Laurie Vincent grew up in Maidstone, Kent and currently lives in Brighton. Laurie is a guitarist and vocalist of Slaves, the English punk duo which formed in 2012. The duo released their debut album Are You Satisfied? In 2015. The album was nominated for the 2015 Mercury Music prize. Their second album, Take Control, was released in 2016, reaching number 6 in its first week on the Album charts.
Laurie is also a painter and his work has been shown in various venues around the UK such as Hoxton Arches, Amersham Arms, A-side B-side Gallery and Whistleblower Gallery. His paintings, bold and expressive, powerful and rich in cultural references, show a clear influence by artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Raymond Pettibon, Barry McGee and Keith Haring, and is inspired by his life as a musician and his travels; and it often carries a political view, ‘I want people to feel whatever they want when they look at my art. I don’t intend on telling people meanings or what I think my paintings represent. People should have their own experiences with them.’
From a young age Laurie has always used the visual arts to express himself. Alongside his talents as a songwriter and performer, the artist has produced artwork for his band’s gig posters as well as its album covers. Laurie primarily works with paints, ink and in printmaking and he has also recently been experimenting with clay and ceramic to produce both strong and bold new work. Laurie has also produced a very successful clothing range.
Whistleblower Gallery is happy to be working with Laurie on his next print release as well as in other projects.
Loose with Laurie Vincent, Hoxton Arches, London
Disillusioned, Flaubert Gallery, Edinburgh
Pop up, Amersham Arms, London
White + Black, Whistleblower Gallery, March/April, Brighton, UK
Here we go!, Whistleblower Gallery, Brighton and Hove
Paint by Numbers magazine launch, Studio 24, Leeds
Group show, W Hotel Leicester Square, London
Group show, A-side B-side Gallery, London
We sometimes have other available works by Laurie Vincent, or can accept commissions. Please get in touch if you want to know more.
We sometimes have other available works by Ryan Callanan, or can accept commissions. Please get in touch if you want to know more.
A conversation with Laurie Vincent
by Dan Hipkin
Hello Laurie. Thanks for meeting with me today.
I would like to talk a little bit about your music career of course, but I know you primarily as a visual arts’ artist so I think it would be nice to start with that. What is the earliest memory you have about painting, or drawing… or doodling?
Every time me and my sister were bored, my mum just gave us a pot of pens and some paper, and we drew around the kitchen table; that’s quite a strong memory I have.
Was that an older or younger sister?
An older sister. She was a much better artist than me. She was a natural. This was pre-internet era, of course, just before it all started digitally, so it’s nice to have a memory of us being manually busy.
What early memory you have of a visual influence or an artist that may have called your attention as a young man?
Well… I wasn’t mad about watching cartoons, I was more into kids’ shows that had actors in them or whatever. But I liked painting in an abstract style. My mum would draw or get us to draw a line with a black pen and then squiggle around it and we’d be colouring the gaps; it was quite a free-style approach and I really enjoyed that. I then used to draw knights and my Lego… all that!
Is anyone in your family a creative person who may have influenced you?
My mum is very good at crafts and she knits and does crochet and all that type of thing. She’s a very good gardener too, actually, which is very creative, laying out the garden and making it look attractive… She used to knit on her way to school, which is quite funny, she used to walk and knit. She also made her own clothes. My sister has always been naturally good at playing music too, the piano and the clarinet, and also as I said before, quite good at drawing. I think there’s definitely a creative bloodline there…
What was it like growing up in Maidstone, Kent. Do you feel it influenced you at all, in terms of needing to express yourself in a certain way?
Well, I didn’t really want to live there… I wanted to go out and experience more. I got that idea probably from watching music videos and seeing other people travelling around the world… there were no concerts in Maidstone! I always wanted to be elsewhere so I guess that led my inspiration to make music.
I’ve been playing the guitar since I was ten. I remember thinking I was all right when I was 15. I started my current band when I was turning 19.
‘I didn’t really want to live in Kent, I wanted to go out and experience more.’
Your front man is Isaac.
How did you meet?
We only met when I was 17, through the local scene. He was further ahead in his music career and I approached him and said his band was my favourite and if he ever needed a bassist I’d jump in. It just so happened that at that time they were sacking their then bassist… so they called me. But then, you know, when you join your favourite band things are never as they seem so early on I asked him to do something new and that’s how we started Slaves.
What brought you to Brighton?
Well, we used to play here a lot; my girlfriend is from London and she didn’t really want to leave but we thought Brighton was probably the second most metropolitan city we could think of; it was a free-thinking city, it had more space, it was more open by the sea... it was like a stepping stone into getting out of London, really. But I’m lucky that I get to travel. If I don’t travel I stop being creative. Leaving and realizing that your little bubble is not all what you think it is is very important. So I’m lucky with my job. Although returning is very important too!
You’ve said in the past that you have been influenced by travels…
Oh, yeah, definitely, yeah. With travelling you see things you wouldn’t see otherwise. Colours, the way the sun shines in different countries, the light changing… you’re constantly seeing things differently and I find that very inspiring.
Do you try to check out the art world in other countries?
Yeah, yeah, I always try to go to galleries; I like wondering about a city, there’s a lot of graffiti everywhere and I find that inspiring. But then I’m also always looking at Instagram to see what other people are doing, creatively speaking.
You have often mentioned you are inspired by painters such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Raymond Pettibon, Barry McGee and Keith Haring…
Yeah, those were definitely my references when I started painting. I remember looking at painters like that and thinking ‘that is sick’! But I also think everyone’s getting inspired by their peers on online platforms these days, it’s a way more diverse way to see what people are doing. I like looking at patterns from fashion or at bits of faux arts or just at unknown art that you find on a market randomly. I feel that my influences now are way broader.
Musically speaking you work in tandem with Isaac Holman. What is the process of working as a team and then working solo in your art practice?
We’re quite lucky in that we have a real 50/50 writing partnership. One will just start playing and the other will just join in. I sort of specialize on the guitar and Isaac specializes on lyrics but we both really listen to each other, and give each other ideas. We’re a really old school writing partnership!
I guess when you come to your studio afterwards it must also be nice to create in your own space…
Yes, absolutely. It gives me the room to do something different and gain some confidence. When you rely on someone else on creativity it makes you lack in confidence sometimes… so it’s nice that I can come here and have this space of my own, and do something creative. It recharges the batteries.
You also have worked collaboratively with Daisy (Parris). What is that like?
We studied together, we have known each other since 2010. She was definitely the best painter in the course. In Foundation everyone is told to explore and experiment so everyone ends up trying things out and doing stuff they don’t really like. Daisy was quite punk; she just painted what she felt the whole way through. I remember looking at her work and feeling jealous because I wanted to be doing what she was doing. I really respected the fact that she had the balls to say ‘fuck you’ to the tutors and do her own thing. When I went up to London she was finishing her degree in Fine Art at Goldsmiths; I reached out to her and told her I really liked what she was doing. I then was looking for a studio space and we decided to share one. One day I asked her if she wanted to paint something together, cause I’d seen she’d done some collaborative work before. I wanted to just smash one canvas out… and we just clicked. Working with her I feel she gives me confidence to do my own thing… to try things out that I wouldn’t do on my own paintings. Collaborating makes me want to explore other areas. We don’t share the studio anymore but we still work together. She’ll just turn up here and we’ll do something, then we’ll go out to dinner… I like the fact that she’s using my studio when I’m away. It’s really good to have someone in the arts that you respect and that you’re not in competition with. We’re definitely very supportive of each other.
You also design the album covers and posters for the Slaves – how does that process work?
Well, usually I don’t like having to wait for people to correspond with so I just start making things myself. I get an idea for a sleeve and I just run with it. I’ll then share with the team and they’ll input into it. It’s always been an important part of Slaves the whole ‘do-it-yourself’ aspect. In the past, I booked shows myself, designed covers, posters; it’s important to know how to do stuff yourself. It’s a vital part of having that punk spirit! I have written the treatment of most of our music videos; the art directors then come in and we discuss how to move forward. I really think it’s important to have your own vision. If you let someone else do it for you and you don’t really care, well, the result can become diluted. The more invested you are with your vision the better the product is going to turn out.
'The more invested you are with your vision, the better the product is'.
You have always turned me onto other interesting people and told me about things that interest you. Is that something you like promoting?
Yeah, yeah, definitely. We are writing our third album now and I want to use other people. But, you know, doing that takes some organization. I mean, we have used some illustrators before back in the day so, yeah, that’s something we are open to. I like giving other people the platform.
In your artwork, you are known for using strong, bold colours and symbols that are now very typically you. Could you talk about that? Is that intentional?
Yeah, well… the thing is.. I’m a bit of a collector. I like things that resemble each other. And I like symbols… I was always into t-shirt brands and different things that have a strong identity. Symbols are a way of instantly attract people. I think the use of colours does that as well. Colour is bold and it stands out. I respect people who do landscapes or portraits or are really painterly or whatever, but that’s not what I want to have in my house, on my walls… When you see my house there’s a lot of artwork with strong symbols and bright, bold colours. It’s a reflection of my personality. I mean, I want to make something that people might want to put up in their house as well! To the colour and symbols I like adding new twists as well so the stuff I paint ends up combining lots of sources like faux art, street art, naïve art. I like to think that my paintings sometimes show layers and layers of fragments; that you could take a cross section and see the end result in many different ways.
I’m curious to know how you combine the process of creating in both music and the arts.
I feel that being a creative is a whole different thing these days. You don’t have to specialize, you can do it all. I do music, I paint, I do photography, sculpture… I love people that deep their hands into everything. I find it very inspiring. People like Andy Warhol dabbed in different mediums, he was pissing on his paintings, or was doing screenprinting, signing dollar bills, doing videos… I like the idea that if you are an artist, whatever you do is art. I like that pure believe in yourself.
I watched you do this over the time I’ve known you. I’ve seen you combine the music with the art, with the fashion… Are clothes a way of outputting your creativity as well?
Yeah, yeah… I started with my clothes when I was in College. I realised that I could make a little bit of money on the side and people could wear my designs. That was pre-Slaves or at the very beginning of Slaves… I remember coming up with these two designs and putting them on t-shirts. I had to pay £500 to have them printed. I remember finding it quite scary cause that’s all the money I had in the world! But I’ve always just had this believe in what I do. Now I’m doing ceramics, photography… I used to think you had to put yourself in a box, then I realized you don’t have to. I did a bit of tattooing as well. But I found that medium very limiting. With tattoos your canvas is another person so there’s a limit to that whereas with art is just what you can think up and your canvas. But all the imagery I produce overlaps, really. I quite like that some of my work may appear like it comes from the tattooing world but really it comes from a long history of people doing dragons like in ancient Chinese culture or Japanese art. Sometimes I think everyone’s forgotten that bit. But it is quite a fun dialogue to see what images come from where, and where people think they come from. People take the easiest route sometimes. ‘A skull must be a tattoo now rather than from anatomy’, it’s quite interesting.
With your photography, which I have been looking at quite a lot, do you find you are able to express yourself in a similar way?
Yeah, I’ve started to realize that taking a photo is a similar thing to painting in that you can capture a composition. If you want to take a picture of a plant, for instance, you can take it in so many ways and angles and formats, and types of films… I have a whole new respect for photography as I’ve gradually gotten more into it. I like that I don’t have to think so much about it. Of course I think about my composition but there’s no pressure. I always feel that when my paintings are over and start selling, I need to start making something that’s just for the creativity. I’m always searching for that fulfillment… so I think photography is now taking that spot.
I’ve seen that you’re working on a zine as well… is that something we’re going to see in the future?
Yeah. It’s pretty much 90% formatted and I just need to work out how I’m going to print it. But I’m also waiting a bit… I want to give people a little break after Xmas cause nobody has the time or money or good moods! Plus, I really want it to be special. I want for each issue to be like a piece of art. I want to do screenprinting and potentially hand-fold them and staple them myself. I want people to know I’ve touched the pieces of work, that I’m involved.
I’d like to ask you about your pottery and ceramics. You are moving into 3D, how did you find that?
Oh, it was a challenge because it’s not a flat medium, it’s a very delicate medium too and I’m quite a sloppy, bold artist rather than an intricate one so I need to take more time on the pieces I make. But I want to make my pottery work more substantial and do proper ceramic, fired ceramic… but it’s been good to start with air dry clay.
The results are quite immediate, aren’t they? I’m looking at some of your pots, as we talk; some things have just been painted and some others will be ready to be painted soon…
That’s what I like about pottery! With painting you put your marks on a canvas, you take your time, it’s more a labour of love, although I like my paintings to be cheap thrills, in some aspects… I like to get the emotion you’re feeling out. If paintings take more than a couple of days or weeks they usually just get left on my to-do list because I don’t have this pent-up energy for them. I don’t like having to wait for things to dry… I like to work on long, concentrated periods. The other thing I find attractive about pottery is that I like making things people can use, it’s a whole different creative experience.
‘I want to make my pottery
work more substantial.’
We are sitting here in your studio, I see there’s been a bit of a clear out, there are a couple of canvasses that I haven’t seen before… There’s a crazy little one of a dragon… that’s new… and it looks like it has been done in an almost entirely different style. How did that come about, are you experimenting?
Well, I got some oil paints… I really wanted to do something with oil paints: I was after that thick texture. I was staying at a hotel and they had loads of framed kimonos, really nice kimonos in beautiful silks, with great dragons on the patterns, so I sketched one of them… and it was such a revelation to draw something quickly you’re not invested in. I have this canvas that has been laying around in my studio… I keep adding more and more layers onto it and after I drew this dragon - it just clicked. I’m hoping to do a little series of them and that this current body of work will allow me to work in different styles that relate to each other. When you put these canvasses next to my older work you see there’s a big difference but they all still have something in common, they all still relate to each other somehow.
Sometimes I have formed ideas, with my older paintings especially, I used to like sketching things out and then taking time painting them but I also think my art reflects my current situation. During Xmas, for example, I was touring a lot and was hardly ever in the studio so my painting was quite sporadic; I’d paint a pot and then I’d work on a drawing, then I’d come back to an older piece. I haven’t had these long, concentrated periods in my studio like I used to or like I would like… it’s quite frantic at the moment! I think my next show, whenever that will be, will probably reflect this mad energy of my life now; yeah, there’s definitely a mad ball of energy in all these works you see!
‘By no means have my band or art made it, we’re just one step ahead of other people, but I think that people need someone believing in them.’
I’m sitting in front of a big and bold collaboration with Daisy Parris. It is an amazing bit of work. I don’t know quite how it got together like it did, but I’ve seen you two painting, actually on two different occasions, months apart… is that a good example of a finished piece between you two?
Oh, yeah definitely, we’ve done four large pieces now and it’s a really interesting experience. We really didn’t think much about the first three pieces we did together but with this one we really labored over and kept trying to add to it, to improve it; we kept coming back to it…
Do you think there might be room for you two to do something together in the future?
Yes, we’re working towards a show. We’re coming up with a proposal, an idea… People are very excited about it, and I think it’s nice to work on something new. There aren’t many artists that do that, I mean, you have Gilbert & George, Tim Noble and Sue Webster, but partnerships in art are quite a rare thing, especially in painting. We really like working in this partnership, and we’re getting really good reactions…
I think both styles are very complementary of each other. There’s your loose hand that I think she probably really appreciates and then there’s some of the tighter work that she does that just brings another layer to it. It’s all very balanced. The pieces I’ve seen you do in the past all have that; it all ends very well together…
Yeah, it’s an amazing experience… and there are all these layers as you say, everywhere you look you keep seeing different things happening. It’s all about texture. I think we both are really into all different aspects of textures and layers.
I think it’s a testament to the fact that you’re always working… that you always have something on the go…
Yeah, yeah… right.
I saw that you are looking to help people creatively through a new record label. What’s that about?
Well, I always wanted to start a label and have had this idea for a while, and it was just… this band, Ladybird, came up, and I thought we really needed to help them - they’re incredible. So the label started just out of us wanting to help them, and they’re from Kent as well which is a nice link. I want to inspire people. By no means have my band or art made it, we’re just one step ahead of other people, but I think that people need someone believing in them. And I’d love to be involved in a scene that is buzzing!
Well, it would be nice to see you do that in the art world as well.
Yeah, definitely, but I’m still learning the ropes in the art world… in a couple of years, maybe.
Well, I can’t wait for that! Thanks for the chat.
Interview © by Whistleblower Gallery, 2018. All rights reserved.
If you wish to purchase any work by Laurie Vincent, please visit our shop.