Transgressive. Michael Keenan, one of the curators of studio1.1 in London described my work as ‘alarming’ and ‘transgressive’. It was good to hear his feedback. After too much time at art school, I realised there was no profit (cultural or pecuniary) in doing what I call ‘good boy art’.

Michael Keenan Transgressive studio1.1 gallery alan dedman
Michael Keenan

My dad showed me how to participate in the World through drawing, creating exciting things like ….. tractors! Art became a way of coping with the lonely bleakness of the Fens. I wasn’t allowed to play football with the lads in the village, lest I ‘got up to mischief’.

Behaving well in my room meant dad continued listening to classical music unbothered, approving of my latest scribbles and stories when it suited him. Seeking approval from authority figures for my art became a way of life.

Alan dedman learning to draw with his dad Transgressive
Learning to draw with my dad

At primary school the myth emerged that I was ‘good at art’ – developing into a straitjacket of identity. I was expected to do well at competitions, but inevitably screwed them up by trying too hard.

the maths thing alan dedman kids at tilney primary school
Tilney St. Lawrence County Primary School

On one occasion we were made to do self-portraits. I received praise from Carter-Farter the headmaster, because mine was the only face that didn’t look stupidly happy. Blue eyes, broad smiles with pure white teeth, lovely neat hair – was how the rest portrayed themselves. Alan Dedman painted himself looking dishevelled, grey, queasy and uncertain. Carter-Farter praised my honesty.

The Dedman family on Weston pier 1963
The Dedman family on Weston pier in 1963

My dad exuded an air of post-war idealism, much in line with the received english of John Reith’s BBC. Housewife’s Choice etc. I had hair with a parting, short back and sides. Coiffured by Eddie Towler in King’s Lynn, who also served the royal family at Sandringham.

Good school reports pleased my father, but one evening when he tried to force me to eat luke-warm bubble and squeak fried in lard, I retaliated by shitting in his wellies transgressive!

photo of wellington boots for norcat

I grew to hate authority. It seemed art was my only sanctuary, but because my father had a lot to do with parcelling me off to art school, it’s been difficult to let go of seeking approval (from anyone but myself) in the process of making art.

Olwyn Bowey RA once said to me: ‘Never paint to the market. Only paint and draw that which you like and are interested in’. I took her advice. But the real problem lay with identifying that which I like and am interested in. Other than booze, sex and generally taking the piss.

photo of alan dedman at the royal academy schools
Alan Dedman outside ‘the famous blue door’ at the Royal Academy Schools

‘Pleasing the gods’ at art school meant another type of conformity. ‘Success’ requires students to strike the right poses and lick the right arses. A modicum of ‘talent’ helps. But if you ain’t into posing and sucking haemorrhoids …..

At the Royal Academy Schools I learned the rules of academic painting before the whole anachronistic enterprise went down the pan and Eliza Bonham-Carter decided to ‘turn the tanker around’.

Alan Dedman with an M60 machine gun weapon of choice picture
Chew on this …..

Drawings like The Gymnast are a wonderful expression of ‘fuck-you-ness’. Purchased by a French couple in the noughties, The Gymnast rebels against conforming to a line and the horrid neatness of ‘colouring in’.

drawing called the gymnast by alan dedman
The Gymnast, drawn at Fentiman Road in 1986

The drawing is an unruly tangle of coloured lines, scrawled violently during the hot Summer of 1986 when I was working in a pub and Tony from St. Martins was murdered by the Stockwell Strangler – The Gymnast is about disobeying the dictates of linear description.

Old boys from Bondway Hostel in a pub Transgressive
Bondway boys, taking snuff and drinking beer

The shirt I wore to the opening of ‘This Year’s Model ’24 part II’ at studio1.1 gallery is nicely transgressive. Produced with care by Mark Baker from GYCAD, it looks like a floral print. Observed closely, forms assert themselves from within a pattern. Raising eyebrows in the ‘Blue Velvet’ county of North Somerset, like camouflage, it’s prurience went unnoticed on the bus from Vauxhall to Liverpool Street.

Alan Dedman being transgressive in his 'Where's Willy?' shirt.
Transgressive apparel

‘Bums & mad dogs’ is another example of Alan Dedman making a transgressive statement. Re-visiting an aspect of boyhood lets me savour the atmosphere of late 1960s Norfolk and the ugliness of military operations in Vietnam. Using a real M60 machine gun, straight out of that particular conflict, I continue to transgress in works like ‘Me and my M60’.

Mad dog painting on steel by alan dedman
Mad dog by Alan Dedman from ‘Bums & mad dogs’

I consider it an achievement to have had my YouTube video: ‘Smoking cures Coronavirus’ by David Cockney, taken down. Typifying the erosion of freedom allowed through ‘internet morality’, political correctness and American blandness. Heaven forbid they (the Doodles) should ever understand irony, or attribute people with the intelligence to do so themselves.

David Cockney smoking a cigarette
David Cockney says smoking cures Coronavirus

When I painted a mask on my face during Covid restrictions and ‘wore it’ whilst shopping, it was fascinating to see people’s reactions (or not) as I transgressed against the authority of government, media and big pharma. A bit like ‘Miss Sifting & Winnowing’ (Vicki Gabriner) in 1967, without the cops.

If we are going to be responsible for our own health, freedom and destiny, the straitjacket of conformity needs to be discarded. Transgress, just like Mahatma Gandhi. Bend the rules. Ask ‘Why?’

Alan Dedman Haute Couture Mask
Alan Dedman Haute Couture Mask for shopping

You can see examples of Alan Dedman’s artworks, currently on show and for sale in ‘This Year’s Model ’24 part II’ at studio1.1 gallery in Shoreditch, until April the 28th, 2024.   

The attitudes expressed through artworks and performances by Alan Dedman are not necessarily those of studio1.1, London. 

Photo’s by: Casey Moore, Alan Dedman, Chris Dee and Anna