A Dutch girl walks into a bar and joins a Yorkshireman, an Essexer and a Midlander… Not the beginning of a joke, but actually the start of an animated interview between fellow blogger Inspiring City, artists Sam Peacock, Roy’s People and myself.
The setting was a trendy bar in a popular East London hotel and the occasion was the opening of ‘Steel Life’, the joint show by Sam and Roy’s People at the Timber Yard café in Seven Dials, Covent Garden. While Inspiring City’s article is a great recap of the energetic interview, I decided to head down to the bustling café this week and capture the works in situ.
When me met, Sam had just returned to London from his annual 4-day residency at Christiana Kubrick’s estate in Childwickbury. Sam: ‘I kept a fire going from Thursday night till Sunday. The entire weekend is just pure art. You make art from the moment you set up till you start to close down on Sunday evening. Apart from that I just drink mead and sleep in a tent.’ Christiana Kubrick is late filmmaker Stanley Kubrick’s widow. They met on set when Christiana was an actress. Afterwards she studied art and became a painter. Sam: ‘From the proceeds of 2001: A Space Oddysey they bought the Childwickbury premises and she’s been running artist residencies for 11 years now. I’ve done it for 4 years now. She invites lots of people in film to check out the artists and buy the works. It’s a nice place, you can do whatever you want, sleep wherever you want. There are so many fields to walk through. I walk around with an axe and a knife and collect wood for my fire and keep my fire going on for four days.’
Fire plays an essential role in Sam’s works and life. When he was a teenager he got interested in setting fire to things. Sam: ‘When I went to university I bought a lot of old cars and set them on fire. I ruined university, regretted it, ended up with a demon in my soul, eventually conquered the demon. Then figured out what I really wanted. I was always going to be a painter. I never wanted to have a regular 9 to 5 job, that would kill me. I feel myself as an abstract landscape artist.’
To be honest, a lot of the times I look at Sam’s works and I don’t understand it. In a way that’s a good thing, I like that aspect.” – Roy’s People
The first piece of art Sam ever sold was a car door which he sold for £50, 16 years ago. ‘I got a car door from the scrapyard, burnt it, hammered it and painted it. If you get the metal very hot and put paint on, it blisters instantly. I lost all the hairs on my arms in the process. It was madness: petrol everywhere! At a certain point I had 20 car doors at my mum’s house. I would just sit in the garden setting fire to things and banging on things.’
Cutting up arms and legs
Roy’s work methodology is far gentler. Although he does cut off limbs and heads of figures, at least his work doesn’t include any fire. He started by taking pictures of his grandfather’s model train tracks with an iPhone in an attempt to sell the tracks. Roy: ‘So we started to take pictures of that, the small houses and trains and stuff like that. Then we started to realise it was pretty cool. We liked it. So we knicked off the tiny figures and took them to the garden, put them on rocks and stones and anywhere you could imagine. We put photos on eBay, people actually bought them and so we made more and sold those as well.’
Me and Roy are very close. What I like about Roy is he makes me laugh, his works make me laugh.” – Sam Peacock
It all started from using the models that came with the train tracks, and has now developed into a world of its own. For his work Roy uses basic figures which he then cuts up. Roy: ‘It started from being really limited in what I could do to now doing anything. So any idea that I get, I can find a way round to make it. If I need a figure to be in a running position I’ll just have the arms cut up from the elbows for instance and joining them again in a different position with a bit of superglue and filler.’
Coffee: from the cup to the wall
There is a very strong connection to the coffee served at the Timber Yard and Sam’s works. Sam: ‘Coffee and sugar are main materials in my works. A lot of the work you see at the Timber Yard has been produced with the coffee that they use there. The sugar is the same as I normally use, a demerara sugar. That type of sugar has a better burn to it. Some sugars are so refined that they don’t burn too well. Demerara sugar is a slowburner which gives you a decent colour black. The coffee I ground myself, with a hammer.’
While Sam describes himself as an ‘analogue’ man and doesn’t understand the Timber Yard audience with their flashy laptops and iPads, it is exactly that kind of people that fits Roy’s People target group. Roy: ‘It’s the right audience. My audience are the type of people who sit in there with their iPad, they’re kind of trendy. People will have a look at the works in there and smile, rather than thinking about what ingredients have been used and if there’s coffee in it. Although, there’s one work in there that uses coffee.’
You can visit Steel Life at Timber Yard in Seven Dials, Covent Garden, till Sunday 14 September.
Both Sam and Roy are represented by Curious Duke Gallery. Visit their website for more information on the artists or if you’re interested in buying their artworks.
Read Inspiring City’s post on our joint interview here.
Earlier this year he also wrote an article on Roy’s People which you can find here.
A previous article of mine about Curious Duke Gallery can be found here.