Thursday, 7 February 2013

Gee Vaucher

Untitled gouache, 1992

Gee Vaucher is a visual artist who was born in 1945 in Dagenham, East London.

Her work with Anarcho-punk band Crass was seminal to the 'protest art' of the 1980s. Vaucher has always seen her work as a tool for social change. In her collection of early works (1960-1997) Crass Art and Other Pre Post-Modernist Monsters, Dagenham, East London. Vaucher can be seen to have expressed her strong anarcho-pacifist and feminist views in her paintings and collage. Vaucher also uses surrealist styles and methods.

Untitled gouache, 1981

Andy Capper, Vice: Can you give me a bit of background on why you became an artist?

Well, it’s the usual old thing really—when you’re a kid into art and you don’t give it up and keep doing it.

With your experience of the art world, did you see a change when the likes of Charles Saatchi came in and commercialised art?

Well, it wasn’t so much the commercialisation of art, it’s more, “Here go the bastards again.” It’s a bit like taking a young band and making them into a commodity, making them stars, and when you’re that young you can’t handle it. They dangle a big carrot in front of you with fame on one side and money on the other, and the minute you step out of that they drop you like a ton of bricks. That happened to a lot of people from Goldsmiths. Saatchi bought up a whole year and then dropped the lot. I think a lot of really good artists got fucked over. Young people see art as a means of being a star now. You cannot sell your soul, and I think Saatchi bought a lot of souls. That’s not acceptable. OK, a couple of people have come out of it well but a lot have fallen by the wayside. It’s very hard to make a living off your work. I’ve been very fortunate all my life, I’ve made money off my work but I don’t have any expectations. As long as I’ve got my fucking studio and I can get in there with some materials, then that’s great. And if I haven’t got any material I’ll go out into the street and find some, for fuck’s sake.

Untitled gouache, 1980

I've seen a lot of imagery that has been taken from what I've done. But I think that's great, I don't mind that. 'Cause that's what art's about anyway. Art's about robbery, and using it your own way. I've sort of lost contact with the punk music that's going on. What I have heard is like 1970's, 1980's, it doesn't seem to have moved much. But then again, any great music movement, that's what you get, isn't it? I mean, you've got loads of heavy metal bands coming out all the time, and loads of rock and roll. Now you get loads of punk bands, and there's been a set rhythm and a set way. I don't mean that unfairly, but I'm sure there's great stuff out there. But I've sort of lost contact with that, having had to shut myself in the studio and be private and work alone. 

Soldier, 2006

Somewhat predictably, Vaucher is difficult to pin down regarding a description or overall summation of her style of art. Wildly distrustful of any hegemonic or hierarchical art 'movements' or categories, the general default epiphet used to describe Vaucher is a 'political artist'. But such a term, she maintains, is tautology: "All art is 'political', all aesthetic is 'political'. How do you draw the line? I used to do paintings that were pontillist, abstract. I used to try it all, y'know, to see what all of it was all about.

"Everything is to do with art. My work has always been about the psychology of action, or being – the way people go about things, or the way they solve problems – or the way they add to them because of the way they've tried to solve a problem.

"I've never thought that way," says Vaucher, incredulous at the very idea. She likens her logical thinking to a basic task such as making a cup of tea if she's thirsty – and the steps she must take in order to end up with one. "How can I solve this problem with the little that I might have?"

This basic ideology emphasises Vaucher's practical attitude to art. Her approach underscores the DIY ethic that would later become synonymous with 1960s counterculture and the hippies, then later with Crass and anarcho-punk. It's also an artistic psychology that has a wider bearing on her life as well as her work. "It's all about sensitivity, it's all about truth, honesty, understanding the foundation of the problem. How far do you go back? Do you just stem the wound with a plaster or do you go back further and see what's creating it? It's the same with your health. It's holistic. Because life is holistic isn't it? You can't just take one little bit. Everything to me is so linked. You have to step back and see where it all comes from… it's unending."
Alex Burrows


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