Page 20 - Studio International - November 1965
P. 20

Britain and the manifestations of pop art 7       Jones  One  reason  for  the  prevalence  of  popular
                               Smith  I think pop art is most likely to come from an  imagery  in  England  is  that  it  may  be  related  to  her
                               urban environment and Britain is a very urban country.  closeness  to  America  that  comes  from  the  sharing  of
                               Although  we may have  been  born  in  the  countryside  a common language and our traditional alliance. And  I
                               most of us have spent our lives in the towns, and there  think the lack of a language barrier shouldn't be under­
                               is  where  one  would  be  exposed  to  the  raw  material  rated.  It's  natural  that  something  happening  in  one
                               of pop art.  and then,  more inclined to use it.   place  would  be  communicated  all  the  more  rapidly  if
                               Glaser But many painters have lived in towns before,  the exchange were  easier,  so that it is quite probable
                               the  Impressionists in  Paris, the Abstract-Expressionists  that many of the forces that produced popular imagery
                               in  New York, though one can probably trace  a line of  in American art were similarly felt in the air in England.
                               descent from them through the content of their work,   Smith  It's  interesting  to  see  how  language  barriers
                               to current art.                                   and therefore  greater cultural barriers affect the trans­
                                                                                 portation of ordinary things such as American movies,
                                                                                 when  they  are  seen,  say,  in  France.  They  become  so
       Peter  Phillips  photographed  by  Tony  Evans                            exotic according to the way  French movie critics inter­
                                                                                 pret them. I remember having a French book on monster
                                                                                 movies  that  included  everything  from  ladies  with
                                                                                 unicorns on medieval tapestries to  Fay Wray and  King
                                                                                 Kong  and presumed to  see  a connection throughout.
                                                                                 Comparing  that  with  a  British  movie  magazine  like
                                                                                 Movie,  you could see that American movies were not
                                                                                 exotic to us.  You take them straight. and this is mostly
                                                                                 due to language.  I think that's probably why the French
                                                                                 can't produce the same kind of pop art that the English­
                                                                                 speaking  people  do.  And  also,  the  best  commercial
                                                                                 art.  from which pop comes,  is American.
                                                                                 Glaser  You  return  to  the  movies  again.  a  favourite
                                                                                 popular medium, and it reminds me that Peter mentioned
                                                                                 before his fascination with the Bowery Boys.  Possibly
                                                                                 one can find a place in the pop genealogy for this kind
                                                                                 of  film.  Certainly  the  banality,  silliness  and  absurdity
                                                                                 of  the  Bowery  Boys  and  the  Marx  Brothers,  among
                                                                                 other movie favourites.  find an echo  in aspects of the
                                                                                 pop  aesthetic.  Perhaps  one  can  find  the  links  more
                                                                                 directly in  England  in  the  Goon  Show of  the  1950's,
                                                                                 which  I  think was  a counterpart  of  this  sort  of thing.
                                                                                 Did those radio programmes have any kind of meaning
                                                                                 or significance for  you  apart  from  being  funny 7
                                                                                 Smith  I  think  it was  more  than  funny  because  there
                                                                                 was  a  time  when  the  Goon  Show seemed  to  involve
                                                                                 everybody.  I  remember  everybody  talked  in  Goon
                                                                                 Phillips  It involved us all, but it didn't really play any
                                                                                 part in our painting.
                                                                                 Jones  It  was  about  a  year  after  it collapsed  that  the
                                                                                 BBC Third  Programme started to have a discussion on
                                                                                 the  Goon Show and its significance.
                                                                                 Glaser That obviously was a confirmation of its death.
                                                                                 Nevertheless,  some critics  have  suggested parallels  in
                                                                                 English painting today and the Goon Show.  Specific­
                                                                                 ally,  Jonathan  Miller  referred  to  the  confusion  or  the
                                                                                 ambiguity that resulted from the use of replications on
                                                                                 the program, and he felt that these same devices were
                                                                                 translated into the works of the younger painters.
                                                                                 Jones  I  think any  association  between some  aspects
                                                                                 of the Goon Show and current painting merely demon­
                                                                                 strates Miller's own creative streak. The idea of collage,
                                                                                 which I presume is what he is talking about. and which
                                                                                 the  Goons certainly took advantage of in the way they
                                                                                 chopped  up  and  made  odd  juxtapositions  with  sane
                                                                                 or normal patterns of conversation to make something
                                                                                 new and funny,  is pretty old now.  One can find those
                                                                                 ideas  in  Picasso  from  fifty  years  ago.  As  a  matter  of
                                                                                 fact.  if the term pop art applies in any way to the three
                                                                                 of  us sitting  at  this  table,  and  it  seems  to  be  so  all­
                                                                                 embracing  as  to  cover  more  than  half  the  practising
                                                                                 artists  today,  I  would  say  that  from  a  philosophical
                                                                                 point  of  view  we  still  differ  radically  from  other
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