We talk LFC, art and life with artist Mikey Georgeson, whose latest exhibition Trope has just opened at The Royal Standard…
You may already know Mikey Georgeson, whether you’re aware of this or not is a different matter. Born Michael Benedict Georgeson in 1967, he grew up in Bexhill-on-Sea, going on to study illustration at Chelsea School of Art. He has since made a career of painting, once describing his work as ‘a distillation of a desire to capture what I consider to be episodic globules in the glistening, sticky fluid called paint.’ A few of us, ourselves included, know him for something else, but we’ll come to that later.
First things first though, what about the new exhibition? Called Trope, it is Georgeson’s first solo Liverpool show. Not to be confused with throwaway art-speak, the name refers directly to his practice, and is a way of looking at the disparities between art and life. “It’s partly a tension between symbol and real … how [in real life] we live in a filtered state – if we didn’t it would be overwhelming.” For Georgeson, during the process of making art, that filter is removed, this exhibition an attempt at exploring the crack that opens between the artist and the audience; between art and life.
And explore it he does; pieces mixing halcyon-imbued childhood scenes sit alongside depictions of, we think, David Fairclough (pictured) and Kenny Dalglish in nostalgia invoking Liverpool shirts of yesteryear. These references stem from a life devoted to Liverpool Football Club, thanks to his Dad (whose family come from Kensington) constructing a papier-mâché Kop in young Mikey’s bedroom. “I … remember … this shrine, the massive recreation of the Kop. My Dad got a stack of the same copy of the Observer. In the middle was [a picture of] the Kop.” How did he avoid the pitfalls of it coming across as, albeit highly accomplished, fan-art? “The images all had to resonate. I couldn’t just get a nice picture of [Luis] Suarez! For me a lot of it is very personal, going back to childhood.”
And then there’s more figurative stuff, emblazoned with legends like: ‘You’ve got to get up every morning and show the world all the love in your heart.’ Displaying this kind of vulnerability and openness in his work, Georgeson admits can sometimes be misconstrued. “I think [it] can be translated as irony, because they look quite similar. People maybe don’t trust kindness.” And it’s true, sometimes it seems you can’t move for artists hoping to strike a chord with a tacked-on remark or phrase, a homogeneous pastiche their achievement. But for us, there is little confusion; there’s a warmth in his work that is hard to mistake.
But we want to know more about the art and life-informed nature of the work. How did that come about? “A tutor’s feedback notes said: ‘needs to find a framework because he’s in pursuit of the ineffable.’ When I read it years later, I thought yeah that’s true. The art and life framework proves useful.” Fitting snugly in this framework is Mr Solo – Georgeson’s all singing, all dancing alter-ego performer – a kind of music-hall act flung kicking and screaming into the post-modern age.
For Georgeson, art and music seem to go hand in hand, and when we ask is he more painter or musician, he ponders a while before deciding that they’re inseparable. “Words play a role in paint and songs. Songs come to you, I feel lucky they still come to me … there’s a more domestic element in my music that is in my art. They’re more like paintings, they’re not completely finished. My art and music both happen more in the morning; they come from the same place.”
Depending on your age and proximity to the NME in the mid-90s though, you may well be more familiar with someone referring to himself as ‘the Vessel’, rather than the painter sat before us today. Singer with theatrical art-rock outfit, David Devant and his Spirit Wife, Georgeson’s creative life seems always to have been mediated by the estranged twins of art and music, donning make-up and, yet another, persona (Devant was the stage name of 19th century magician David Wighton), for an assault on the hearts and minds of indie-kids pre Brit-pop.
David Devant, Mr Solo, or not so plain old Mikey Georgeson and (his other band) The Civilized Scene … it could get confusing slipping between them all. ‘How do you know who you’re writing this for?’, he’s often asked. “With the civilized scene there’s a similar thought process as with the paintings”, Mikey explains.We’re beginning to think we’re dealing with a polymath, not that Georgeson seems to think of himself in such highfalutin terms.
Or perhaps it’s something more akin to different strands of what Jung referred to as ‘the anima’; using the inner parts of our personalities as opposed to the outer, as a means of connecting the dots between that art/life divide. Whatever it is, it works. From the outside at least, the key is in the simple fact that he believes in and means whichever of the alter-egos he embodies; there is no artifice in what he does, despite superficial signs to the contrary. For proof, one needs look no further than Trope; as with the man himself, there are undoubtedly different levels to explore in this exhibition, allied to the joy and warmth one can’t help but embrace.
Mikey Georgeson & The Civilized Scene play at Paper Dress in Shoreditch, 13th July