“I’m currently working on two large pieces of collage, “Hot in Herre“ and “Not Waving But Drowning“. “Hot in Herre“ is an update on the nine circles of hell in Dante’s Inferno. It’s fantastically complex, involving hundreds of different elements. It’s also very, very dark!“. Coming from an artist that turned Steve McQueen into a Guantanamo inmate for a modern re-interpretation of the classic “The Great Escape“ poster, who's already done amazingly detailed collages that consist of several hundred pieces, you know that you’ll count the days until these works get finally released. After working in the business for twenty years, British artist and graphic designer Tim Fishlock recently reinvented himself as Oddly Head in order to release more grim, brave, and thought-provoking art detached from his visual past. His first two series “Hollywoodland“ and “Hollywood“ are cynical payoffs with La-La Land that just love to destroy any kind of (nostalgic) sentiment and sheen you might have still carried.
Tim, you've been working in the fields of graphic design and visual arts for quite some time now... I was wondering what made you decide to reinvent yourself as Oddly Head in early 2014? Is Oddly Head here to stay or do you already feel that this moniker will have a rather bounded half-life, so to speak?
I’d been having a shitty time professionally for a couple of years. Lots of really exciting projects died on the vine and I’d begun to get pretty down about where I was going with my work. Early in 2014 I began thinking seriously about what it was I wanted to do for the rest of my life. What it was I wanted to create. And what it was I wanted to say, if anything at all. I filled a lot of notebooks with ideas in a short period of time. That was definitely a kind of therapy for me. Then I began to think about making something. The Hollywood series was the first thing I did. That gave me the confidence to go further and to indulge my natural cynicism and dark sense of humour. I was reading a lot and watching some amazing documentaries – particularly by Adam Curtis – on the website thoughtmaybe.com.
It became clear early on that this new direction wouldn’t sit comfortably on the same website as my other work and so I invented Oddly Head. The alter ego is pretty liberating, actually. And it’s definitely here to stay. This is what I want to be doing when I’m 80.
A lot of your work playfully attacks the symbols of La-La Land... do you think that American pop culture deserves a general beatdown because of its omnipresence and general over-assessment or do you foster a kind of love/hate relationship with it like the majority of us?
Well, American pop culture is all Western mainstream culture, isn’t it? We’re all enthralled by it, always have been. I love it and hate it in equal measure. Hollywood is all about product, middle-aged white men selling their wares, often very cynically. More than ever there’s a paucity of ideas - I reckon 8 of my top ten films were made before 1982 – and if a studio hits gold with something, it’s re-edited, re-packaged and ultimately re-made over and over. Marvel is bringing out a new Spiderman movie in 2017. It’s called - wait for it – Spiderman! You could look at this eternal recycling and rejigging of one iconic character as an interesting exercise in pure pop and of course it was the same with Westerns. It’s always been this way. But the number of original ideas and great artists in film has decreased and the marketplace is definitely more cynical than ever before.
There is another side to mainstream culture though. Sometimes an amazing artist or concept can be so powerful that it can bend a global audience to its will. It can transcend the trash. I think Kendrick Lemar’s new album is testament to that. That’s the first album I’ve heard in years that’s a genuine, emotional journey. It’s refreshing to hear that kind of boldness and risk-taking on a number one album.
Let’s go back again to your “Hollywoodland“ series... did you check for iconic images from the movies you cherished when you were growing up? And did you know right from the start what was missing so you could add this cynical magic touch?
Hollywoodland was a self-initiated project – make ten pieces on this theme in one week. I’d had that “Singin’ In The Rain“ image kicking about for ages and always knew what I’d do with it. It’s the most obvious one, I think. They all came pretty quickly after that. There were a couple of iconic images I desperately wanted to use, like E.T. but it just wouldn’t happen!
The collages you did for your “Hollywood“ series are insanely detailed... how long did you actually work on one piece? And where did you get the source material from?
I’d say each one of those pieces took around 3 weeks each. I get all my material from the internet. I don’t think collage like this would have been possible before the explosion on blogs. I love the two disciplines involved in collage – the research and the arrangement. It’s all hugely time-consuming and thus hugely absorbing.
You’ve recently touched the field of sculpture as well... would you say that this is a form of expression you elaborately want to explore more?
Yes, for sure. I really enjoyed making those pieces. I guess at the moment I’m just shooting for some consistency – both in the medium and the message. Creatively, I’ve always pinged about, getting involved in really disparate projects like making incredibly intricate chandeliers and then spending a year making an app and then publishing other artists’ work with my 50by70 project. All great fun but I think it makes it difficult for people to pigeonhole you. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but it does make it harder to establish yourself and make money.
So, I’m concentrating on the collage at present in an effort to develop a recognizable style. I’m a greenhorn when it comes to the art world but I sense that this is the best way forward for me.