Monday, 6 June 2016

An outsider doing his own thing

From an article by Ben Walters in Run-Riot online magazine:
"Andrew Logan occupies a strange position, in many ways an outsider doing his own thing, but not without institutional or establishment credentials. Educated at Oxford, his work has been shown in the US, Mexico, Singapore, Australia and Russia, and acquired by collectors as diverse as the National Portrait Gallery, the Queen Mother, Bono and Larry Hagman.

His studio also contains an array of outlandishly spectacular thrones and a spanking new set of crown jewels encrusted with brightly-coloured numerals. These are fruits of Logan’s other magnificent obsession: as well as making art, he is the creator of the Alternative Miss World, the sensational pageant conceived in 1972 that has become an institution.

At once a grand-scale celebration of polymorphously perverse creativity and a gazette of the most exciting spirits animating London’s underground scene, it’s equal parts Dada, Warhol, Pepys and Versailles, and was inspired as much by Crufts as the original Miss World tournament.
His partner Michael Davis, an architect and craftsman who created the their home, studio, and Andrew's Museum of Sculpture in North Wales, near Powys Castle, says: “He’s like the Pied Piper. He just seems to attract interesting people.”

Indeed. Andrew's many friends over the years include Derek Jarman, Duggie Fields, Zandra Rhodes, Fenella Fielding, Brian Eno, Jenny Runacre and Molly Parkin; participants and/or judges in the aforementioned Alternative Miss World (which is about to celebrate its 44th year) have encompassed a huge swathe of the "great, the good, and the notorious" - Divine, Leigh Bowery, Angie Bowie, Steve Strange, Lionel Bart, Rula Lenska, David Hockney, Amanda Barrie, Sian Phillips, Richard O'Brien, Janet Street-Porter, Marilyn, Jill Bennett, Muriel Gray, Judy Blame, Zoe Wanamaker, Norman Parkinson, Julian Clary, Marie Helvin, John Maybury, Suggs, Joan Bakewell, Little Nell, Pamela Stephenson, Simon Callow, David Bailey, Naim Attallah, Sam Taylor Wood, David McAlmont, Anita Roddick, Rachel Auburn, Grayson Perry, Le Gateau Chocolat, Trindy, Michael Cashman, Maggi Hambling, Jonny Woo, Nick Rhodes, Amy Lamé and Ruby Wax among them.

Trained originally in architecture, not design, nevertheless Mr Logan always instinctively veered towards the avant garde - one of his earliest commissions was from Barbara Hulanicki to create oversized flowers for her legendary 70s boutique Biba's rooftop garden. He was an original part of the "Butler's Wharf" collective of artists who (almost-but-not-quite) became known as London's answer to Warhol's "Factory", sharing creative space with Mr Jarman - and it was at their creative warehouse that Malcolm McLaren and Viv Westwood threw a ball in 1976 at which the Sex Pistols (notoriously) played an impromptu set, putting the wheels in motion for the Punk "explosion".

And so it was with all these admirable qualities in mind that John-John and I ventured to the launch event for the Stoke Newington Literary Festival on Friday to attend what promised to be a "spectacular" - a celebration of the life of a man who has variously been described as "the ultimate maximalist", "a true original" and "effortlessly loopy". The audience was full of stylishly-clad, terribly-arty types, those who actually accompanied Mr Logan on his "journey" and those who have been inspired by the man. We were overjoyed to bump into our friend and fellow former "Blitz Kid"/Alternative Miss World aficionado Miss Eve Ferret.

Speaking of "effortlessly loopy", the event was opened in the campest of all possible camp manners by none other than the delightful (and benignly oblivious) Miss Fenella Fielding! She was helped to the stage by Mr Logan himself (who, despite being the evening's subject, appeared to do an awful lot of the "ushering" and stage-management duties), sang his praises, then looked confused (as a helluva lot of the evening's guest were, as there were no obvious clues what came next), sat down in one of the on-stage comfy chairs, but was then gently steered off again - and still managed to get the most tumultuous applause!

Libby Purves, broadcaster and all-round fab lady, was our host for the (first half, as it turned out, of the) evening - a series of personal reminisces and panegyrics to the man who inspired so many artistic types - including milliner Piers Atkinson, legendary punk photographer Sheila Rock and and one of the original "Blitz Kids" Scarlett Cannon.

Unfortunately, there appeared to be very little in the way of stage management (Miss Purves was more "lost" than one might have expected her to be, probably because no-one had given her a proper "steer"), and technical problems with both sound and visuals dogged the proceedings the whole evening.

Just before the half-time break, Miss Purves announced she had some pressing family commitments and had to leave prematurely. And so, our friend the ever-willing Eve Ferret stepped up to the mark, ran off to her car to retrieve her peignoir, and gathered herself to host part two...

Ad-libbing superbly, Eve introduced the second set, which was intended, in addition to more anecdotes from Andrew's friends and family (including his sister Janet Slee), to highlight what was purported to be a parade of Alternative Miss World contestants, past and present. It was opened by an appearance by "Oberon" and "Titania", who were then supposed to act as hosts for the "catwalk". Unfortunately, nobody had given anyone a microphone. So the audience could see lots of people in fantastical costumes parading up and down but had no idea what was what, who was whom, or why they appeared.

The grand finale - Andrew Logan's Alphabet - was a mass of colours, as all the "catwalkers" and guests assembled in their bejewelled splendour behind him. The spectacle was somewhat undermined by the fact that whoever the venue had got to be "in charge" of the projector had decided that a blank blue screen with a message "no power source detected" was an appropriate back-drop for such a grand tableau. Shoddy, we thought.

Regardless of the technical annoyances, I'm very glad we went. Andrew Logan is, and always will be, an absolute icon.

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