‘You can write a play and call it a comedy, but if theatregoers don’t laugh there’s no arguing with them.’ This sentence from one of the online articles of The Guardian (June 2006) about modern art is so true and so relevant today. It is because any form of art has always been about the response of the public; their love and admiration, their outrage, their passion about a specific piece, their preference to unconventional and innovative approach to art by an artist. Once people are expressing their honest and pure emotions they fuel desire for more – they want to be kept stimulated, intoxicated and entertained. This is what Teddy M.’s work did to me and to many others, including celebrities such as Lindsay Lohan, Ed Sheeran and Charlotte Casiraghi as well as many high profile personalities, so I wanted to meet and talk with Teddy M. about his work.
How would you describe your art work? Take a look, what does it communicate to you? I like what someone said recently… “His confident command of colour and imagery stimulates and excites the viewer, awakening and arousing their sense of desire. It is provocative. I’ve heard men and women say his work turns them on”
How did it all begin? Have you always been creating art or was it at some point in your life that you decided to express yourself and comment on today’s reality? As a child I was always creative both musically and artistically. I was put off in my teens by a very negative art teacher and then found myself again much later in life when I needed a form of therapy to deal with a particular scenario. I actually found out today that my haunted student house in Chalford is now owned by Damien Hirst and one of his studios sits behind the property. Hopefully, a good Omen?! From first putting paint to canvas, it was just 12 months before I was selected by a prominent gallery in Belgravia, London. It wasn’t luck, it was because I worked hard and was persistent, ignoring any negative comments and believing art would be my full-time career. Before this, I had a professional career with a respected commercial property company in Mayfair, London and had run my own business.
Is your artwork actually a comment on today’s reality and culture, or is it an expression of your artistic vision through use of colours, textures, objects and words? Current culture is clearly represented as I’m living in the here and now, referencing popular brands and ideas. However, everything is pure at source, it just falls out of my mind onto canvas and then I enjoy watching how others react to it. Explosions of colour and bold imagery give me a feeling of sunshine, happiness and love, a lust for life, a life of lust.
Where does your inspiration come from? The first painting I recall that grabbed my attention was as a child, it’s was David Hockney’s “A Bigger Splash”. I loved it and would spend hours staring at it imagining myself in the sunshine, by the pool, living a carefree life, it was a great piece of escapism for me as my father had died suddenly a few years previously. In the world of Old Masters, it has to be Matisse for his use of colour and shape, particularly hit cut-outs and then there is the street art culture of 1980’s New York, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring and John Crash Matos. To work with John creating the guitar for Ed Sheeran was one of those ‘pinch yourself’ moments, a guy who collaborated with Warhol and who headlined with Basquiat and Haring is now collaborating with me too… Nuts. Crash is a Legend and yet so modest and quiet. He should be selling for millions like his friends and contemporaries.
What techniques do you use when creating your work? When I started out I didn’t use brushes, I used palette knives to apply the acrylic. I liked the rough and ready finish and depth of texture. My first studio was a large yet unheated barn in a most beautiful location but, when it came to winter, I was wrapped up like an Eskimo and would paint until I couldn’t feel my fingers. Needless to say the paint took days to dry if at all, so I had to think of another medium and was inspired by the man whose painting first turned me on to art, David Hockey. He had started using an iPad, so I moved into this medium too. Today I create many works on my iPad and then project them to canvas to apply the paint. So I have no limit as to where or when I can create.
You have created artwork of celebrities such as Joan Collins, Eric Clapton; for Ed Sheeran, Lindsay Lohan and with connections to big brands such as Ferrari and Rolex. I understand that each piece of art is completely different, but would you be able to say which, for example, was the most challenging, fun, or, perhaps, you were most conscientious about? Were there any obstacles on the way? What is the most memorable moment, perhaps? The most challenging was Eric’s portrait. I’m a guitar player and he’s my guitar hero, he’s also a perfectionist and he’s then going to see my work and be asked to approve it, so that was definitely very unnerving. It was made a little easier because I was asked to work with a photo Eric had used before. I kept the design clean and simple choosing to focus on the man behind the guitar hero status, creating a portrait you would look into and hopefully see the man and his soul. The choice of colours reflects his passion for Ferrari and the subtle star symbolism makes reference to his humble persona and modesty despite his amazing achievements.
It seems that your artwork is getting more and more recognition amongst celebrities and the public, but, however, there has been an instance where daughter of princess of Monaco, Charlotte Casiraghi was not happy about your artwork at all. In 1977 Sex Pistols used the image of the British Queen on the cover of their single ‘God Save the Queen’, which, at that time, was highly controversial. Do you think that reaction of the royal court in Monaco after you have created artwork with the image of princes Charlotte Casiraghi was too overactive, especially these days? Do you think you have crossed the line by using her image in your artwork? Charlotte Casiraghi really disappointed me with her outrageous reaction to what was considered by those who saw it to be a flattering and respectful portrait. I offered it to her as a gift and suggested that she could even auction it to benefit a charity of her choice. For her to then immediately instruct lawyers to seek to have the work banned from public view was totally overreactive. Her lawyer blasted me with a catalogue of inaccuracies that you’d never expect from a royal lawyer and I was quick to correct them. They then backed off. Charlotte’s visual beauty, much like her Mothers’s, can never be denied, I would just like to think she was misguided by over-protective advisors rather than personally seeking to threaten my career. Maybe one day I can ask her in person, I always seem to be just one person away from someone I’d like to meet.
You have been called by Dylan Jones of the British GQ as “The Artist’s Artist” and had a full page feature in the magazine about your work. How would you comment on this cool title and what did Dylan Jones exactly mean by it? I bought a copy of GQ the day it was published and was sitting in my car in the underground carpark beneath Hyde Park. As I was thumbing through looking for a tiny mention in the corner of a page I was suddenly hit with it, “BOOM!” there it was, a full page for Teddy M. “The Artist’s Artist” mmm… out of context it sounds a very grandiose title however, truth is that Ed Sheeran is an artist and by creating his guitar, I became his artist… the “Artist’s Artist”. I’d be deluded if I thought it meant anything more significant. What did Dylan mean by it? most probably the same.
Dylan Jones requested your artwork to be hang in his office as the only artwork to be hang there. It must be a seal of approval for your artwork and great visibility for your name as an artist? Did he chose the artwork himself or was it chosen by you? Dylan saw my painting titled “Yum Yum” on my Instagram and wanted to buy it. However, this piece is not for sale, it was my first female-form painting and has sentimental value to me, so instead, I loaned it to him. As a ‘Thank you’ he then said he’d spread the word and use it as a backdrop when he photographs the A-Listers who pass through his office. There is a Yum Yum 2 available which is very similar but, Dylan said he couldn’t afford it!
It might sound as an unusual or, perhaps, strange question, but why do you think your artwork appealed to the chief editor of GQ? Why has it drawn his attention? Honestly? No idea. When I was a teenager I would imagine myself being featured in GQ, though unsure as to how or why. So maybe the power of positive thinking got me to this point? Dylan is a tastemaker, a man who gets to see more than most, he could have any other artists work in his office yet he chose mine… so all I can say is that it must mean I’m cool… At least to him!
Where can people see your artwork and where have you exhibited so far? My website (teddym.com) is the best place for a comprehensive tour inside the world of Teddy M. I will have a dozen works on display in Manhattan, NYC later this year and into Spring 2016 and I’ve previously shown work in galleries in London, New York and LA. My 2013 exhibition at the largest official Ferrari showroom in Europe was a ‘sold out’ event. I have absolutely loved Ferrari since my childhood, so to see my work surrounded by these beautiful works of automotive art and to appeal to their owners was amazing. Fiat/Ferrari heir Lapo Elkann has recently endorsed my work on his Instagram and I also have an ongoing association with an official Ferrari dealer where work they have commissioned can be seen in their showroom and all their clients receive a Birthday card designed by me too.
Is there any project you are currently working on? I’m creating over a dozen artworks to go on permanent display in Chelsea, New York City for the Retail Design Collective event 2-4 December 2015 and then beyond into Spring 2016. This is in collaboration with Universal Display, a British company supplying over 80% of the retail fashion business with mannequins. They have selected artworks from my fashion collection and will be creating a series of ‘pop art’ themed mannequins to go on display. Having a dedicated gallery space in Manhattan will also be a fantastic opportunity to raise the profile of my work in New York and I already have some interesting names wishing to come along and meet me.
What would be the ultimate dream for Teddy M’s work? How about seeing “Yum Yum” in the permanent collection of MoMA and other works in Oscar Neimeyer’s stunning Museum of Art in Rio, Brazil and maybe something in the Tate Modern in London but, the greatest success is to be able to enjoy success during one’s own lifetime… so I’ve still got plenty of work to do!
Thank you Teddy and all the best for the future.
Teddy M. www.teddym.com