Wipe the slate clean

Hannah Booth talks to punk pioneer Jamie Reid, who may have moved on from Sex Pistols graphics, but is still as outspoken as ever

‘Wallpaper is the new rock ‘n’ roll,’ expounds Steve Lowe, founder of one of London’s most interesting independent galleries, the Aquarium. That’s a moot point (although Timorous Beasties’ pornographic manga wallcoverings at this month’s 100% Design is fairly risqué), but when it’s designed by Jamie Reid, it’s probably a safe assumption to make.

Reid, of course, is rock ‘n’ roll – or, more specifically, punk. It was he who designed the Sex Pistols’ most iconic album cover, God Save The Queen, pioneering a cut-and-paste aesthetic. The repeat patterns papered on the Aquarium’s walls are a collage of old images, such as his French Revolution motif, alongside new ones, including a large ‘V’ with the cut-out words ‘Fuck Forever’. It’s what you expect from Reid.

But the walls are just a backdrop to the real, unexpected stars of the show – a series of abstract paintings and screen-prints on slates, in bright acrylic paints. Reid’s been working with slate for about ten years, inspired by his travels to Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and the pieces reflect his fascination with Celtic culture.

The pieces feature bright primary colours alongside splashes of gold – some reminiscent of Jackson Pollock, others nodding to Howard Hodgkin or Patrick Heron. The contrast between the newsprint on the walls and the slates is stark.

Does Reid think people will be surprised by the contrast in his work? ‘It depends where they’re coming from,’ he says. ‘My so-called different styles are really quite similar. The punk work and my paintings share a DIY attitude – nothing is precious, it’s all very practical. I only get stereotyped in this country – it’s less of a problem abroad.’

He’s fascinated by creating spaces, from hotel rooms (he designed the Magic Room at Brighton’s Hotel Pellirocco) to exhibition spaces that ‘stimulate people and that people can use’. He tells me he’d love to design a hospital or an office, and how he’s just spent two years working with young kids in Liverpool in a warehouse exhibition space, allowing them to experiment with art and ‘chill out’. He’s used slate in interiors before, at the Strong Room recording studios, where he stumbled on the material’s ‘incredible acoustic qualities’ and sound-proofing properties.

But there’s still lots of Reid’s early ‘rebel chic’ work, as Lowe describes it, on show, much of it for sale. There are limited edition prints of his original, rejected, sleeve for God Save The Queen with swastikas in front of her eyes (the Nazi iconography was removed for the final cover).

The original artwork is currently for sale at Simon Finch Rare Books for £40 000. Does this horrify Reid? ‘Not really,’ he says. ‘What is it worth? How do you put a price on it? I’ve earned it; I’ve been working hard for 40 years. And it’s a lot better that any of this Brit Art shite.’

The prints and slates are at ‘much more affordable prices’, he says. Jamie Reid, the socially minded, democratic, still slightly anarchic, interior designer – it’s got a good ring to it.

Slated by Jamie Reid opens tomorrow and runs until 9 October at the Aquarium Gallery, 10 Woburn Walk, London WC1

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