Joined: 16 Aug 2003
Location: High Coniscliffe
|Post subject: Horace Panter/Penny Lane Gallery Exhibition Press release
ROBOTS, SAINTS AND
PENNY LANE GALLERY, LIVERPOOL
1st-31st March 2012
Who knew that the bassist of The
Specials is also a trained artist? Horace
Panter, aka Sir Horace Gentleman, has
recently exposed his work to public
scrutiny by having his first solo exhibition
at The Strand Gallery in London in
November 2011. From 1st-31st March
2012 Panter will be exhibiting at Penny
Lane Gallery in Liverpool. This newest
edition to galleries in Liverpool boasts a
prestigious location as far as musical
history is concerned so it seems entirely
appropriate that it should host an
exhibition by the bassist of a much-loved
Panter graduated in 1975 with a BA in
Fine Art from Coventryʼs Lanchester
Polytechnic. Although the majority of his
career has been defined by his involvement in music, art has always been a key focus in
his life. His art reflects influences ranging from Pop Art to iconic forms of religious and
political propaganda, resulting in highly stylised, colourful, ultra-modern images. On the
one hand, you can expect to see the classically-drawn robots of 1950s science-fiction
juxtaposed with a naive painterly style reminiscent of Henri Rousseau, on the other, a
combination of painting and collage which express his life-long love of Blues music.
In his paintings, Panter says he is attempting to create his own unique form of
iconography, admitting he is fascinated with orthodox icons, seeing them as art with a
purpose: “You want your crops to grow you pray to an image ... thatʼs purposeful”. While
acknowledging their functionality as venerated objects, he simultaneously recognises their
beauty as cultural artefacts. The subjects of his paintings, often, lone figures against stark
backgrounds, beg the question “who and what is important enough to take centre-stage, to
be idolised”? Perhaps this is a comment on his own experience as “an ordinary chap” (his
words) taking the stage in front of thousands of fans. It is as if he has translated what
must surely be a surreal experience for a performer, thrust into the limelight, into his
paintings. In the tradition of Pop Art, the artist himself has been ʻelevated from the
PENNY LANE GALLERY
38 Penny Lane, Liverpool, L18 1DG
t: 0151 733 4355 m: 07845 144845
The Beginning: Horace Panter at Art College
Though always intrigued and influenced by the visual arts, Horaceʼs formal education
started with a one year course in art at Northampton College in 1971. In 1975, he
graduated with a degree in Fine Art from Coventryʼs Lanchester Polytechnic, now Coventry
University. While confirming his skill and passion for painting, his time at Lancaster
Polytechnic introduced him, in his second year, to Jerry Dammers. Together they formed
what would become one of the defining bands of the decade, The Specials.
Studying Fine Art in the late 70ʼs, Horace was immersed in art theory and conceptualism.
He explored and interpreted the art of ancient civilisations, in particular the art of the
Mayans. Horaceʼs influences though, even then, were eclectic, ranging from the minimal
sculptures of Donald Judd and Robert Morris to the post-abstract-expressionist paintings
of Kenneth Noland, Morris Louis and Robyn Denny.
Life in The Specials
After leaving university and pursuing his musical career as bassist in The Specials, Horace
continued to look for new influences. It was while in New York with the band that he came
across the work of Joseph Cornell.
“Iʼd never heard of him, but I was in New York when his exhibition was at the MOMART. It
was incredible. I bought the catalogue and have been fascinated by him ever since.”
While touring with the band, Horace became a collector of rock and roll paraphernalia.
Appropriating the artistʼs methods, he began to create his own boxes, giving most away to
friends but leaving at least half a dozen in the attic of his first home. This was at the time a
hobby, but one which speaks volumes about his true passion for the visual arts.
Touring with The Specials was a full-time job, giving him little time to create his own works
of art. However his extensive travels did allow him to explore the worldʼs greatest
museums and art galleries. Horace visited masterpieces he had previously seen only in
books, from Kenneth Nolandʼs vast horizon paintings at La Brea County Museum, LA, to
Picassoʼs legendary ʻGuernica,ʼ set behind its bullet-proof screen in Madrid.
As he and Jerry Dammers created the graphics for the 2-Tone label, Horace began
painting works related to ʻThe Blues.ʼ Drawing on the history of the African-American
journey from slavery to freedom, he used signs and symbols to articulate that struggle,
while, at the same time, celebrating the musical expression of the Blues. These artworks
marked the beginning of Horaceʼs fascination with icons and talismans and they contained
a theme that, no doubt, he would return to.
Return to Visual Arts
Following the demise of the original Specials in 1982 and his subsequent success in The
States with Dave Wakelingʼs and Ranking Rogerʼs follow-on band from The Beat, General
Public, Horace returned to Coventry where his wife had opened a punk shop called Nerve.
As part of the venture, Horace experimented with silk-screens, dying cloth, tie-dying and
stencilling – skills that would once again fuel his desire to create works of art.
In the 90s, Horace continued to play music, but turned also to teaching. During his ten
years as Head of Art in a Coventry school for pupils with autism, his art room became
known informally as ʻthe drop-in centreʼ for pupils who werenʼt coping in their other classes
- a perfect example of art as therapy. Horace looked for forms of art accessible to his
students and would often refer to Henri Rousseauʼs naive paintings of animals and jungle
scenes. Rousseauʼs influence is most evident in Horaceʼs recent ʻRobot at the Beachʼ
From his early studies of the Mayan and African-American mythologies, Horace soon
began to formalise his philosophy of iconography, seeing it as ʻart with a purposeʼ. His
engagement with iconography, however, does not take a religious form; traditional
iconography only serves as a starting point for his paintings.
Rather, appropriating the concepts and forms of iconography, Horace subverts them with
the aim of producing a contemporary neo-iconography. The robot series reflects a youthful
fascination with the 1950s futuristic fantasy genre and how that particular rendition of the
robot has become iconic. He also adheres to the Pop-Art ideal of ʻelevating the
mundaneʼ (Warhol) so his subjects include those people who are often overlooked in
society: the street-sweeper, the post-card seller, or the ubiquitous soldiers and security
personnel on the streets of Beijing.
The exhibition Robots, Saints and (Extra)Ordinary People is testament to a long-standing
preoccupation with symbols, icons and figures surrounding us in daily life, and, most
pertinently, what they truly stand for. All of the exhibited works will be available to
purchase, both as originals, silk-screen and limited edition fine-art prints.
Horace graduated in 1975 with a degree in Fine Art from Coventryʼs Lanchester
Polytechnic. Although the majority of his career has been defined by his involvement in
music, art has always been a key focus in his life.
After spending his formative years in Kettering, Northamptonshire, Horace started a oneyear
foundation course at Northampton College in 1971, which is where he first met many
influential musicians and learnt to play the bass guitar. In 1972 he started studying Fine Art
at Coventryʼs Lanchester Polytechnic, now known as Coventry University. In his second
year, he met Jerry Dammers and they formed The Specials.
Following the break-up of The Specials in 1981 Horace went on to play with General
Public and then with various incarnations of The Specials/The Beat in the 90ʼs. However,
The Specials reformed for a 30th anniversary tour in 2009 and this meant Horace had to
leave his teaching job. He is still a full-time member of the band; they are currently in the
middle of their 2011 European tour, to be followed by their UK tour. He has also written an
autobiography, Skaʼd for Life, published by Macmillan.
For high-resolution images of any of Horace Panterʼs work, please contact:
01926 710160 | 075 57 234000
ANGER IS AN ENERGY