Sunday, December 30, 2007

Kevin and Vinnie

I was interested to see this poster on Hackney Road. It's Kevin Mitchell, the undefeated featherweight champion boxer from Dagenham and his younger brother Vinnie. Needless to say they are playacting (with a convincing chill) at the classic attitude David Bailey used in his iconic 60's portrait of the Kray twins. The poster also mimics the movie typography.

I know who Kevin is because I've painted him. In about 2000 I'd seen Harry Borden's photographs of Kevin in the Observer and I was captivated by them. I got in touch with Harry who let me borrow several unpublished pictures and agreed I could use them as the basis for a painting. At the time I'd been painting about the East End for ten years but I was in the death throes of my involvement. I'd got stuck in my interpretation of the landscape and I no longer believed in my red visionary skies. I was becoming mannered and slick. I needed a change of gear and Kevin's image, for want of a better description, so grabbed me that it inspired an entire body of work called London Youth. The exhibition was with my then gallery in Clerkenwell and was the last show I did about East London. Kevin's picture was the centrepiece of the show and he became a kind of summing up of the toughness of the East London landscape, invigorating my East End work for one last gasp.

Kevin Mitchell inspired me at a time when I was losing my artistic faith, and arguably enabled me to start thinking more about people and personal history. This in turn initiated my current childhood exploration and more general concerns with origination.

So I was pleased to see him Krayed-up with his brother beside him. Both handsome chaps capable of damage who no doubt love their Mother. I still think Kevin's image, or the image that he chooses to project to his fans, encapsulates much of East London, or rather what a part of East London means, and for that reason I'll always follow his career. I think culturally Kevin and Vinnie are very important people.