Saturday, 16 November 2013

Soul Jazz founder Stuart Baker and critic Jon Savage on the rise and fall of punk

Stuart Baker, Alexis Petridis and Jon Savage (l-r)
If there's one thing old punks like discussing - it's when punk began and when it died. And so it was that, amid a talk at Rough Trade East primarily about punk 45 sleeves, Soul Jazz records founder Stuart Baker and punk writer Jon Savage turned to the rise and fall of their beloved genre.

Savage's opinion was that, by the Sex Pistols released Never Mind the Bollocks, the buzz around the band synonymous with the genre had already begun to dissipate. Baker, who was a younger punk at the time, believed that while no punk bands sold out, the zeitgeist simply shifted on.

The event itself was an interesting one. To mark the launch of a new book, 'The Singles Cover Art of Punk 1976-80', a collaboration between Baker and Savage featuring some fantastic, iconic imagery.  Everything from the Voidoids to the Stooges feature although Baker's favourite sleeve - featuring a man with his head stuck in a fence - could not be found, he says.

Baker and Savage, marshalled by Guardian journalist and chair Alexis Petridis, also discuss influences on punk design including Pistols sleeve honcho Jamie Reid. The audience features plenty of first generation punks and one pointedly asks whether the genre will die with them. While there's plenty of nods, Baker believes the spirit of a genre which ripped up the rule book, and some of the landmark tunes that went with it, will go on for generations. I tend to agree.

Jon Savage and Stuart Baker debate when punk ended.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

In focus: French graffiti artist Miss Van

Miss Van originally moved from canvas to the walls of her home town of Toulouse to "boycott" the conventional art world, but she is increasingly defining just that. One of the most famous graffiti artists worldwide, Vanessa Bensimon, known as Miss Van, has divided opinion with her army of doe-eyed femme fatale characters.

Like Banksy and Os Gemeos before her, she has created a cluster of characters which riff on the central theme, in her case sexualised, buxom bodies. Feminists have criticised Van's work, originally honed in partnership with Mademoiselle Kat before the former relocated to Barcelona, and its depiction of women. However, this sentiment is in stark contrast to Bensimon's feelings in creating the work. 

"Painting on walls allows me to keep my freedom; as it is illegal, there is no censorship. It is also a challenge, since each time I paint on a wall there is the risk of seeing my work erased," she explains on her website. "Since I like moving around and meeting people, so I prefer painting in the street. It also enables me to make my art accessible to a larger public audience."

This audience has been enhanced by collaborative shows with the likes of Shepard Fairey, Banksy and Mike Giant. Her location in Barcelona allows her fresh work to complement the city's stunning modernist style - crafted in part by Antoni Gaudí. 

Personally, I feel Miss Van is one of the most prolific and innovative contemporary graf artists and in creating a motif of feminine characters she has driven equality in an often male dominated graf scene. 

All images courtesy of Miss Van. See her in action here.