Wednesday, 12 September 2007

0. 'Why Flags?' - Fleydon Unfurled

Although now spending much of his life commuting between homes in China and Patagonia, Fleydon has never ceased drawing inspiration from his very public relationship with local football club AFC Wimbledon. Indeed it is at the club’s Kingsmeadow home where new works are premiered to a critical and knowledgeable public. ‘Tempest by name, tempestuous in nature!’ was how he once memorably described his relationship with the Tempest End, the most vocal of art spaces.

Art & Artists Review caught up with Fleydon to find out more about the man and his art.

Meeting in the foyer of the Hayward Gallery as the finishing touches are applied to the hanging of his latest work, we finally cornered this enigmatic figure for whom the word ‘spry’ might have been coined. We started with his signature art-form, the flag or as he prefers, the ‘banner-ama’.

What was it that attracted him so this unusual medium?

"Unusual? Well you might think so but let us consider the nature of the flag. What is it after all but a limp canvas? A proto-painting, a potential artwork capable of moving at one with nature through three dimensions rather than the two-dimensions associated with more traditional, or as I call it rigid, painting”

So the wind and other movements playing across the surface add an extra layer of depth to the work?

Just so but ..’ and here there was the merest twinkle in his ice-blue eyes ‘..let us not forget that it’s a also cheaper and easier to move around – important considerations for an artist on the move. But consider too that the flag resonates with symbolism. As a child I was enraptured by the story of the French knight who, late for the Battle of Agincourt, donned an old flag as a surcoat and rode off to battle. I like to think I am that knight! Of course…’ and here he threw back his heavily bearded face and let out a huge laugh ‘...they killed him soon after – but they kept the flag! I find that most significant…’

And why hang at a football match rather than in one of the more established galleries where those appreciative of his works might enjoy them in comfort?

‘Comfort? I’m afraid you have not yet grasped the essence of my work. The essential ‘art’ is not the flag itself...’ and here he gave a dismissive wave of a gnarled and heavily tattooed hand ‘…that is but a stimuli, little more than a rag to the furious bull of the public. No, the art lies in the dynamic tension between viewer, object and place. The frisson, if you will, of the unveiling. There lies the art and, though I am loath to say it, an exhibition such as this is little more than an echo or a memory of the real art – shared, enjoyed, interpreted and forgotten all in the space of a few minutes. That is my art...’

He paused for a second and stared down at the floor, his long black fringe flopping forward over his eyes as though lost in sudden thought. Looking up slowly he smiled and suddenly clutched his groin, shaking it vigorously in the direction of my photographer. ‘That and this of course!’ he leered unpleasantly. It was apparent that the civilised and the bestial were uneasy bedfellows in his unruly yet dynamic creative psyche – a point not lost on the man himself in his biography ‘God Help the Beast in Me (Later)’

After a prolonged period of nasal clearing (‘I love mucus – it’s so cthonic!’) Fleydon reflected on the nature and inspiration behind some of his best known, but often misunderstood, works…

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