Influential musician and artist John Foxx follows Robert Forster and Lloyd Cole as seminal underground artists who have been invited to Adelaide to discuss their work by the Hawke EU Centre. But Foxx’s visit is a tad different, as his arrival will coincide with an exhibition of his celebrated art.
Foxx was the singer and driving force behind experimental electronic and glam- and Kraut-rock-influenced band Ultravox! (called the “Velvet Underground of my generation” by Duran Duran’s John Taylor). Foxx quit the band to go solo before Ultravox! achieved mainstream success in the early 80s with the hit Vienna. With Ultravox!, and as a solo artist, Foxx’s art rock and electronic fusion inspired everyone from 80s new wavers to turn of the millennium electro and techno producers. Along the way, he worked with peers such as Brain Eno and Gary Numan and released landmark singles such as Underpass and Europe After the Rain, which is also the name of the exhibition which will show at the Kerry Packer Civil Gallery from Wednesday, July 13 to Friday, August 5.This is the first time his work has been exhibited in Australia. In the mid-80s, Foxx ventured into graphic design, designing book covers for Salman Rushdie (The Moor’s Last Sigh) and Anthony Burgess (A Dead Man in Deptford). Now, he is an artist of note as his work, which combines images from different photographs (including classic art with modern objects), was displayed at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. The Hawke EU Centre’s director, Professor Anthony Elliott, will discuss Foxx’s career with the musician and artist. Elliott believes Foxx is a kind of contemporary version of the Belgian surrealist Rene Magritte. “Foxx’s work – his photos, paintings, sculptures – coolly reckons into itself what people disown or displace of their own identities,” Elliott says. “His projects seem to involve exploring the relations between identity and memory, and in the process discerning a future which would be otherwise. Foxx’s extraordinary confrontation with the history of classical aesthetics through the lens of the digital is captivating.”
John Foxx, Through Gardens Overgrown (2016)
Though many musicians have held exhibitions and are talented artists in their own right, not many have made the transition from musician to artist as successfully as Foxx. Does Elliott believe there is a connection between his musical work and his visual art? “Absolutely. His central theme of introversion, introspection and inwardness – what he calls ‘the quiet man’ – pervades both his music and art. You’re right in what you say: David Bowie painted, and so occasionally does Paul McCartney – but it’s hard to see any discernible connection to their musical output and projects. Not so Foxx. I’ve often thought Foxx’s artworks are literal translations of his songs, the music captured on canvas.” Elliott will host a discussion with Foxx on Wednesday, July 27, which will include an ambient piano performance by Foxx. In the past, the Hawke Centre has hosted musicians such as Robert Forster (Go-Betweens) and Lloyd Cole (Lloyd Cole and the Commotions). Elliott believes there is much to ask the influential musician and artist. “I want to ask about his early forays into electronics – working with Brian Eno and Conny Plank. To ask about Ultravox!, and how he handled their subsequent rise to fame. And really eager to find out how he now works with so many other artists, from Gary Numan to The Cocteau Twins to The Belbury Circle.” Europe After the Rain: Exhibition by John Foxx Kerry Packer Civic Gallery, Hawke Building Level 3, UniSA City West Campus, 55 North Terrace Wednesday, July 13 to Friday, August 5 The Quiet Man: An Evening with John Foxx Bradley Forum, Hawke Building Level 5, City West Campus Wednesday, July 27, 7pm-8.30pm Cost: $20 unisa.edu.au