Last week I was house-sitting in Barnes, which just so happens to be about ten or so minutes away from Kensington via bus and Tube, and it just so happened that there is an Ian Dury retrospective exhibition on at the Royal College of Art in the wonderfully named Kensington Gore... so it seemed churlish of me not to go. I love Ian Dury and am completely gutted that I had three separate opportunities to see him and The Blockheads live but never did. I firmly believe that he is one of Britain's foremost poets - and one of our greatest Bohemian eccentrics as well. I knew that he'd been an art student but had never actually seen any of his work - or so I thought. To get to the RCA you have to take a rather splendid walk up Kensington High Street and along by the side of Hyde Park. It was a blisteringly hot day with full sunshine so you can imagine how magnificent the full glow of Hyde Park Gates were set amongst all that lovely lush greenery - London has a stupendous amount of parks and wild spaces and I urge you to check them out!
Finally I arrived, and can now say that I've "been" to the RCA with a knowing wink. The exhibition itself is quite informal but no less hallowed and what struck me first was how strong the vibe of Ian Dury is in all his work, to the point where I felt that he was actually there. He was obsessed with lad mag style pinups and under the tutelage of his teacher and mentor Sir Peter Blake was something of a leading light in the Pop Art scene and it really shows. Movies and sex jostle with a saucy British vibe, and a lot of his paintings sing with acres of sequins around beautifully executed pencil drawings. That was the second thing that struck me - just how much hard graft he'd put into learning and executing his craft. Which brought me on to the "I never saw his work". It turns out that I had - he'd designed tons of record sleeves and illustrations for magazine articles, many of which I'd seen on my numerous excursions around secondhand record stores and in my obsessive collecting of old magazines. What I took away from the exhibit:
- I need to knuckle down and properly work on my drawing skills - Ian Dury managed all this whilst teaching, working and being in a band, so I really have no excuse
- Being true to yourself and your passion is key in artwork - without compromise and without hesitation
- You can mix the profane and the lofty with great results - and sequins don't hurt either
- The Royal Albert Hall (opposite the RCA) is a lot smaller than it looks on TV
The whole exhibition was lovingly curated by his daughter Jemima and features comments from former colleagues, band mates and teachers, and the amount of affection he's held in both by contemporaries and fans cannot be underestimated. If you happen to be house-sitting, or find yourself in Kensington, or are a fan of Ian Dury, then this is definitely an exhibition worth checking out - and it's free! The exhibition runs until September 1st 2013 at the Royal College of Art, Kensington Gore, London SW7 (link below).