B-side is a term borrowed from the 1950s’ world of music. The A-side was the side with the hit, the music that would be heard on the radio. The B-side was the underside, but with music close to the heart of the performer.
Besides painting playing music to myself
In the exhibition B-side, there are about forty portraits of musicians drawn from their photos on the record sleeves. The format of the paintings is square and uniform – 30 by 30 cm. (2 cm. less than the vinyl sleeve). The intimacy of listening to music pervades the painting. The physical contact with the surface of the painting reminds us of how we approach the sleeve of a record: holding it close up, examining the contours of the portrait as if looking at our own face in the mirror, turning it over – anyone who has ever played records is familiar with the process.
This is the way in which we achieve intimacy with something that is popular, anonymous and not ours alone. The embodiment of the personal and private within the general. After all, the image on the sleeve is reproduced again and again and again in millions of copies and subjected to the gaze of millions of pairs of eyes. This particular image is at one and the same time a personal memory that enfolds within itself something almost totally my own and is, at the same time, the product of an endless production line. For a moment I disturb this impossible but inescapable oneness and, almost literally, demand my part.
The collection of portraits in this exhibition are my gang of friends, PJ Harvey, Patty Smith, Jeff Buckley, Beck, Nancy Sinatra, Nick Drake, Marianne Faithful, Johnny Nash, Tim Buckley, Cat Power Stephen Stills and many others. I play Tim Hardin and paint his portrait not only according to the photograph but also in response to the music, the song, the text. The portrait of P. J. contains the sound loop in the studio, the sound of the tape as I drive, the memories attached to the song. The portrait on the canvas – immersed in my listening experiences – is not always identifiable.
Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe” performed by Orly Silberschatz and Avi Baleli Alongside the portraits, as part of the work of the exhibition, I invited Orly Silberschatz and Avi Baleli to video tape a version of Sonny and Cher’s familiar and beloved song. Originally it was an A-side. Compared to the youthfulness, innocence and promise of the original, the version of Silberschatz and Baleli is full of pain. It is the same text invested with another experience, mature, disappointing, and scarred. It promises nothing to anyone, except perhaps loneliness. That is a B-side version.