, in answer to your question...both!

To see more of Horace's artwork and for information on past and future exhibitions, visit his official website.

www.horacepanterart.com