‘Binnie Boy’ – is what we used to call Alex Binnie in the 1980s. With his glabrous pate, piercings and Art school swagger this young man was a curiosity amongst South London wildlife. We worked together briefly. I recall his pale Celtic eyes and boyish love of the absurd. We lived in the same neighbourhood. Back then he went to evening classes in anthroplogy; we continue to share an interest in yoga, Art and the human form. Alex Binnie paintings – this is a first hand account by Alan Dedman of some refreshing and colourful artworks.
Alex studied Fine Art (film and performance) at Cardiff before moving to London. During the 80s Binnie Boy set out to become a tattoo artist, working from a squat in Bloomsbury, eventually getting premises in Clerkenwell. He made good progress until they put the rent up (London style) so he moved to the South coast – Hastings and then Brighton where he still works as a tattoo artist.
To stimulate himself during the Covid curfew, Alex did some painting. His friend and associate Abby Mosseri hosted a small show of Binnie’s artworks in her shop – The Makers Gallery 71 High Street, Lewes, East Sussex. Lewes is a fine town – currently affected by the ingress of London money compared to the way it was in the 60s and 70s but still worth a visit. Mr. B said, ‘It’s all about the opening evenings for me, really’ (which couldn’t take place because of Covid) – but at least his work got to be in the public eye for a while, which matters.
Set within The Makers Gallery of Lewes – how do Alex Binnie paintings hang, alongside jewellery and other hand made things? Mr. B used a tasteful wooden frame to contain nine of his curious offspring. Colours (in Binnie’s work) complement the achromatic features of wood and metal artefacts surrounding them. Maybe look to Joseph Cornell and take the box /containment thing further? Prints in the shop window are a more effective way of getting to the public.
Choosing what to study, Alex thought painting and sculpture were boring in comparison to film and performance, but he may have changed his mind now. We agreed the whole fetish of ‘a painting’ can get a bit tedious, however:- a critical look at Binnie Boy’s work shows the beginnings of something I hope he might take further. Art is a way of combating ennui, like a long game of chess against oneself – the very least it can do is see off Corona blues and here we have an example of someone’s positivism, working against what has been a potentially hopeless situation.
Alex Binnie paintings are of heads, in the form of acrylic works and reduction lino prints. Highly colourful, what do they articulate? Semi anatomical depictions ‘of a personality’ morph into (sort of) portraits which don’t seek to arrest the viewer’s attention, they are merely in the room with you, which is nice. I think they could all be facets of Alex Binnie’s own personality.
It’s a start, but where should Mr. High Art himself take it? Alex’s forte is the business of penetrating skin to leave a permanent, indelible mark. The whole process requires precision and definition of form. Painting (in the Western tradition) substantiates ocular phenomena linked to visual perception. I think he should get away from the need to pin it all down and investigate how a vision can form as it changes and percolates into being (trad painting).
I think Alex might look further than Warhol-esque passivity, perhaps re-consider Clement Greenberg’s comments about surface and paint? Do it again and next time (Covid cobblers willing) have a PV and trumpet the whole thing about more.
Nine prints were sold – which is an achievement. Typically, the Art School stance on sales is: ‘it doesn’t matter’ – but it does! People who run Art Schools rarely mediate Art through the market place – too busy dispensing ‘wisdom’. As such, they have little experience both practically and emotionally of doing so. The sales bit is vital to understanding yourself and what it means to let go of your work, when someone else concurs with your vision – with your High Art man!
As for Mr. Binnie’s lifelong opus – his own self as living Artwork – that will require another blog.