Friday, 27 September 2013

This is personal

Every day on my ride to work, I witness people on paid 'street art' tours around Shoreditch. The tour guides are inevitably highlighting the work of famous (white male) street artists. As a result, I've increasingly turned toward making more art directly for the people I know and love rather than sticking it up on random walls. This 40th birthday book for my partner is an example of what I mean.

Although this sort of change could be interpreted as me wanting control back over my art, this project was more inclusive and participatory than anything I've done previously. The title speaks to this. Volery is the collective noun for long tailed tits. 

Anyone who knows about the behavior of long tailed tits (and believe me I do because I have a partner who is a committed bird watcher) will know that they live communally, raise their babies collaboratively and support each other through bad weather. I couldn't imagine a better natural metaphor for love, which is what this is all about. 

Sure, there were stories that poked fun and purposely tried to embarrass him. Known for his impeccable music taste these days, an old friend reminded him about his previous penchant for bands who pioneered the now unfashionable slap bass, like Level 42.

As well as stories about his persistent silliness. This one referenced the poster of fish that we modified at ATP so they all had indie rock and punk band names. Each night of the festival, we had drunk indie rockers stopping outside our chalet window laughing at it. 

Some of my illustrations reflect funny moments we have shared with friends. Our favorite line ever said by our friend Donna was when someone mentioned the film La Dolce Vita to which she responded, "Uggh, is that that fucking Fellini?" He and Donna used to run a student film society at university so it was the perfect excuse to immortalise that line. 

But overall, this is a book about the love, support and friendship he has given over the first 40 years of his life. His oldest friend gushed about how despite losing touch for many years, he is and always has been family to her; the stability that biology was incapable of providing.  

His colleague from his last workplace, an unbelievably toxic environment, wrote about their friendship being like one between an old married couple. They bickered and annoyed each other a lot but when the going got really tough and the bosses did their best to divide, conquer and subdue, they stuck together and both got out in tact.

My own story was protracted, as was our courtship. It first involved meeting at a Throwing Muses show in London in 1996, followed by a five year pen pal relationship. 

The second part of the story involved meeting up again in 2000 and sharing a romantic moment smashing the windows of a Volvo abandoned in the middle of nowhere outside of Glasgow. We still have the now long expired tax disk. 

And there were many contributions from people who although they've only been in our lives a short time, they are super important. From what they submitted, it's clear that the feeling is mutual. 

Although this was a present for him, it was an amazing gift for me to hear what he has meant to people throughout his life. I've heard the funny and embarrassing stories plenty of times, but this was the first time I really got to understand how people feel. Hearing about the strong and supportive relationships your partner has had with other people is a great way to remind yourself to appreciate what they provide for you.

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