Coral Brookes takes a look at The Special’s bassist new visual art book, and finds a highly illuminating and affecting synthesis between art and music.
The colourful floral imagery splashed across the cover of ‘ART’ sings an energy that is familiar to our experiences of listening to the sounds of The Specials. Horace Panter, the bassist of this once revolutionary band, still speaks prolifically to a wide audience with the language of music, but his voice as an artist is one less heard. However, as highlighted in ‘ART’, his newly released book collating a spectrum of his artworks, his artistic practice offers a poignant and exciting body of visual work which speaks in dialogue with their unforgettable sound.
The interlinking relationship between art and music isn’t an alien territory, particularly for bands such as The Specials that were engaged in the Post Punk wave of the 1980’s. Gavin Butt establishes in his talk series ‘Post Punk Then and Now’ how indeed, creative practitioners were not subscribed to a rigid way of working; instead, the artistic process frequently spills over into many interweaving outputs.
Horace Panter’s work, in this beautiful compact 9x9inch book, offers not only an exposure of his artwork, but also takes you on a journey of his varied experiences of the music industry. The book serves as a profound collection that speaks in a visual vocabulary about the unique nature of The Specials as a ‘ska meet punk’ band, concerned with both the musical and the political. Yet the construction of Panter’s works also exposes the unique playful energy that set the band apart.
The book, which Panter describes as a tongue-in-cheek as a ‘Greatest Hits: Volume 1’, begins with his earliest work. His DIY collage style is reminiscent of folk art at the beginning of his career, and translates as shrines to musicians that Panter admires. We see The Ramones, Miles Davis and The Clash. Not only does he show his admiration of the artists in pieces of work that look like journal or sketchbook cuttings ,(maps, blocks of paint, text and photography), but Panter’s collages are also clearly invested in illustrating the personality of the sound itself, tapping into portraiture in the same way the work collectively in ‘ART’ renders the character of Panter’s music. Collage as a mobile process allows movement of components and layering. It speaks volumes in terms of the multiple influences and the creative process that these works are concerned with.
Panter’s later work is bolder and more simplistic in style, heavily influenced by Pop Art. He notes influences from artists such as Sir Peter Blake, Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. Parallels can also be drawn to pop art’s interest in elevations of the simplest of objects, that here are elevated by Panter from the mundane to the affective rendering of his personal history.
The book provides a beautifully rendered dialogue between anecdote and artworks as we become absorbed in the exciting details of Panter’s life and career in this visual autobiography.