They say you should never meet your heroes…but what happens when those heroes turn out to be everything you hoped they would be and more?
This is exactly what has happened for Jana Nicole – a contemporary collage artist, whose ongoing ‘Portraits of Self’ series, sees her get under the skin of some of the most iconic performers of our time.
We’re delighted to announce that the second piece in Jana Nicole’s coveted series is available now, exclusively at Enter Gallery. Portraits of Self: Joe Strummer – takes us into the life and times of the rocker, providing a personal glimpse into the man behind the moniker, the ‘Punk Rock Warlord’.
In today’s blog, we’re chatting to Nicole about what inspired her latest piece, and getting the inside scoop on the stories behind the elements that make up the portrait.
A Beautiful Mind
Let’s be honest, we’d all jump at the chance to get to know our heroes a little better - to learn what made them into the person we admire today, to understand what people, places and events made the biggest impressions on their lives. It was this desire to understand brilliant creative minds that inspired Nicole’s series. She reveals:
“I’m so interested in people who’ve created something beautiful. You wonder how they get there and what are they thinking. That’s what I endeavour to capture in these portraits – the person behind the persona.”
“I respect anyone who can capture the soul of another through their eyes, but I’m no oil painter. I make collages. There is so much to these people and I wanted to be able to capture them in my own way – which is via collage.”
Pick and Mix
When someone has lived a life as exciting as Joe Strummer, or Norman Cook (the subject of the first piece in the series), and they have so many memories and moments to choose from, we were curious as to how Jana identifies what to include, and where she starts. She reveals:
“The process is a bit like dating while you’re learning about the person. I start by sending them a questionnaire featuring basic questions like star sign, what kind of art they like and dislike, what their favourite colours are. Once I’ve got those basic details, I dig a little deeper – do they have a tattoo? A favourite toy? Next, I start gathering images. It’s like a puzzle, and I’m slowly putting it together to create the final piece.”
While Jana was able to work in person with Norman Cook, Strummer sadly passed away in 2002, so it was Lucinda – Joe’s wife, and his right-hand man, the fabulously-named, Pockets who were both instrumental in helping Jana to understand Strummer, and who welcomed her into their home, and as Jana reveals – their archive.
What used to be Strummer’s studio is now jam-packed full of memorabilia – everything from guitars, typewriters, and his selection of lighters (that Strummer loved to decorate) to cassettes, clothes and concert memorabilia fill the archive. Look at little closer, and all these items make an appearance in Nicole’s portrait.
Welcome to Strummerville
The eagle-eyed amongst you will spot that this exclusive new piece has been released to coincide with Glastonbury Festival – which is making its hotly-anticipated return after a two-year hiatus, and is celebrating its 50th birthday.
If you’re a regular on Worthy Farm, you’ll know that Strummerville is a regular feature, but do you know the history of how it came to be one of the most popular areas at the festival? The truth is…it was all down to Strummer. Nicole tells us:
“The area that is now Strummerville is where Joe used to have his open fire. It was one of the only open fires at Glastonbury, and it was where Joe used to go. Everyone was welcome. He felt that the fire made people equal. It was a level playing field where everyone would talk to everyone.”
“When Joe passed, Glastonbury wanted to keep the momentum and spirit of that open fire alive and that’s why they created Strummerville – in that area they keep the fire burning 24 hours a day, give new bands a chance to premier on a small stage, and people the chance to meet or reminisce while gazing into the flames.”
This campfire makes an appearance in Nicole’s piece, just behind Strummer’s shoulder. Nicole chose the fire to represent the place where Strummer was at his happiest – sat around an open fire, chatting with anyone that happened to pass on through.
All that is sacred
At the top of the piece is a stone circle that Strummer had recreated in the garden so he always had the perfect place for a campfire. In another nod to Glastonbury, on the fourth stone circle from the left, Nicole has included the CasBar – the appropriately-named bar from Strummerville.
Also portrayed on the stones are Lucinda, Pockets, director and close friend, Julien Temple, and Keith Allen.
“You have to really look closely – but the stone circle represents the people that Joe really cared about and the people at Glastonbury.”
In fact, the piece is packed full of references to the people who knew and loved Joe and vice versa. For example, there’s a poster for a fun fair - the place where Strummer first set eyes on Lucinda. There’s also a pair of aviator sunglasses in the piece, which Lucinda’s reflection can be seen in if you look closely. At the top of the collage, within the constellation of stars, are the star sign symbols of Lucinda, Strummer’s ex-wife Gabby, and his three daughters.
What makes the piece so wonderful is that you spot something different with every look, whether that’s Strummer’s South Park character, the helmet he was gifted when he performed a benefit concert for fire fighters on strike, or the bumper of a red Cadillac that lives in the woods behind his house.
Aside from providing us with a glimpse at the mementos that Strummer held dear, what does Nicole hope people take from her ‘Portraits’ series. She reveals:
“I hope these portraits capture how wonderful these people are. I also hope those looking at the pieces find something that they connect with – maybe it’ll bring back a memory, perhaps of a certain concert, record, or time at Glastonbury when you didn’t realise the person sat opposite you around the fire was a rock star. I want it to remind people of the shared experiences that make us human.”
Snap up Jana Nicole’s Portrait of Self: Joe Strummer here.