Kicking the Dog Will Do:
Painting Suburbia and its Creative Charge
Punk in the Suburbs
Upper Hall, Union Chapel, Islington, London N1 2UN
Thursday 18 January 3 - 5.30pm
Convened by Geraint Evans and Dr Zoë Mendelson
Speakers’ abstracts and biogs
Prof. Matthew Worley
Suburban Relapse: Punk and the Politics of Boredom
This paper looks at British punk's relationship with boredom and suburbia, locating the suburbs as part of punk's 'negative drive' towards agency and activity. Taking its cue from Buzzcocks' Spiral Scratch (1977) and The Members' 'The Sound of the Suburbs', it seeks to historically contextualise the suburban disaffection that ran through early British punk, arguing that such sensibility related to the socio-economic and demographic changes taking place from 1945.
Matthew Worley is professor of modern history at the University of Reading. He has published several articles on British punk for such journals as History Workshop, Twentieth Century British History and Contemporary British History. A book-length study, No Future: Punk, Politics and British Youth Culture, 1976-84, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2017. Worley is also a co-founder of the Subcultures Network:
Alive in Suburbia
My drawing practice is autobiographical as a means of understanding my past and I start by describing my childhood life growing up in suburbia.
I was born in 1957 in Twickenham and we moved out to Shepperton in 1960. I was raised by my father after my mother died in 1964 when I was seven. I look at this upbringing, the lure of Shepperton, and my father’s ideas and concerns.
Far from closing down his imagination, suburbia fuelled it. My father felt a freedom. In Shepperton, he could be anonymous and write undisturbed. ‘Always follow your obsessions, drink at the well of your imagination’.
In the early 1970s, Shepperton was dissected in two by the building of the M3 motorway and I describe its impact.
More recently, Shepperton has become surrounded by high tech parks, gated sports clubs and housing communities, surveillance cameras, St George flags in back gardens – all part of the Ballardian dystopia of his later fiction.
I go on to explore my teenage life in Shepperton in the early 1970s and the tribalism of skinhead and hippy youth culture against a backdrop of a divisive education system before the explosion of punk and the introduction of Labour’s comprehensive school system.
The second half of my talk looks at my practice of drawing. Drawing my childhood memories, coming to terms with the loss of my parents and of my home, informed by psychoanalysis. It’s an inner journey and I discuss some of the critical thinking particularly around psychoanalysis which has influenced me.
Fay Ballard’s practice is drawing, informed by psychoanalysis. Since her father’s death in 2009, she has focused on an autobiographical exploration of her childhood as a means of understanding her past. Fay’s exhibition House Clearance (Eleven Spitalfields, London, 2014 and & Model, Leeds 2015) investigated evocative objects – personal belongings which evoke memories or thoughts - and explored the notion of home as an emotional space. Her recent drawings will be shown in Breathe at the Freud Museum, London, in May 2018, curated by Caroline Garland, a psychoanalyst.
Fay is visiting artist at Hammersmith hospital, making art with patients at their bedsides, as part of Imperial Health Charity’s (NHS) audience development programme.
She studied history of art at Sussex University in the late 1970s and worked at the RA and Tate before completing MA in Fine Art at Central Saint Martins in 2006. She exhibits regularly, most recently at Pi Artworks London in Family Reunion (autumn 2017) which explored the notion of family, and at Charing Cross hospital for eight months as part of Imperial Health’s Art in Focus series (2017). She has talked to MA students at the RCA and Camberwell as well as participated in conferences at the Freud Museum, the British Library, Leeds and Anglia Ruskin Universities.
A child of the suburbs, Fay was born in Twickenham in 1957 and brought up in 1960s and 70s Shepperton by her father, the novelist, J G Ballard. She now lives in north London.
Prof David Rayson
Another Day Fantastic
Until the age of 13, walking across the estate I grew up on was a journey that spanned a mile or so from edge to edge. It was where I was born, played amongst the houses as a small child and in various cars I got driven involuntarily around and about. Here was my school, under the subway were the shops, along the main road out of town were windowless industrial buildings interrupted by a mix of garages, cafes and pubs. Amongst all of this were my friends and enemies’ houses.
Everywhere was brick red, grey concrete, black tarmac or patchy green turf. Indoors was all beige, woodchip, draylon and axminster. Ornaments ceramic, coloured glass, or brass. Hoovers hoovered carpets, furniture polish polished wooden furniture and TV screens.
Then in 1979, over nine thousand miles away in Japan, Nobutoshi Kihara invented the Sony Walkman.
From the age of 14, walking across the estate became a cosmic voyage: sunbeams and shadows danced across the asphalt and big beats and starbursts bounced along the privet hedges.
The shopping precinct, pedestrian subways, car parks and flyovers became pop video backdrops, back lit, and softened as if by smoke machines: Poptones, Transmission, Boom-boom-boom…Each day was Another Day Fantastic.
David Rayson is a practicing artist, tutor and curator and his work has been exhibited widely in the UK and internationally. He was Head of Painting at the Royal College of Art from 2006 – 2017. His work is included in major collections held by the Tate, Whitechapel Art Gallery, the British Council, Deutsche Bank, Rubell Family Collection, Fogg Museum - Harvard, The Brooklyn Museum, The Open University and The Contemporary Art Society. Rayson’s work relates directly to the visual potential of the everyday, enabling the ordinary to be realised as fantastic. He continues to support emerging artists through his engagement with many survey exhibitions and organisations such as the Jerwood Charitable Trust, The British Council, ACME Studios London, the Valerie Beston Young Artist Trust, The Threadneadle Art Prize, The Edge of Arabia Organisation, IAP at the China Art Academy, The Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation, The Paul Mellon Research Centre, and his involvement in many artist-led initiatives.
Inner City vs Suburb: a Process of Inversion
Inner city London, with its splintering of ideologies, beliefs and desires has shifted to the periphery.
In recent decades, we have witnessed a process of gentrification where lacunae of utopian imaginaries have been locked down and sold off as investment opportunities. Inner City areas like Brixton, Notting Hill, Camden, and Whitechapel harboured precious spaces that opened for experimentation and drifting, they were significant radial points of countercultural activity. When fragments of stricken inner city, zones are revealed to us now, in the midst of rampant development and gentrification they appear as apparitions, uncanny visitations from another social reality.
Laura Oldfield-Ford is an artist working and living in London. She is currently a researcher in Sculpture at the Royal College of Art, lecturing across the UK and internationally on issues surrounding urbanism, architecture, protest and memory. In 2011 Verso published a collection of her zine Savage Messiah. In 2013 she was awarded a Stanley Picker Fellowship at Kingston University where she undertook new research on the phenomenon of suburbanisation. Recent exhibitions include: Alpha/Isis/Eden, Showroom, London; Sky is Falling, CCA, Glasgow (both 2017); 2016, Itinerant Code, Tensta Konsthall, 2015; Ruin Lust, Tate Britain, 2014.