Neal Fox: Beware of the God

The London-based artist explains the inspiration behind his new exhibition of stained glass windows, on show at London's Daniel Blau gallery

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Since graduating from RCA in 2005, London based artist and illustrator, Neal Fox has had work featured in The Guardian, The Independent and completed projects for rockers Babyshambles.  The artist has also managed to put together some impressive solo exhibitions at Galerie Daniel Blau in Munich and Galerie Suzanne Tarazieve in Paris of his personal work. And on top of all that Fox also continues to finds time to publish Le Gun, an annual Arts Journal, he co-founded whilst at RCA. In his newest work the artist uses stained glass windows as his canvas and draws inspiration from the wild stories his grandad used to tell him and crazy modern day pop culture. Dazed caught up with the artist to find out more about the exhibition, opening on the 7 July, and what new mythology he is creating in his art.

Dazed Digital: What inspired the work that will be featured in the exhibition?
Neal Fox:
I've been doing drawings for a few years now which use my grandad John Watson's ghost as a kind of shaman figure, on a cosmic journey through time and space, a crazy bender through pop culture. He was a bomber pilot, a writer, a chat show host, a publisher, a Soho drinker. Growing up i was inspired by his mythology, but my drawings have become more and more about collective mythologies. The figures who feature in the windows have all been in my drawings in the past. They are all iconoclasts, and they have an element of debauchery to them. I think of them of as kind of alternative saints, who have shaped the ideas of the people and culture that followed them by breaking the rules.

DD: Why did you choose the medium of stained glass and what kind of challenges did that pose?
Neal Fox:
It was suggested to me by my gallerist Daniel Blau. He had made a series of windows with the artist Matt Mullican, at a great place called Meyer of Munich, where they have been making stained glass for hundreds of years. I liked the idea of using such a loaded medium in my own way. I spent a lot of time over there working on it all. I was a novice but they had experts in the traditional methods helping me get the hang of it. Its quite painstaking work because all the black lines are hand painted on to hundreds of different pieces of coloured glass and then leaded together. I overdosed on bratwursts and schnapps and nearly killed myself skiing on several occasions. I stayed in the factory at night which is full of old stained glass windows, so i had some weird dreams.

DD: Did you have to change/adapt the way you work for the project?
Neal Fox:
I had to be more concise in the ideas i wanted to get across, trying to capture the mythology of a person in symbols. In my usual drawings i tend to freestyle all kinds of different influences into one image, like a mind map. For the windows i was using more of a symbolic language. In a way the windows are more like a drawing i would do for a newspaper. Also all the colour is a new thing for me, its made me bring more colour into my other drawings.

DD: Pop culture is a significant feature in many of your works, is that something that just happened or do you consciously want that present in your work?
Neal Fox:
I like to feed whatever is inspiring me at the time into my drawings, connecting and juxtaposing all kinds of elements from history and culture and mythology to make something new. There are images and events from pop culture that you can use as a language because they register easily with people. We get saturated with images and they've become the landscape we inhabit, a google world. There's a quote from William Burroughs on one of the windows, 'There is no line between the 'real world' and the world of myth and symbol'. I'm still trying to make sense of what i'm doing really but the interesting thing is trying to work it out.

DD: Tell us a little bit about Le Gun and what stuff you have planned for that.
Neal Fox:
We recently brought out the 5th issue of Le Gun after a couple of years break. We've been making it for about six or seven years now, since we met at the RCA. It can be hard to keep the motivation going because we do it for the love not the money, we generally lose money on it. Maybe we should go paint balling or something. Lately we've been concentrating on doing exhibitions as a core group of artists: me, Robert Rubbish, Chris Bianchi, Steph Von Reiswitz and Bill Bragg. We just did a show in Brussels, London and Berlin, an installation of an entirely hand drawn room based around the contents of George Melly's briefcase. In november we are doing a show at Galerie Suzanne Tarasieve in Paris. Part of it will be a retrospective of a forgotten Parisian artist whose work we discovered recently.

DD: Which artist/s do you admire and why?
Neal Fox:
I like very visceral people who grab you by the guts, but also make you think, people like Hieronymus Bosch, Robert Crumb, Albrecht Durer, Raymond Pettibon, George Grosz, Grayson Perry, Otto Dix, the Chapman brothers, Grunewald, James Unsworth, H C Westermann, Sarah Lucas, Wolfe Von Lenkiewitz. A lot of art thats around at the moment seems a bit wishy washy and Scandinavian.

DD: What other projects are you currently working on?
Neal Fox:
I'm making drawings inspired by the ideas of J.G Ballard. I want to make a theme park of the mind, kind of a psychopathological theme park with rides based around the Marquis De Sade, George Orwell, Freud, Jung, Kafka, the Manson family, the atom bomb, the holocaust, the death of reality, stuff like that. That should keep me going for a while.

Neal Fox, 7 July-10 August, Daniel Blau Gallery, 51 Hoxton square, London, N1 6PB

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