FEATURE: Erixsen Fake Nudes 2018 – My Inspiration | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Current art exhibition/action by cutting edge art photographer Jon-Pall Erixsen (Nighttrain Erixsen) will be running throughout Summer 2018 in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, taken out of the gallery with images put amongst Newcastle’s gig posters. We found out more from the artist himself about what inspired this unique and thought-provoking images.

I take surreal and abstract photographs, you could call them nude portraits or erotic or fetish photography, then I usually give them Carry On film or Bond girl double entendre names. Sometimes the titles take longer to come up with than the photograph concepts. The way I do it may seem like a high art concept but I think the earliest influence on what I am doing is the old-fashioned saucy seaside postcard. When I was a kid my mother would go into the shop at the seaside resort to buy a bucket and spade for me and I would always find the carousel with the saucy postcards on and have to be dragged away from it, I never got any of the jokes, because I was about five-years-old and to me they must have seemed completely abstract, but still very interesting.

Fake Nudes is the current project I am working on. I took a few of my black-and-white pictures and incorporated them into laser-printed posters and fliers for nonexistent gigs, club nights, record releases, stuff like that, and then put them up around town amongst regular posters. I first tried it last year with just social media and no press and it got a really good reception around Newcastle where I rolled it out. Via Facebook I invited the photorealist painter Narbi Price to Fake Nudes 2017 and he invited over a hundred people from the art world, which gave me a major push forward, Narbi has also given me a lot of good advice. The whole fake news thing was really big at the time and the whole idea behind it was, do you really know what you are looking at? To take erotic or sexualised imagery and subliminally put it out there under another flag, what does that imprint on people, what do they take away from that, in our society do they even notice? It’s a public exhibition but you aren’t aware that you are at the exhibition.

I arrived at Fake Nudes by going quite far from where I had originally come from. My work had made its way into galleries and I stepped back and thought that there were a lot of people who would never think of going into an art gallery who would not get to see what I had done. When I first took photographs, it was for punk fanzines, which were handmade and photocopied, there was no internet then. So I made an artzine and photocopied it, it went down quite well  but distribution was difficult and the double-sided printing and folding to put the zines together was a chore. I wasn’t keen to do another zine and that is where the idea for the Fake Nudes posters came from, and it takes the decision to pick up the zine away from the viewer.

Photocopy has been a great medium for me with the artzines and posters. I am very tight on controlling the use of my work as people have trusted me with their image, I never show them uncensored online in a way that the full image could be freely downloaded. Photocopying the original black-and-white prints creates a first-generation copy, not as defined as the original print, if someone made a second-generation copy the definition would go completely. When I do conventional exhibitions, and for the artzine, I like to put interesting pieces of text beside the images, and the Fake Nudes posters have also been a good vehicle for this, making up band names, a bit of word play.

The models in the photographs are also an important part of what I do. Lots of them, particularly in the early days, were just normal people, completely random amateurs rather than professional models. Some were librarians, some were lunatics, and there were very few in between.

I have been lucky in terms of being inspired by the people around me. From quite early on I was lucky in having a group of patrons and hearing their take on things and socialising with them was a great environment to grow in as an artist. The actor and cosplayer Simon Craig, who you will see a lot in the next series of Game of Thrones, he has quite a few of my prints and has even made some of the props I use. Northern Ireland documentary photographer Davy Ellis has also been there since the early days, and he actually knows about cameras as I am from more an art college background, setting up what is in front of the camera is more my thing.

The models in the photographs are also an important part of what I do. Lots of them, particularly in the early days, were just normal people, completely random amateurs rather than professional models. Some were librarians, some were lunatics, and there were very few in between. Some of them had amazing stories, some of them I did not even know their names, they just got in touch with me through other people. They just wanted to do it once, be on a gallery wall somewhere where nobody knew who they were, and I had worked out how to put that safety net in place for them. Later, after the interested amateurs, came people who modelled for a living, and they brought something new. Camera club models, who hire out to photographers, have a long history that goes right back to people like Tura Satana and Bettie Page, back when camera clubs began in the 1940s to get round laws on pornography production. People still make a living the same way today, and they are right on the edge, in a really liminal group, some at the local level but others at the top of their game like Bobbi Castle, constantly tour the country. I have worked with Talli Lyndsey from her being a camera club model to being one of the top fetishwear models in the UK, and she pretty much followed the same path as Bettie Page did 70 years earlier. 

The photographers who have influenced me the most are probably Weegie, Brassaï and Drtikol. Weegie and Brassaï are quite similar, often seen as counterparts, in that they just went out and captured the interesting shots, only Drtikol actually shot nudes, but he eventually gave up on photography to focus on painting. Expensive SLR cameras, Apple Mac computers, Photoshop, they are all very good, but it isn’t very punk and I am convinced that your memory doesn’t work that way. When he wrote The Satanic Bible, La Vey discussed ECI, Erotic Crystallization Inertia, the point or moment at which your erotic triggers become set in your brain, usually in the formative period of early life. I wanted to make my work like those moments and I am convinced they are more like snapshots taken on the sports camera of the brain than a heavily post-processed image. It just sees and records, the picture is the starting point of the imagination not the end point. Weegee used a camera with one aperture, one speed and the focus fixed at ten feet, his famous advice was “f/8 and be there.”

Erixsen Fake Nudes has images throughout Newcastle this summer.

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