Selected works by Donald Urquhart

Donald Urquhart
Dors

2000

ink on paper

46 x 34 cm

The earliest of these drawings come from a series titled Peroxides on Parole made in 2000 to serve as flyers, posters and wall decorations for ’The Beautiful Bend’, an eclectic and gloriously camp nightclub which the artist co-founded in the early 1990s. Drawn in black ink on the pages of an A3 sketchbook, Dors, Dusty, Jayne and Davis Scowl were originally photocopied, pasted up around the club’s King’s Cross interior, and taken home at the night’s end by anyone who wanted them. The poses of these legendary movie stars in their simple, understated portraits were lifted from single or composite frames of different films in which they appear, carefully chosen by the artist and paused to allow him time to sketch. Dors is a portrait of 1950s sex symbol Diana Dors, who was, in her time, the British equivalent to Marilyn Monroe. “The image is from Diana in Adam and The Ants’s Prince Charming video,” discloses Urquhart. “She was older then, but I tried to make her a bit more glamorous.”

Donald Urquhart
Dusty

2000

ink on paper

46 x 34 cm

The drawings from Urquhart’s Peroxides on Parole series feature famous bombshell blondes: iconic beauties, shrouded in sex-mystique, each one a symbol of tragic celebrity. Diana Dors, in the above drawing, famously quipped on Parkie that blonde sex symbols tend to die young and she had no intention of doing so; she died of cancer only a few years later at the age of 52. Dusty is a portrait of 60s pop songstress Dusty Springfield, whose public image was greatly at odds with her personal life. A devout Catholic and bi-sexual, Springfield was plagued by depression, which led to her often irrational behaviour, substance abuse, and self-harm.

Donald Urquhart
Jayne

2000

ink on paper

46 x 34 cm

Jayne Mansfield was a 1950s movie star and pin-up well known for her appearance in Playboy and her pioneering of the ‘wardrobe malfunction’ as a publicity stunt. Mansfield’s later life was marked by alcoholism and extra-marital affairs; her untimely death in a car accident at the age of 34 became one of the most sensationalised macabre events in celebrity history when images of her decapitated scalp appeared amongst photographs of the automotive wreckage. Urquhart renders her image as a frightful distortion, her face almost skull-like, an awkwardly mounted appendage between her huge hair and bosoms. Urquhart took this image from an old newsreel of Mansfield attending a premiere, and part of the drawing’s disproportion is a reflection of the way a figure’s motions appear warped when put on pause, as well as the high-contrast choppiness of early film. (The other part is because he made the drawing freehand, sitting very close to the TV!)

Donald Urquhart
Davis Scowl

2000

ink on paper

46 x 34 cm

Urquhart’s Davis Scowl presents a portrait of Bette Davis in her role in The Anniversary: a one-eyed, domineering, psychologically twisted mother hell-bent on ruining her childrens’ lives. In doubling the image, Urquhart mirrors Davis’s on-screen character with her real-life persona, as unflatteringly portrayed in a tell-all biography written by her daughter. Throughout his Peroxides on Parole series, Urquhart presents an examination of celebrity culture’s fascination. Executed in black and white, these drawings point to the duplicity of fame and its unattainable ideals. Initially conceived as party advertisements, his portraits become degraded effigies of adoration, his icons’ most personal and very human flaws made property for public circulation.

Donald Urquhart
Squires Palladium

2000

ink on paper

46 x 34 cm

A number of the other drawings were created with special theme nights at the club in mind. Squires Palladium was made for a night based on the colourful life of Dorothy Squires, the rags-to-riches Welsh singer who found fame in the music halls of the 1940s and 50s. She is seen onstage, soaked in the beams of spotlights as roses rain down on her from the audience.

Donald Urquhart
Sari Fly

2000

ink on paper

46 x 34 cm

Sari Fly was one of several produced for a Bollywood-inspired night called ’Lady Blows the Singhs’.

Donald Urquhart
Down in Frisco

2000

ink on paper

46 x 34 cm

Down in Frisco portrays a dazed and dishevelled individual wearing Elsa Schiaparelli’s famous ’’Tear Dress’’ made of a fabric printed with trompe l’oeil rips by Salvador Dali, in a poster for a San Francisco Earthquake night.

Donald Urquhart
Noel Noir (Reindeer)

2000

ink on paper

46 x 34 cm

The Noel Noir (Reindeer) was originally conceived as one of a set of five Christmas cards designed by the artist for sale in the streets of London as part of a theatrical project commissioned by Artangel and performed by a homeless actors’ collective in December 2003. The dark subject matter was provided by one of the artist’s co-workers, who participated in an organized deer cull as a pre-Christmas break.

Donald Urquhart
Kimono Dragon

2000

ink on paper

46 x 34 cm
Donald Urquhart
An Alphabet of Bad Luck, Doom and Horror

2004

Acrylic Paint

8ft x 24ft

An Alphabet of Bad Luck, Doom and Horror is exactly that – a sequence of letters resembling a pull-out from a children’s early learning book, originally painted by the artist over the course of five days in acrylic directly onto a wall at his London gallery for a group show entitled ’The Black Album’. The artist had made no plans or notes prior to starting; the almost comically doom-laden images were in large part a response to a stream of unfortunate personal events that befell the artist while the work was in progress.

Donald Urquhart
A Joan Crawford Alphabet

2007

Arcylic on canvas

215 x 300cm

Taking the form of a beginner’s lexicon detailing the infamy of Mommie Dearest, Donald Urquhart describes his A Joan Crawford Alphabet as, “an obituary in 26 parts.” Labelled with the folly fonts of cabaret posters, Urquhart’s humorously crude drawings illustrate a life that was as famous off-screen as on, entwining Crawford’s iconic film roles with her scandalous personal life to create a portrait of a legend in collective consciousness. In her early career, Crawford became famous for her ‘rags to riches’ characters, and later for more psychologically dark roles. After her death in 1977, Crawford’s ‘true persona’ was revealed in a biography written by her daughter: a damning portrayal of egoism, alcoholism, mental illness, and child abuse. Though Urquhart’s painting looks spontaneous, his process is very labour intensive. Using the smallest brushes available to ensure total control of his lines he addresses each image with the devotion of an obsessive fan.


Articles

DONALD URQUHART ON 'LISTEN TO THE WINE'


You know the kind of things you say when you're drunk? "The Scissor Sisters are the new Frankie Goes To Hollywood"; "I love You"; "I always HATED your piercings."; "Why is my potato gratin not as good as my Mum's?"; "I AM Woody Allen." And this, which came out only last night: "Do you believe in God?" [pause] ~"I certainly do..." [Longer pause] "...otherwise I couldn't possibly be a devil."

Well, 'Listen to the Wine' will I hope provoke much similar pub talk and conversations through which some people may arrive at revelations. A lot will talk nonsense despite everything, and a lot of talk will be "through drink". But listen. Listen to people when they talk after they've had a drink. They might talk rubbish for a bit, and then something brilliant and clear might come out. Maybe a secret, perhaps a truth?

As I write this there are drunks walking and talking past my house. Maybe one of them was you?
'Listen to the Wine' is about alcohol, the glamour and drama, the melancholy, spite, vitriol, humanity, and hilarity. It's about everything and nothing. Alcohol is a massive part of our culture (Britain is the 12th most drinkingest industrialised nation), and has played a major role in the development of the arts. It has ever been thus. I do not seek to explain anything about alcohol nor do I want to sermonise on its evils. I am just showing drawings on a theme of alcohol.

Source: artshole


THE LEGACY OF LEIGH BOWERY BY DONALD URQUHART
The Costumes

Last year I helped Nicola Bowery to catalogue Leigh's costumes in preparation for 'Take a Bowery: The Art and (larger than) Life of Leigh Bowery', the exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, Australia. This involved carefully going through all of Leigh's costumes, listing and describing them, and then photographing them with Gary Carsley, the exhibition's curator. It was exhausting work, especially as the weather was bizarrely hot; lugging bulky and heavy costumes from Nicola's attic and arranging them with their correct accessories, then checking we had managed to photograph them all. "What shoes did he wear with that? Shall we check the Fergus Greer? Which way up does this go?" Often the costumes looked sad and deflated when we put them on the wooden stand, so we would have to pad them out as best we could, and we had to find a wig block to photograph the hoods and headwear on. I managed to charm the man in the local charity shop into lending us one from his window display - a slightly grubby but male polystyrene wig block. Perfect.

You should see some of the costumes, they really are beautifully made, and gorgeously, painstakingly (and otherwise) beaded. I adore the linings he chose: chartreuse, acid green, watermelon, salmon pink, butter-cream, electric blue; and of course even the stains on the clothes provide delight. Some hems are stiff with 'disco mud', that impossible-to-remove filth that you only get on a nightclub floor. I reckon it's a mixture of shoe polish, booze, puke, and chewing gum, but try though you may, you can never completely wash it out of anything.

Source: showstudio.com