A Playground For Eyes And Mind

In July 2010, Noel Fielding’s art show, Bryan Ferry vs The Jelly Fox opened at Maison Bertaux in Soho, London.  Two of our crew, Mog and Becky, were lucky enough to get a sneak preview. Here’s what they had to say:

Noel dressed as one of his paintings, with Christine Cant

Mog: Noel Fielding once said that the stories he tells in his stand up are the pictures he isn’t talented enough to paint.  The impression his latest exhibition gives is that he’s capable of great things in either.  In this show the line between art and comedy is completely blurred – an explosion of large, colourful canvases jostle for wall space with the fantastical handwritten meanderings of Noel’s mind, peppered with witty cultural references such as Tony Hart’s gallery and his claymation buddies, Morph and Chaz (as you’ve never seen him before).

Words and pictures take you on an upstairs/downstairs journey of the tale of Bryan Ferry and the Jelly Fox, a narrative that winds its way around the entire exhibition, intercut with sharp observations and commentary about the real life world of Noel Fielding.  Particularly poignant in this respect is The Police Like Me, a painting completed after Noel was strip searched by the police earlier this year.  On the surface the picture seems almost joyful: swaying palm trees and what looks like something half man/half bike with a bubblegum pink afro.  But the handwriting beside it betrays the anger he obviously still feels with those who tried to benefit from his experience: “It’s a rumour that I want to put my high heel boot in his eye and twist it.”

The Shrine to Bryan Ferry.  Note the bow tie!

Downstairs features a shrine to Bryan Ferry; a series of paintings and an artful bed dedicated to the seminal glamrock crooner.  If only he’d been there to witness it!  Beyond this is a wall given over to Mike Fielding’s warm, smile-creating paintings, then a small room in which the much-publicised collaboration between Kasabian’s Serge Pizzorno and Noel resides.  It consists of a short collage-based animated film with a soundtrack; like a contemporary Grimm’s fairytale, it’s beautifully put together – and far more engaging than anything you’ll find on the Cartoon Network.

This large collection of paintings feels more coherent than his previous exhibition, being painted in the most part during the past couple of years.  Again, the setting of Maison Bertaux lends itself perfectly to his quirky approach to art – a clinical exhibition space is it not.  While Noel has a distinctive and recognisable style, his work never feels repetitive.  Bold brush strokes and poster-paint vibrant colours create a vivid kaleidoscope of ideas, subjects and techniques that demand more than one viewing.  Across all of the pieces there’s an appealing childlike joy and energy, but there’s also a darker undercurrent that pokes its way through here and there, even during its funny bits.

This exhibition is called ‘Bryan Ferry versus the Jelly Fox’, and the night rightfully culminated with an outdoor badminton game in the crowded Soho street between the two protagonists (the Jelly Fox played by Noel himself, resplendent in a glorious royal blue feathered cape).  Accompanied by the thumping sound systems of the Pride march which surrounded us, it was a wonderfully insane end to the evening.

Altogether a mind-bogglingly fabulous show: Pictures, words, colour, silliness and a dollop of insanity.  I imagine that if you could slice Noel Fielding down the middle, he’d look a lot like this on the inside.  And that’s a good thing.

Becky: When walking around Maison Bertaux, the tea room that is once again the gallery for Noel’s latest works, you can’t help but smile as you look at each of the gloriously colourful paintings.  What you are seeing here is the creations of an extremely talented man.  There is no denying that Noel has clearly put his heart and soul into this exhibition, and there was no section of wall uncovered, be it with his superb paintings and drawings, or with quotes and ramblings which seem to have been written down as they spilled from his brain.  It truly is a joy to behold.

The exhibition has expanded considerably from 2007 with a whole room dedicated to Bryan Ferry and a wall of paintings by his brother Mike.  The video installation, which was the work of both Noel and Kasabian’s Serge, was like delving into the mind of Noel himself and was wonderfully insane.

Self portrait of Noel in the dress he was wearing at the launch

I couldn’t help but feel like each painting was a little piece of Noel himself, the bright colours lighting up the rooms and the corridors, each one with its own story to tell.  There were some that seemed to take a darker tone, like Noel’s recollection of the Sunday he was taken aside by the police having committed no crime and the story sold to the tabloids, but although you can see he had a rough time of it, he is still able to turn the experience into a beautiful painting with a couple of funny anecdotes.  The sign of a true gentleman, I’m sure you would agree.

For those of you who will be in London over the coming months, do take the time to go down to Soho and visit Noel’s exhibition.  There really is something for everyone and even someone who has never heard of Noel before could go in and appreciate that they are witnessing the work of a talented man indeed.  So go!  Drink tea, eat the delicious cakes and spend an afternoon you won’t forget tucked away in this intimate little tea room filled with the pieces of Noel’s art.  You will feel like you are witnessing the inside of an extraordinary mans head and you won’t be wrong!

Overall, it was a superb experience.  The weather was hot and the streets were filled with people out to enjoy Pride weekend.  The tea shop filled with Noel’s friends and family and there really was happiness all around.  It takes a truly talented man to be able to fill three rooms and the street outside with people, each one of whom has a smile on their face because of something you have done.  I wish Noel every success with his future work, he really does deserve it.

All photographs © Mogemms

Editors Note: Later this week we’ll be posting additional photos and more about the party itself on our forum, so worth keeping an eye open for it!

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