9th December 2019
DUGGIE FIELDS has been an active member of the British art scene for more than five decades. An instantly recognisable figure with his trademark sharp suits, black quiff and cartoon shades, his appearance every bit embodies his post-pop art masterpieces.
The apartment he has rented for the past 50 years is not just his home — it’s a living landscape of his eclectic life and colourful career.
From the giant canvases that hang on the walls and humanised mannequins occupying the rooms to the humorous ‘accidental feature’ made after a roof leak, Duggie sees the art in everything.
He says the flat’s evolution keeps him creative — and his interiors interesting.
‘If you don’t exert yourself over your surroundings then they crash in on you. I have lived with lots of decay over the years with floods and the odd torrential downpour. But even decay creates something new,’ Duggie tells us.
‘When I first moved here I was 23-years-old. It was empty, with bare floorboards — I moved in with nothing and no money and I couldn’t help but personalise the space.’
Duggie moved in with two friends — one of which was Syd Barrett, the co-founder of Pink Floyd. Duggie’s painting of Syd was exhibited at the V&A.
‘I didn’t know then that it was not going to be a temporary space. At one point I felt trapped because I didn’t own it. But I’ve had various landlords down the years, most of whom have shown complete disinterest. Largely I’m left alone, which is how I like it.
‘Now I am extremely grateful. Where would I find anywhere as amazing as this to live? And to work? It has been a wonderful place to paint.’
When you enter the apartment, in a genteel mansion block in London’s Earl’s Court, it’s like walking into one of Duggie’s pop art videos. Little wonder that last year it was recreated for the Glasgow International art biennial. ‘It was very surreal, very Alice In Wonderland,’ he says.
The flat is filled with his eye-catching work — from the double bed coming out of the fireplace and plastic limbs growing in plant pots to pop art swivel chairs (below).
Duggie may be 74, but no one can accuse him of not moving with the times. He has just released a single to address the divisive effect Brexit is having on British society. ‘It’s called Boom. It’s so important now to realise that we need to coexist with people with different views,’ he says.
Apart from the two painted murals in the living room, all walls are white.
‘The paintings add the colour. I love mirrors but I didn’t want to lose wall space for my paintings. So I use mirrors on the backs of every door instead. It allows you to see the room from some rather interesting angles. You don’t know if you are looking through it or at it.
‘The hallway had no view and was slightly claustrophobic so I added mirrors — and now you can see the green trees outside through the windows. ‘You have to constantly freshen up — I have kept the black vinyl floor tiles but that changes, too, depending on what I am painting.
‘I might live amongst my work, but there are things I won’t notice for a long time. I will suddenly see something again, but differently. I go on and off everything — it depends on my emotional state.’
The mannequins are a huge theme of Duggie’s work. His parents owned a shop and he used to hang out with his brother and the other local shop owners’ kids in the storage rooms.
‘When I acquire the mannequins most of them are faceless and sexless, but I add nipples and pubic hair to give them personality.
‘Believe it or not, it used to be so minimal but I’ve been here so long I’ve acquired a lot of things,’ he laughs.
There’s a huge painting of the now-demolished Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre and Duggie is part of the campaign to use the land as a green space. (‘Earl’s Court is the most polluted area in London,’ he says.) Vintage plastic dolls and body parts that randomly pop out of plants pots (below) are from car boot and jumble sales. ‘They have no value but spice the space up. I don’t plan things or want anything to look perfect. They just work.’
The bedroom fireplace serves as the headboard for his bed and there’s a huge painting of his parents, from a photo taken in the 1960s, on the wall.
Paint palettes are another major theme, forming many light fittings.
The breath-taking bathroom took Duggie four days to paint with sponges. ‘Zandra Rhodes had a painting party in the late-1970s and I thought I’d try that in here.’
A mannequin leg holds up the shower over the bath. ‘I love to crowd small spaces and empty out big spaces. Lots of mirrors in here add depth — but also confusion, so you are seeing everything from a different angle.
‘Nothing in my house is of intrinsic value, apart from my work. Everything else is old and repurposed. But when I change it around, paint another canvas or add something that interests me I’ve found in a charity shop, it breathes new life into the place.’
■ Duggie Field’s new single, Boom, is now available to stream via Spotify
This Halloween sees the release of BOOM a new single from influential Conceptual Pop artist Duggie Fields. The track is the precursor to Duggie’s forthcoming long player, So Cool, a collation of his musical works from the last 20 years. The strident art-pop sound takes us on an aural journey riding a Tardis from the renaissance to the future.
The sound. BOOM samples and remixes the Maximalist Manifesto the artist laid out in the early 90s. His painting, poetry/spoken word, film-work and music are populated by figures drawn together to form a pulp universe. The characters in his work may appear familiar, but in name and symbolism they are complex and alien. While he may seem like an artist existing within his own universe, he is still very much an artist of London – as can be seen from his ‘just around the corner’ social media feed.
First impressions. Now in his seventh decade, Duggie Fields is still setting out his stall from the moment you first see him. Peepers dressed in the most far-out of frames. Jeans with smiley-faced knee-caps. Oversized lapel badges on a vintage teddy-boyish drape, a polo neck and leather waistcoat… everything meshing and distinctively Duggie.
From art to music, a journey. Musical connections and artistic leanings mix. Studying architecture and art whilst also working at The Hampstead Record Centre selling vinyl to the influencers of early 60s London (DF would see them go on to become the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd and T. Rex), led to a gradual percolation of musical ideas and thirst for seeking out the new sounds that continued through the eras – going to the second ever Sex Pistols performance being one moment that comes to his mind. As such Duggie’s music can seem to exist outside of time. The strong lines and bold graphic compositions of his artwork feel shockingly modern and this translates seamlessly to the art pop of BOOM. After working with Howie B and Arthur Baker in the late 90s the artist began collaging his musical work with images and posted online video-film shorts to a virtual gallery. This led to a BFI retrospective in 2016 and he has been honing the perfect Duggie Fields experience ever since. Quizzed on how and why he creates, he answers: “I don’t have a clue what I am doing I just enjoy making things. That applies equally to my painting, music and film work.”
The backstory. Born the day the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Duggie grew up in the English countryside in the middle of an army base and began making early recordings by splicing together tape from reel-to-reel recorders. Later, when in London, with his friend Pink Floyd co-founder Syd Barrett, moving into a flat in Earls Court – the same flat that Duggie still resides in today. And that consistency has become king. The home and studio he’s lived in for more than 50 years is very much the epitome of an ART Tardis, being the backdrop for BOOM and all his output; re-created in great detail last year as The Modern Institute contribution to the Glasgow Biennale.
You may have seen Duggie Fields online or dressed to the nines strolling through town, or on the telly quizzed by Mariella Frostrop, or seen his work pop out at you whilst leafing through a vintage ZOOM magazine from the early 70s or Face Magazine from the early 80s for that matter. Maybe snapped at a Pam Hogg fashion show or at Frieze this month? Wherever he goes, he’s consistently creative, constantly there. It’s a continual reduction that has made a potent sauce.
BOOM is out 31st October 2019
Read all about it
Maeg Music Catalogue