The 1980s. Having left college in 1982 I found my self basically unemployed, living in a squat in Kings Cross with a 2.2 Arts degree that had given me a great foundation in almost every form of graphics and media, but that was no match for the more specialised skills of those graduates emerging from The big art schools. I had done film, photography, video, sound, typography, graphic design and a bit of almost every different form of printing.
Thatcher had been in power for a couple of years, but so far the benefits system was relatively easy on graduates – I went swimming for free in the council pool up the Caledonian Road, flashing my UB40 like an American Express card, and took full use of a scheme by which I could join any evening or part time class for £1. Piecing together my own art course I joined etching, life drawing and history of art classes at Working Men’s College in Camden, screen printing at the Mary Ward Centre and lithography at the City Lit. Technically you couldn’t do more than a limited number of hours a day, but I managed to squeeze in extra afternoons screen printing and when I became a voluntary etching teacher could often use the press out of hours.
The history of art course sent me off in all sorts of directions and I found myself particularly drawn to Mondrian, De Stijl and threw in a bit of Russian constructivism and the English vorticists for good luck.
Channel 4 had started in 1982 and its blocky flatly coloured logo seemed to start a trend in graphic design across the country ending up in the greys, and pastel colours that would become the look of the 1980s
In 1983 after several months attempting rather unsuccessful forays into the bric a brac markets of Camden, trundling our brightly painted pushchair and tea chest through the back streets of Mornington Crescent at ungodly hours of the morning every weekend, Felicity (my partner at the time) hit on the idea of collaborating to screen print postcards using the same deep turquoise as the cloth we covered our stall with, and the same colour we had mixed up to paint our tea chest. This with the addition of some vivid orange, red and yellow shapes would become our brand and would identify our stall full of overpriced crap from everybody else’s!
I screen printed several hundred of them and to our surprise people started buying them instead of our objet d’art. We sat down with felt tip pens and spent all night producing dozens of designs which we edited down into 8 designs each which I screen printed and which we named NAFF Cards. These in turn paid for a slowly expanding screen printing studio (The bedroom of my Kings cross flat) which at its peak boasted four 30in x 40in fine mesh screens, which could be clamped to hinges onto the top of an A0 plan chest , a drying rack (a chain stretched from corner to corner threaded with picture wire and bulldog clips) capable of drying 100 A1 prints at a time, and an old 1950 kitchen larder which held several dozen mixed pots of Sericol ink in old cleaned out Whiskas cans sealed with tinfoil and marked with a dab of the resident colour.
We started building on our halves of the postcard designs to produce large screen printed posters and limited edition prints using up to 18 colours – Felicity tended toward more organic Matisse like shapes, I went sharp and angular. Arrow of God had started out as a painting, but became much cleaner and sharper as a screen print. The title was borrowed from the Chinua Achebe book of the same name (an “A’level set book) and in turn was a key picture in the exhibition “Things Fall Apart” ( the poem by WB Yeats who was also on the “A’level reading list, and again a Chinua Achebe book)