A Disillusioned Edinburgh with Laurie Vincent

'D I S I L L U S I O N E D'
Runs til August 17th

Being a journalist is sort of difficult. Actually no, being a music journalist is sort of difficult. 

There are just some questions in an interview that need to be asked (Where did you meet? Are you looking forward to the show tonight? What was the magical inspiration of hopes and dreams in the process of creating your life changing album? etc.) and hey, Musicians - we hate them just as much as you do. So now, that I’m in a position to choose my own questions, I try my very best to make a point of not asking the obvious - which again, isn’t easy. But as tricky as that side of journalism can be, the part I find most terrifying is when a musician has a side project. Yup, a side project. 
The term ‘side project’ could be anything, it doesn’t necessarily reflect lesser creative importance, it could be anything from a new solo venture to literal band on the side. A side project to a journalist, is generally when a musician (or any celebrity for that matter) is doing something that may not have received the same recognition had they not been musicians. Harsh, maybe - but sometimes it’s true. And even if their side project is good, it’s not easy to speak to the bassist of QOTSA without asking about QOTSA. Or to chat to Albert Hammond Jr without enquiring about the new Strokes material. Or to sit in front of Robert Plant without shaking him by the shoulders and screaming at him to do something with Page before they both die.. But in spite of my experience in the field in the matter, I’d never been asked to speak to a musician with a side project that wasn’t actually about music. 

On Wednesday morning I stepped into the widely lit Flaubert Gallery, expecting to find some figure standing in the fronted space before me. But I couldn’t see anyone. I couldn’t even see a back door. From the corner of my eye I suddenly noticed the back of a man, cross legged on the floor as he meticulously organised post-card sized paintings in various positions. Before I knew it, the figure had turned round to stand on his feet and make his way toward me with a handshake “Hi” he said with the most quiet of confidence “I’m Laurie.”

Laurie Vincent is 50% of Kent music duo Slaves. I’m not even going to try and describe their genre of music, because there’s currently nothing that matches them to compare to- But why should I take this article as an opportunity to talk about Slaves? All you need to know from this piece that I’m writing is that Laurie is an artist, and as I looked past the spiderweb tattoo which framed the right side of his head ever so nicely, I was faced with walls full of colour and excitement. 

“I named the exhibition after this piece ‘Disillusioned’” Laurie spoke softly in contrast to his bold artwork “I don’t know whether to talk about my art or whether people should just take it as it is,” he mused as we walked toward the painting. On him saying this I realised every work of art in the space was missing something quite vital - placards. Here I stood in a real art gallery and there was no placard to describe his work. “I’ve never put my work in a space before. I don’t make art to sell it, I make it ‘cause I like it.” Laurie spoke honestly as I noticed the small details which made his exhibition so much less pretentious than the others I’ve seen daily in Edinburgh. Whilst thinking this, I had to ask him if he could summarise ‘Disillusioned’ in one sentence for someone who had never witnessed his work before “I’d like it to look like the inside of my mind really. I’m thinking all the time so it’s hard to put into a one word sentence. This is how I feel when I’m looking at the world, disillusioned.” 

It’s exactly that too. It’s obviously illustrated and intricately detailed with messages which leave you looking over his work again and again for something new. Of course, much of his subject are based on his views of the political word, which is where detail comes into it’s strongest of forms. “A lot of them have ‘IN’ written in them. I wrote some before the EU Referendum and I wrote ‘OUT’ when we were out.” Laurie half laughed with a sense of exasperation at the recent political decisions made. Moving toward ‘Disillusioned’ itself (the piece which inspired the entire exhibit) Laurie pointed toward the outline drawing of a gun in the upper left of the painting “That gun is the gun that was used in the Florida killings. The same model. I mean the idea that you can just go and buy a gun in America - I mean that, that’s just non-existent here.” he nodded. A great deal of Laurie’s work are based around events which have happened in recent months. You find yourself surrounded by a catalogue of work so recent the paint still drying, almost. 

Moving us to another one of his paintings ‘Watching The World Burn (Selfie)’ placed his viewpoint of the world in better perspective. “I call this one ‘Watching the World Burn (Selfie)’, this ones a self portrait obviously. I was thinking when real detailed painters do glasses and you can see the reflection. So what could the reflection be?” He mentioned as we looked to the mixed media piece in which he had depicted the earth in orange flames through the reflection of his glasses “It’s that idea that our generation is so caught up in technology that symbolically life is burning around them. And they’d probably be taking a selfie of it.” He nodded, and I couldn’t exactly disagree with him there. “People are falling over in the street and getting beaten up while people are filming or taking photos before they’re helping. It annoys me when people find it quite comedic and stuff when really it’s quite serious.” He almost shrugged as he continued “I’m just trying to comment on it whether people notice it or not. Or is it just me?” 

It’s not difficult to see how much consideration Laurie has put into his subject, but also into his style and pallet. Laurie isn’t exactly new to the art scene, having showcased with Hugh Schulte of band Gengahr in London last year through an intimate gallery and also separately in his local pub. 
“I hosted another exhibition where I live in Newcross, it was almost like a pop up gallery so it was only two days. I had these paintings and didn’t know what to do with them, so I went to the pub and was like ‘Can I show my paintings?’ and he said ‘Yeah’ They were on my walls for two days and then I took them all down.” And here we now stood, in Flaubert Gallery at the direct heart of Stockbridge in all of it’s residential, privileged goodness “This is a real gallery.” he nodded. It was interesting to speak to a man who has headlined a few festivals full of thousands of people, yet still found a sense of awe in a modest gallery space.
I had to ask how he felt talking about his art, in comparison to talking about his music “I want to talk about art because it interests me.. but I think there’s more people talking about music than there are art and that’s why art’s more dangerous.” and in a quiet matter of fact statement added “Because you’re really putting yourself out there.”

As you look to the space he fills with colour and chaos, you leave yourself asking if a background of creative education is an important factor in the display of an exhibition like this one. I read somewhere that Laurie had in fact attended art college at one point in his life and (like myself and many others) dropped out “I did a foundation year of art, I did illustration but I was just using it to print t-shirts and stuff before I dropped out. I’d wanted to be in a band my whole life and art just didn’t seem as thrilling to me when I was younger. I always wanted to play guitar but then after, I realised I really missed it.” 
As we slowly paced the gallery, with latte in hand and Laurie’s can of Irn Bru in his own, I decided to ask the dreaded question “What’s your opinion on higher education in creativity?” and braced myself for what I knew would be an interesting response. 

“I hate education.” He started off straight to the point “People telling you what is good and what is bad, it used to annoy me because I’d be like ‘Who are they to judge?’ and the people teaching you usually aren’t very successful anyway. How can you teach something like this?” There’s this genuinely profound nature in the way he rhetorically asks me and whilst outstretching his hand to the room “I think art’s quite distinctive. Who says that you have to work in a sketchbook? I don’t work in a sketchbook. I doodle. But who’s to say you can’t pick up something and just paint? So there’s that side of it for me. There’s three years you’re spending trying to get a piece of paper that says you’ve got a degree when you could just be doing it.” The words seemed to flow from him, without coming off rehearsed in any way “My whole attitude towards art and artists and music and musicians, any form of creativity - you can’t say anything unless you’re doing it. The minute you’re just doing it, that’s when you are that thing. Whether you’re good or whether anyone thinks you’re good is a different matter.” 

“So, what would you say to any readers that are thinking about going to art college?” I asked, taking a sip of my coffee and staring off into my personal favourite piece ‘Kill, Kill, Kill’ hung on the back wall ever so nicely. 
“I wouldn’t dismiss it,” He admitted “..but I’d say just keep working. You don’t have to work to a brief- You should work to your own brief. I think, don’t listen to people basically. No one can make you successful apart from yourself. You have to listen to yourself.” And for someone with such a young following, I was instantly excited to put his advice in writing. 

As I look back on the many interviews I’ve done in the short space of time I’ve been a journalist and even my beginning paragraph to this article, I’d have to admit that speaking to Laurie about his artwork was one of the easiest and most natural conversations I’ve ever had. There’s nothing forced about him, and not once was I tempted to drop Slaves into the conversation. Why, though? Why was I tempted to ask Albert Hammond Jr about The Strokes on his solo tour but not tempted to ask the Mercury Prize Nominee about the future of Slaves? Well, quite simply - I think Laurie is doing something with so much context and substance that his creative factor as an artist is a separate entity to his music. Laurie’s work as an artist is striking and real, it’s coming from the least pretentious person with some of the most intensive experiences. You might love Slaves or you might hate them, but no matter what you think of them - Who cares? Because this is Laurie Vincent, the artist. Without a side project.

Runs til August 17th at Flaubert Gallery, 74 St Stephen Street, EH3 5AQ
Kristina RossComment