Interview: Alex Lowe & Alan McGee talk exhibitions, music and the Smart Art project

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Set against the rolling hills of the Snake Pass, on the outer edges of Sheffield, Smart Art Galleries recently showcased the wonderful abstract artwork of Alex Lowe, the ex Hurricane #1 frontman, singer-songwriter and already established artist.

The event was also a taster of things to come for Alex Lowe’s new creative partnership with the forward thinking gallery, with plans for a Smart Art record label, the joint project ‘The Aquarian Conspiracy’ with DJ-on-the-night Alan McGee, as well as a planned film working with Dean Cavanagh. For Alex and the Smart Art team, which also includes artist liaison Andrew Hunt, gallery designer Chris Mackevych and gallery owner Micheal Mackevych, exciting times lay ahead.

Andrew Hunt: Smart Art is a gallery but it’s also quite a loose collective here because we’re all big music fans, so it’s that parallel between art, film and music that we all find really interesting and what we’re looking to develop. It’s all about working with people who are as passionate and as crazy as we are about each of those artistic outlets – people like Alan McGee; to have his approval is massive for us and of course Alex – who combines his music and art so well- is a very talented guy.

Micheal Mackeych: We’re all very proud and excited by Alex’s work, not to mention the commissioned pieces from people like Mike Tyson. All of these commissions are totally unique with no reproductions at all. It’s a great start in such a short time with his work already going up in valuation, and through some of the exhibitions I’ve put on in New York down the years and the connections we have over there Alex’s work has really taken off internationally.

loweLate last year, Alex Lowe chatted to Live4ever contributor Carl Stanley about his new life in art and the impeding gallery, and on the night it was a chance for Carl to see the collection on the wall and up close for the first time…

Is this the first showing then Alex, of these pieces?

Alex Lowe: Well I did an exhibition last year in Leicester so there are a couple of pieces that have been shown before, but this show of 35 paintings are on the whole all very new which I think took me something like six weeks to do. I just got the canvasses in, locked myself in the room with the wife feeding me dinner under the door type-of-thing and just went to it.

So when did you take the art more seriously, I know you’ve always painted in some form but taking it up professionally, when did that begin for you?

Well professionally I’ve been painting for about three years and it was selling some of my artwork to Mike Tyson, as well as Donald Trump, that initiated it I suppose. I’ve sold 180 paintings in that time and it’s quite strange in the way it’s worked out – I still consider myself as a musician/singer songwriter you know…who now paints.

How does that happen, how did people like Mike Tyson and Woody Allen initially find your work?

It’s a whole manner of avenues really. It’s agents contacting agents contacting more agents contacting me, and actually Facebook as well believe it or not. I’ve also sold a few to Alan McGee who’s my old boss which again is a big thing for me and he’s actually a big fan, which is also a bit wired in a way.

In fact it’s the net where I came across your artwork and you as an artist.

Yeah, well Smart Art, all of us really, are on Facebook a lot of the time playing tunes, showing paintings and spreading the word, and the feedback has really been good: hardly any bad comments you know, they’ve all been pretty positive about my art.

The thing is, am I an artist? I don’t know as I’ve only been doing it three years, but I suppose that’s not for me to say is it? It’s about what others think and how they see the art, and me as an artist.

And on top of the art you’re still writing aren’t you? With a tour and a new EP on the way – ‘Alex Lowe and the Gun Club Cemetery’.

Yeah, because funnily enough I’ve been signed again as a musician with an album deal. The EP is out in two months and then a world tour this year with my band, playing Argentina, Brazil, Spain, all over. So music’s going to really take over again for me this year and I’m really looking forward to it.

Tell me about the general ideas behind some of these pieces, like the painting titled ‘Autumn Sand’. Very Jackson Pollock with its own attitude.

Well the reason I did this was simply because I’m a big fan of Jackson Pollock’s work. In fact it’s a kinda rip off which I don’t mind saying. He’s one of my heroes and if John Squire can rip him off so can I(!) For me he was the first proper rock n roll artist of the 20th century, the guy was a mad genius and his work stands alone. But along with other painters he’s really influenced me and you can see it in those pieces.

So you must be happy with the reaction to your work – working with Smart Art and the commissions you’ve had.

It’s been a bit of a roller-coaster ride for me lately, like when Hurricane #1 split all that time ago. I really didn’t know what I was going to do, and I sort of found myself doing radio and TV and things like that, but really I didn’t know what I wanted to do. But it’s all come full circle playing my music again as well as working with my art. I also have the art project with Alan; ‘The Aquarian Conspiracy’ which I’m also really excited working to be working with him on.

Alan’s always been a big friend and supporter and he’s even DJing the night for us which is pretty cool. It’s just great that he likes what I do and I think that’s surprised him a little as well. I like to think I’m a humble guy and enjoy other people’s views on my art, rather than going on about what I want it to mean. And if they like it or not that’s fine because art is something very individual and within the eye of the beholder, which just interests me more so.

But the support from Smart Art’s Micheal Mackevych and the gallery team as well as Alan McGee has given me the confidence to take this on. Alan’s the most influential man since Brian Epstein but he’s also my mate, it’s a personal thing for me because I really wouldn’t be here talking to you because he gave me the chance to do something creative with my life when no one would give me a chance.

lowe1Alan McGee:  Well it works on a couple of levels for me because I worked with Alex at Creation and I loved his songs and loved his voice and still do. And now by default in a way he’s progressed into his art, and that’s the power of the Internet isn’t it? His work has just took off online in a big way, but at first when he started painting I never knew; like he said it was a surprise but you know, I knew he was talented anyway so maybe not such a surprise after all, hey!

So do you have an Alex Lowe over the fire place back home then Alan? As you’ve bought a few of his paintings haven’t you?

I’ve bought four paintings of Alex’s and believe it or not they’re in my bedroom actually! My bedroom is kinda a shrine to Crowley, it’s so fucking weird. but it is what it is. He’s all over the room, I have a Crowley on the wall going like that (picks his hands up) and she’s like, ‘What the fuck?’ (laughs).

Has Alex changed much since the days when you signed him to Creation?

To be honest, no. From when I first met him he hasn’t really changed, though from succeeding as a pop musician to what he’s doing now is him changing. and I really do see him as a painter doing pretty well, you know. Like there’s been times when he’s been in the top 20 and there’s been times I’ve gone to go meet him at the airport and he’s been on his arse.

but now he’s on the rise up. He’s never been any different to me other than a great guy and now it just so happens that I really like his art.

We are good friends as well. Maybe it’s because we’re Scottish. We’re not similar but we complement each other, maybe it’s sometimes like I’m his big brother but then sometimes he’s mine. We’re also going to shoot a movie with Dean Cavanagh which Alex has painted about 23 paintings for. Initially I rang Alex up at Christmas with this idea I had for a concept and we came up with ‘The Aquarian Conspiracy’ which we were going to launch in the spring, but now these paintings will feature exclusively in the film.

We think it’s a great idea and can’t wait to get started.

(Carl Stanley)

Check out Alex Lowe’s live acoustic set from the exhibition over on Facebook.

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