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Manics' Nicky Wire Goes Solo For Art Exhibition - South Wales Echo, 11th September 2018

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Title: Manics' Nicky Wire Goes Solo For Art Exhibition
Publication: South Wales Echo
Date: Tuesday 11th September 2018
Writer: David Owens


Paintings and Polaroids opens at Tenby Museum this week.

People and places that have influenced Manic Street Preachers' Nicky Wire form the inspiration for the artwork that features in the musician's first solo exhibition that opens this week.

Tenby Museum & Art Gallery will host Nicky Wire’s first solo show of artwork and photography. Paintings and Polaroids collects a series of pictures that Wire has worked on both at home in Newport and at the apartment he owns in Tenby, and at Manic Street Preachers ' studios – both their former studio Faster in Cardiff and their new residence Door to the River in Newport.

“This exhibition sees me following in a fine tradition of bass playing artists - The Clash’s Paul Simonon, Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon and Paul McCartney,” said Wire. “It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time and Tenby Museum and Art Gallery really is the most perfect setting – it’s one of my favourite places to let my mind drift.

“Mark the curator of the art gallery had got hold of a copy of my Polaroid book (Death of a Polaroid, Faber & Faber) and asked if I’d ever fancy exhibiting. This summer finally felt like the time was right to pull three decades worth of work together for this show

Wire added: “These artworks are mini tributes to people and places that have given me comfort and inspiration over the years.

“I grew up obsessed by Polaroids - with the beauty and simplicity, the accidental moment caught, the initial vivid colour and the eventual sad fade.

“I’ve been lucky enough to have a flat here for the last 12 years and it is a very special place with such a rich artistic history.

“The works themselves are truly mixed media - foil, superglue, gaffa, masking and sellotape, nail varnish, glitter, make-up and of course paint.”

Wire explained the exhibition was inspired by many different icons from the world of art and literature.

“The exhibition is a celebration of inspiration - Warhol’s repeated images, the quilt paintings of John Uzzell Edwards, Yayoi Kusama, Richter, Tracey Emin, Bert Stern, Dylan Thomas, Miles Davis.

“The list is endless. I’m so pleased to be having my first exhibition in Tenby, but it’s more nerve wracking than any gig I’ve done as a musician. I hope people enjoy it.”

Nicky Wire’s Polaroids have adorned Manics record covers over the years, including their first number one single If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next.

Wire published a book of photography – Death of a Polaroid - in 2011 through Faber & Faber, while Manic Street Preachers were the inspiration for Unconvention – the Turner Prize winner Jeremy Deller’s 1999 exhibition.

Paintings and Polaroids - An exhibition of artworks by Nicky Wire, opens this Saturday, September 15 and runs until Sunday, October 21, Tenby Museum & Art Gallery, Castle Hill, Tenby, Pembrokeshire, SA70 7BP.

Stories Behind The Artwork
Nicky Wire talks us through the stories behind his artwork.

Pictures on My Wall: Bowie / Pictures on my Wall: Marilyn
These are each made up of collected credit card-sized Fuji Instax shots. I find there’s a sheer joy in image repetition, it amplifies the beauty and adds intensity. The orangey/rust colour is a repeated theme throughout the exhibition – it’s there in Bowie’s Low period hair and also in the Marilyn shots. For me, the Marilyn pictures form a part of the defining photo session of the 20th century – Bert Stern’s final shoot with her in 1962. It’s the first time that human imperfection was allowed to be on show; in turn that became the perfect visual representation of the subject.

No to the Mirror
A mixed media piece. This features a trashed computer keyboard, a reflective mirror set within a Polaroid frame, a selection of different tape types, nail varnish and a few images of JG Ballard. It’s an exploration of vanity.

In Praise of Rage
This features shots on Fuji Instax Wide film alongside type, tape and paint. It’s a tribute to two of the strongest inspirational powers I know - Dylan Thomas and working class rage.

Painted Polaroids (Rewind the Film)
These are finished with pen and ink added on top of the developing Polaroid. It’s a trick that was taught to me by long time Manics' photographer Mitch Ikeda. Some of these shots were used in the booklet for Rewind the Film.

Pictures on my Wall: Miles Davis
I really love Miles Davis as a painter as well as musician; this piece features heavy repetition of such a wonderful picture. I spend my artistic life aspiring to (but failing to) match his work.

Fatal Flaw
This is comprised of discarded wood, tape, emulsion, Bacon, Burton and Larkin. The inspiration was the idea that people who I love and admire often some kind of major personality defect that somehow adds to their humanity. The quote is from Francis Bacon - really any of them could have said it on any given day.

One of the biggest pieces in the exhibition, this was inspired by the contorted landscapes of Graham Sutherland – someone else who saw unparalleled beauty in the rolling west Wales scenery. It’s a piece that came out of desolation - we were trying to learn The Holy Bible in its entirety for the anniversary tour when I made it, hence the title.

Broken Tokyo Dream
Shot on a blazing hot day in Tokyo in 2014. These are the product of that beautiful accident that happens with Polaroid film from time to time, when it doesn’t develop fully and you get half formed imagery that tends to be more interesting than what you were initially aiming to shoot. It’s a real example of the unpredictable genius of the Polaroid camera itself.

This is pure turmoil, an internal convulsion inspired by Malevich and Stuart Adamson’s lyrics for the song Inwards.

Self Portraits
I’ve always been fascinated with the R.S. Thomas poem Self Portrait; it’s a masterclass in brutal honesty. This piece matches his words with candid self-portraits of me shot on a classic Polaroid 600 over three decades from Torquay to Cuba to Newport.

Painted Polaroids: Melbourne
These are Polaroids shot on the Lions tour of Australia in 2013. I took hundreds of shots on that tour; these were shot on a beautiful early morning where it really felt like the sky was on fire. I painted on the shots in my hotel room soon after they’d developed, trying to recapture something beautiful while it was fresh in the memory.