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ELIZABETH PEYTON

Cyril Connolly, in Enemies of Promise, said, "There is no more sombre enemy of good art than the pram in the hall."  In the main office at Sadie Coles HQ, during the party for Elizabeth Peyton's new show, I balefully noted a large cot which, I reckoned, didn't augur well for Peyton's normal mixture of third-hand celebrity paintings and intimate portraits of her dippy unknown SoHo/Hoxton-style friends.

The crowd, a dolly mixture which included art students there for the beer and architecture types on the first rungs of the art-buying ladder, seemed to be that bit superior to Peyton's inner circle. I talked with the 19th/20th Century Irish Art expert Michael Murphy and saw a famous enough homosexual dancer. I bumped into filmmaker Sean Linezo, once from Florida, whom I'd hung out with earlier in the day at the Horse Hospital. He was staging a STAREMASTER event at the Hospital the following night. This involved showing his documentary on U.S. staring contests and having a live staring competition.  Punk entrepreneur Jello Biafra has endorsed the STAREMASTER phenomenon, saying, "Vernon... Marilyn Manson... Deicide...Genitorturers... shooting abortion doctors... now this. What is it about Florida that  creates these things?"  

The main room contained a series of small paintings, many of Truffaut, many of nobodies. Upstairs were the offices (they don't call it HQ for nothing - the desk/art ratio was impressive) that play host to the cot and to the f?™ted/debated portrait of Pete Doherty and Carl Barat from The Libertines.

I had to leave quickly to waste my money at a bad punk rock gig taking place on the other side of Soho.

I went back six days later to have a second look, this time accompanied by music writer Chris Campion who just wrote an important feature on Norwegian Death Metal for The Observer's music supplement. I didn't really want to see the small works in the main room again; I wanted to have a better look at Pete & Carl. The office cot had been joined by an actual pram and by an actual living breathing Enemy of Promise, albeit a particularly engaging Enemy.

There's a touch of Hockney about some of Peyton's work, but there is also a touch of the guys you see on city street corners offering to do your portrait in charcoal for a tenner. Hockney's portraits of his nobodies turn them into Immortals; Peyton's don't have quite the same effect.

Pete & Carl improves on the Libertines' album cover from which it's copied. Doherty gets a bit more crotch and Barat looks a little less porky. It bears comparison with Swinging London, Richard Hamilton's 1967 portrait of  Jagger handcuffed to Robert Fraser. The band is not the Stones, London is not the city it once was, and the junk drama is now being acted out in lowlife, not highlife. Chris didn't think much of it but I thought Pete & Carl important and desirable.  

Elizabeth Peyton is at Sadie Coles HQ, London until April 2nd  sadiecoles.com

Pete & Carl (large image), 2004, copyright the Artist, Courtesy Sadie Coles HQ.


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There's a touch of Hockney about some of Peyton's work, but there is also a touch of the guys you see on city street corners offering to do your portrait in charcoal for a tenner


author

Joe Ambrose,
Literary Editor

Joe Ambrose has written 12 books, the most recent being Chelsea Hotel Manhattan and The Fenian Reader. He is currently writing a book about the Spanish Civil War.

bio

Joe Ambrose works as a writer, filmmaker, and arts agitator. A member of Islamic Diggers, described as "rai-hop terrorists" by The Wire, he co-produced the CD 10%; File Under Burroughs which features tracks by Paul Bowles, Bill Laswell, The Master Musicians of Joujouka, Marianne Faithfull, Chuck Prophet, John Cale, Scanner, and William Burroughs.

After a turbulent career as a Dublin student activist - working on Trotskyist, feminist, and anti-imperialist campaigns - he ran The Irish Writer's CoOp in the 80s. This writers collective published early work by Neil Jordan. Sebastian Barry, and Desmond Hogan. Ambrose edited - for the Co Op - an anthology of new Irish short stories and three volumes of modern Irish drama.

While working with the Co Op he met Eamon Carr, drummer with Horslips. This meeting brought about Joe's first dalliances with the music industry via tours, pranks, and albums.

Throughout the 80s Ambrose had a career as a literary journalist, interviewing, amongst others, Nina Simone. Nick Cave, Anthony Burgess, James Ellroy, Michael Herr, Bill Wyman, and William Gibson. He became a controversial columnist with In Dublin, the city's alternative listings magazine.

His first book, in 1981, was a biography of Dan Breen, the I.RA leader who started the Irish War of Independence in 1919. The history of Irish separatism remains an interest, and he has written three books on Irish history.

While working as a journalist he met a musician, Frank Rynne, who became a major artistic collaborator. Ambrose managed Rynne's punk rock band, The Baby Snakes, as they made a series of albums and singles. The Baby Snakes recorded Four Toe Tapping Greats, a homage to Johnny Cash. Ambrose, along with the band, subsequently met with Cash, who endorsed the band's work.

It was as manager of The Baby Snakes that Ambrose moved to London in 1986. He lived in a Brixton squat - the emergent hip hop scene he observed made a profound impression and much of his work in the 90s was inspired by the remorseless urban beat and style absorbed from Brixton's Afro Caribbean community.

Returning briefly to Dublin in 1992, Ambrose helped organise The Here to Go Show, a celebration of the wild cultural experimentation of William Burroughs and Brion Gysin. Collaborators on this included Iggy Pop, Hamri The Painter of Morocco, Marianne Faithfull, The Master Musicians of Joujouka, and Burroughs. The Here To Go Show gave rise to the movie Destroy All Rational Thought. This was subsequently issued as a sell-through video in Europe and the U.S.A. It is now available on DVD.

Man From Nowhere, the book which accompanied The Here To Go Show, was written by Ambrose, Rynne, and Terry Wilson. Now considered something of a collector's item, it features handwritten texts by Burroughs, Iggy Pop, Keith Haring, Paul Bowles, and others. The album 10%; File Under Burroughs developed out of the work undertaken at this time.

In 1993 Ambrose helped launch The China White Show, an anti-art exhibition involving graffiti artist China White, William Burroughs, Genesis P. Orridge, and Hakim Bey. This project was catalogued in Radio Alamut, a counterculture zine featuring Patrick McCabe, Allen Ginsberg, Negativland, Stanley Booth, Lydia Lunch and Ira Cohen.

In 1993 Ambrose also began managing The Master Musicians of Joujouka with Frank Rynne. He conceived and realised a major political publicity campaign on behalf of the Musicians - whose copyrights were being undermined by powerful music industry figures like Philip Glass - leading to a global debate on ethics in the corrupt World Music industry.

Ambrose recenlty jold a Greek journalist that, "while the Master Musicians are probably the best-known Moroccan musicians in the world, they're virtually unknown within the country. People in Ksar el Kebir, the nearest city to Joujouka, know all about them of course. That's where Hamri, their "founding father" in terms of there being a recognizable band putting out records and doing gigs, came from... I had lunch with a very senior and well-connected member of the Moroccan Royal Family last year. This individual made it clear to me that Joujouka was not part of the Moroccan cultural heritage. I argued otherwise to no avail."

His books include two novels for Pulp Books, Serious Time (1998) and Too Much Too Soon (2000). his punk rock books for Omnibus Press are Moshpit Culture (2001), an investigation of covert punk culture from inside the moshpit, and Gimme Danger (2004), a biography of punk icon Iggy Pop. He contributed, along with Brion Gysin and Genesis P. Orridge, to Flickers of the Dreamachine (1996). His short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies published by Serpent's Tail, Hodder and Stoughton, etc.

In 2000 Islamic Diggers promoted No Expectations, an evening of 60s Super 8 movies by Anita Pallenberg accompanied by a live DJ soundscape created by the Diggers and Anita. These films, featuring Pallenberg's pals like Keith Richards, Allen Klein, Marianne Faithfull, Mick Jagger and Brian Jones were shown at the ICA and The Chamber of Pop Culture in London. During these years Islamic Diggers toured extensively in Europe.

Ambrose has performed live with Lydia Lunch, John Cale, Daniel Figgis, John Giorno, Scanner, Howard Marks, Tav Falco, Richard Hell, and The Master Musicians of Joujouka.

In 2005 he appeared, with Chrissie Hynde, on a BBC Radio 2 documentary about Iggy Pop. He has written for The Guardian, Time Out, The Idler, The Irish Times, and Metal Hammer. In 2007 he was invited by Iggy Pop to write the sleeve notes for an Iggy and the Stooges DVD, Escaped Maniacs. Chelsea Hotel Manhattan (Headpress) came out in 2007; Ambrose wrote the main text and there were ancillary texts by Ira Cohen, Herbert Huncke, and Barry Miles.

In 2008 Joe Ambrose went to live in Tangier, Morocco, and took time out from writing, performing, and promoting. "I did a bit of DJing in Marrakesh," he recalls, "just to keep my hand in. I'd been living in London for decades and needed a break. I'd dialled a few wrong numbers, personally and professionally, so I sought the freedom of Morocco in order to rearrange my priorities.n I spent a fiar bit of time in Marrakesh and in Ksar El Kebir."

In 2010 he participated in the London gallery show, Dead Fingers talk - The Tape Experiments of William S. Burroughs. This marked the commencement of his musical collaboration with Portugese duo Alma on an ambitous project inspired by his Chelsea Hotel Manhattan book. The Alma/Joe Ambrose single Radio E/He Also Took That Boat was released in October 2010 with vocals by Arthur Baker and Ira Cohen.

In 2012 Ambrose contributed the essay Festimad to Academy 23, a homage to William Burroughs which also featured Jack Sargeant and Gerard Malanga. He organised FINAL ACADEMY / 2012 with help from Raymond Salvatore Harmon, Gerard Malanga, Liliane Lijn, Tony White and Scanner. His short story, Whatever Happened to the Teenage Dream? Is due for publication shortly in Antibothis, a Portugese literary journal also featuring Scanner, Joe Coleman, Raymond Salvatore Harmon, and Mike Diana.

Visit Joe's web site, JoeAmbrose.info

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