EXHIBITIONS / Fashion statement: Jamie Reid's images symbolised punk rock. But now his creed is shamanarchy in the UK. Joseph Gallivan listens in
Friday 04 March 1994
At a lecture at the Megatripolis club last week, delivered in his characteristic Croydon whine (he was at art school there with Malcolm McLaren in the mid-Sixties), Reid stood before the sagging sheet on to which his images were projected and talked us 'randomly through various images (he'd) been working on through the last 30 years'. 'This one's called The Death of Money,' he declared. It dated from his Suburban Press days, a magazine that 'took a ruthless look at local politics in Croydon' and whose low-production values prefigured the scrapbook style that later made his name.
Unpicking punk rock's Year Zero (1976) has become quite a cottage industry. The bomb dropped by old punks nowadays is to show off their connection with the hippies that punk so spectacularly cleared away. The knowledge that Malcolm McLaren was a Situationist sloganeer in Paris during the 1968 riots makes him far more complex than if you just think of him as the manager of the Sex Pistols and the bloke who made 'Buffalo Gals'.
'Collectivism is gonna be really big in the Nineties,' Reid revealed to the clubbers at his feet. He had been a crofter on the Isle of Lewis when McLaren tracked him down to do the Pistols' artwork. A rustle of appreciation ran through the crowd as Her Majesty flashed up. 'The songs and fashion were the least interesting thing about punk,' was all he would say on the subject, preferring to talk about his lesser- known subversive moves. He lived in Paris for a couple of years with Margi Clarke, 'practically on the streets, hanging out with the young Algerians'. Punk influenced the rai rebels, apparently, and he talked about 'the Celtic-Arab thing that's sort of paramount'.
The Celts garnered a lot of mentions as his spontaneous talk proceeded, and it soon became clear that he has been accumulating his own alternative culture over the years. A picture began to emerge of the artist. As the Face would say: OUT - fashion, money, bureaucracy, St George, London, 20 years of depressive fascistic government; IN - antifashion, Celts, the Dragon, Wales, astrology, geosophy, communes, Liverpool.
''This is from my design for the Strongroom recording studios in London,' he said, indicating some spirals, cones, Druid ova stars and planetary symbols. He had found that even the engineers had been inspired by his 'creative vibe'.
Like many a dab hand at the photocopier, Reid is not a good draughtsman. His newer works consist of naive line drawings depicting sacred stones and abstract oils. Much of his work is openly ideological. The Criminal Justice Bill is the latest target - to the assembled neo-hippies, its foremost significance appears to be the threat to the right to party. However, he concluded, he has never been so optimistic. 'I think the phrase 'Shamanarchy in the UK' best expresses what's happened from punk to now. We are witnessing the last brutalities of the millennium, the birth of the New Age.'
National Museum of Wales, Llanberis (0286 870630) to 31 Mar, then Bangor Museum
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