As Maddox embarks on its first exhibition in the north of England with the inimitable British-American artist Russell Young, we take a closer look at some of the highlights of his show ‘Dreamland’.
Opening at the Overfinch Showroom in Cheshire on 25 November before arriving at our new London gallery space in Mayfair later this month, the show reveals a new focus on British icons - faces that will be very familiar to clients and friends of Maddox - alongside heroes and heroines from the golden age of Hollywood. Join us as we explore how Russell Young captures the person beneath the persona through a series of new works that will be making their debut in Cheshire, mixing paints for each new protagonist using his unique form of alchemy.
Ever since her first, provocative shoot appeared in The Face magazine in the 1990s, the professional life of British supermodel Kate Moss has played out in front of the lens. Yet she has also succeeded in keeping her private life almost entirely under wraps, shaping her own narrative and forging her own path in a notoriously cutthroat industry. Russell loves a rebel, and it is Kate’s defiant nature, and her refusal to conform, that draws him to her.
In Kate Moss Diptych, set to be unveiled for the first time in Cheshire, a diamond-dusted portrait of Kate from her earliest years of modelling is depicted in duplicate, in a particular shade of blue the artist has named “Foxy Blue”. “I love repetition, it works so well with screenprinting, which crackles with a brittle energy when you are applying the paint,” says Russell. “Working with a master printer and six assistants, all of whom are master printers too, we worked for 10 days straight to perfect this image. We started out with a white background, but I soon realised that I had pictured Kate emerging from a darker background. This was one of the hardest to get right, but the result is so powerful.”
In Russell’s new series of British icons, Mick Jagger gives a glimpse of the legendary rockstar he was on the cusp of becoming. Originally shot by the late, great photographer Terry O’Neill, Russell’s depiction of Jagger digs beneath the Rolling Stones frontman’s reputation as a swaggering, modern-day Adonis, highlighting how beneath his fur-swathed, rock ‘n’ roll exterior lies a vulnerable, emotional person whom few get to see.
Using a specific colour of paint he created for this work called “Heaven Blue”, named after a Rolling Stones track, Russell collects pigments from all over the world to mix his paints. “For a decade, I have been going to see a man in Florence who owns a shop that is the oldest art shop in the world,” he says. “Michelangelo would certainly have gone there. Working with him in the basement, he shows me new pigments that would be impossible to replicate today.”
The biggest and most influential music act to ever emerge from Britain, The Beatles are the subject of Russell’s Beatlemania - another previously unseen work that will be revealed in Cheshire for the first time. Featuring Paul, George and John during the recording of their first hit single and album, Please Please Me, at Abbey Road Studios in London in 1963, it captures the close, collaborative relationship between the three band members, before the quarrels and disharmony set in.
The colour created by Russell for this work is named “Love White”, which could reference the lyrics of any number of Beatles hits. “I have a sense of humour that is rooted in the North of England, and I like to keep people guessing. Shot at Abbey Road by the wonderful Terry O’Neill, this was one of the first photo shoots of The Beatles, and it’s still one of the best,” he says.
Depicting a young Elvis, shot in 1960 with his soulful eyes looking straight to camera, Elvis Heartbreak Hotel features a brand-new colour for Russell, which the artist has named “Bruised Pink”. Elvis is a very personal icon for the artist. When Russell first heard his music, it blew his mind, and he works closely with the Elvis estate to find images that show a little more of the man behind the legend.
“Within the range of pinks I use, I never mix the same one twice,” he says. “This pink contains pigment from the cochineal beetle, which I sourced while visiting Peru with my daughter. It just feels like a pink that hurts.”
In Russell’s latest treatment of Brigitte Bardot - a protagonist he has returned to frequently in his works - the French actress is pictured in Spain in 1971, on the set of the Western Les Pétroleuses. Drawn to Bardot from a young age, the fact that beneath her femme fatale image lies a strong personality and outspokenness when it came to the abuse of animals has always amazed Russell: “Did you know she was on the cover of Vogue when she was 15 years old? I have such admiration for her untameable spirit. The fact that she now fights for animal rights is yet another reason why she is such an icon.”
This particular colour has been named by the artist as “Desert Sky Blue”. “I like to take my alchemy to different places,” he says. “I mixed this colour at 29 Palms Inn in the Mojave Desert. I call my colours ‘magnificent colours’ because they have such depth and luminosity to them. They are going to look spectacular beneath England’s grey skies.”
Among the most powerful portraits of the guitar legend Jimi Hendrix, this iconic image of Jimi Hendrix was taken in 1967. Looking confidently to camera, hands on hips and dressed in a military jacket, the portrait reveals the quiet, thoughtful character behind the wild, extroverted persona he played on stage.
Russell has a very personal connection to this work. The first record he ever owned was Hendrix’s Purple Haze, and when he was a child, his father took him to the Isle of Wight festival to see him perform. That moment has stayed with him all his life. “Sometimes, I like to be a little contrary with the names of my colours,” he says. “Black Eagle White shouldn’t work, but it works perfectly for Hendrix.”