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“Most of my work deals with two aspects – fame and shame” – Russell Young
Russell Young is a British Pop artist best known for his large-scale silk-screen paintings of popular icons. His works are a statement on the dark side of fame and the glamorous excesses of popular culture.
Young was born in Yorkshire in 1959. Adopted as a baby, he had an unsettled and isolated childhood. He studied photography, film and graphic design at Chester Art College where he studied under Jack Straw, whom he attributes as one of the few geniuses he has ever met and the person who “showed him out of the darkness and brutality of Northern England”. He later moved on to London, where he struggled to make a living. After months on the streets he was taken on as an assistant by photographer Christos Raftopoulos, who mentored him and who helped him to forge his own identity as a commercial photographer. Young developed his own projects and began to make a name for himself shooting live gigs of bands such as Bauhaus, REM and The Smiths, which led to multiple commissions from magazines and record companies. His sleeve imagery for George Michael’s ‘Faith’ album, which sold over 25 million copies, brought even more high-profile portrait commissions for artists such as Morrissey, Björk, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Diana Ross.
In 1991 he moved to Los Angeles and established himself in the music industry, going on to direct over 100 videos for MTV. Despite his success, he became increasingly disenchanted by the corporate lack of creativity in the industry and in 2000 travelled to Tuscany for a month to rediscover himself. Realising he really wanted to pursue a career as a fine artist, he relocated to New York and rented a studio in Brooklyn. His first solo exhibition, ‘Pig Portraits’, which depicted raw celebrity mug shots, was a complete about turn from the airbrushed images he had sought to achieve in his music videos. The series brought him to the attention of the art world and launched his career as a fine artist.
In 2005 he returned to California with his family and held his ‘Fame + Shame’ series with the Art of Elysium, which documented the fallout from the cultural excesses of the past.
Young’s life was upturned in 2010 when he became gravely ill and nearly died from complications arising from the H1N1 virus. Following a long and arduous recovery period, he emerged to produce the first in his ‘Helter Skelter’ series, exploring the nature of trauma and its effects on both the individual and collective cultural psyche.
Russell Young has become one of the most collected and sought-after artists in the world today. His work has been shown all over the world in public and commercial galleries and is held in such highly-acclaimed private collections as those of Balthazar Getty, Aby Rosen, Barack Obama and Brad Pitt and David Hockney.
Russell Young currently lives and works between Los Angeles and New York with his wife, Finola Hughes.
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