He is best known for strumming the beat to ska hits ‘A Message to You, Rudy’ and ‘Too Much Too Young’, but almost 40 years on from The Specials’ debut single, bass player Horace Panter is revelling in a creative sideline that has landed him a special commission.
A boyhood fan of The Beano, the comic’s creators have turned to the musician-cum-artist to produce a one-off collection of paintings that celebtrate The Beano’s iconic cast of mischievous characters for the publication’s 80-year anniversary.
The result is a pop art fusion of the comic with famous paintings that have been re-imagined using methods true to the artists whose work Panter has recreated, namely Andy Warhol, David Hockney and Roy Lichtenstein, and from this Friday, 21 of his works will go on display and will be available to buy at the RedHouse Originals Gallery in Harrogate.
Coventry-born Panter told The Yorkshire Post of an affinity with The Beano that generations of children can relate to.
“It was always there. An auntie always bought you an annual or your mates had them. My generation grew up with Dennis the Menace, Minnie the Minx and Lord Snooty. They were anti-heroes for the under-12s. When punk rock came along it seemed like The Beano set to music.”
Six months before he was commissioned, having initially linked up with Beano Studios to produce a painting to mark the launch of a collaborative pair of Beano-themed boots with Dr Martens in Camden, London, he bought a Beano 75th anniversary print by one of his artistic heroes, Sir Peter Blake, from RedHouse.
The commission proved to be another nostaligc indulgence.
“It was a great excuse to go round all the Oxfam shops in Coventry in search of copies of the comics and annuals,”he said.
His work on the paintings began this time last year.
“My favourite art is 60s pop art so I sat around and had this idea, what would happen if Minnie the Minx and Dennis the Menace sat for Warhol portraits? That led to me thinking what would happen if Lietchenstein used The Beano to inform his work? So I did a Lord Snooty as done by Lietchenstein.
“Then I thought what other great painting do I really like? What would happen if Dennis and Gnasher dived into Hockney’s LA swimming pool?
“It was irreverent, poked fun but paid homage to my favourite artists and the characters.”
Panter dutifully painted in the same style as the original artists.
“I did a Billy Whizz painting based on Lietchenstein’s Wham but mine was a Whoosh with Billy Whizz speeding along. I did all the dots by hand, just as Lietchenstein did. Last Christmas I spent three weeks painting dots. It’s been a real labour of love.”
On the reaction he hopes to get in Harrogate, he said: “I would love people to smile and go ‘yes, I remember The Beano’ and get carried away with waves of nostalgia.”
The exhibition runs until December 15. It eatures paintings going on display for the first time, including Warhol-inspired portraits of Dennis the Menace.
THE SPECIALS PREPARE TO RELEASE NEW ALBUM - AT LAST
It is 38 years since The Specials released their last studio album More Specials, but on February 1, 2019 their new album Encore is released.
“The record has been well received so far. It’s the first time (vocalist) Lynval (Golding) and I have been in a studio together since 1981,” said Panter, ahead of the band’s 2019 tour which includes dates in Scarborough, Leeds, York and Sheffield.
On the difference between music and art, he said: “As a bass player I need to work as part of a team but with art it’s very much a solo album. My work stands and falls by my efforts alone.
“Playing music, you know instantly if it’s going well but with a painting, it’s a lot more of a slow burn.”