September 26, 2012 in Featured
Those of a certain age may remember him as Sir Horace Gentleman, bassist of iconic Ska band The Specials but there’s a lot more to Horace Panter than this. 10 years as a teacher of art to autistic children and an admirable collection of his own distinctive artwork reveals a man not afraid to take his creativity down different avenues.
We managed to grab a short time and a few questions with Horace in what seems to be an extremely busy schedule between musical and artistic events.
You can view and buy Horace’s art work at the Love Art Fair in Milton Keynes 11th-14th October www.theloveartfair.com. Horace will be pleased to personally dedicate work bought at the event.
Q. Some might think that being a member of such an iconic band as The Specials would make it easy to get into the art world and make a name for yourself. What’s the reality?
A. This is very flattering of you but I am not a household name like Ronnie Wood or Bob Dylan. The Specials are known but, outside of their fan base, I’m probably not. In one respect, that’s good as I feel my painting is going to work on its own merit rather than in the ‘celebrity’ bracket. I’ll admit that it’s a good way to get gallery owners initially interested, but in my experience, it’s ultimately the art they’re interested in (or not). Generally speaking, Specials fans don’t buy art. Hey, it’s a jungle out there!
Q. You achieved a Fine Art Degree as a younger man. On reflection, did this formal education help you develop to the level of artwork you produce now? How has the formal process affected you either positively or negatively?
A. The work I am doing now is very different from the work in my graduation show in 1975. Minimalism and Conceptualism carried the swing back then. The Art Language movement had a firm foothold in Coventry in the ‘70s. People would come to college wearing a suit and carrying a portable typewriter!! If you were an object-maker you were considered a lesser human being. Painters were compared to single-celled animals. The grounding in Art History which I seem to have assimilated through a kind of osmosis, rather than from any formal lecture series, has been invaluable. Also, I’m nearly 60, much older than Damien or Tracey.
Q. If you were to write a CV then you would certainly have at least 3 occupations down; Musician, Teacher & Artist. Is there a common thread that runs through these that links them? Why do you think you have chosen these activities to invest much of your life in?
A. It would be good to mention the creative element involved in these professions, and probably some sort of altruism. Back in the day The Specials were concerned with voicing anger about social/political issues, such as racism. I taught kids with autism and thought art was an excellent medium through which they could express themselves and achieve satisfaction. I can’t say that my art is particularly concerned with any sense of altruism but I use some of my art to raise funds for Teenage Cancer Trust (I have just designed their 2012 Christmas card) and other charities. I worry more about money (or lack of it) as I get older, but perhaps that’s the downside of having these highly emotional careers. Teaching was definitely the most taxing job I’ve ever done, physically and mentally, despite the long holidays. I consider myself to be very lucky and see no point in wasting talent and opportunity … seize the day!
Q. “Creative” is a word that is usually associated with the Arts but of course creativity runs through all professions and industries in some form or other. What does “creative” mean to you? And do you think that all humans have the ability to be creative? Is it just a matter of applying themselves, or finding the right activity to do?
A. The best explanation of ‘creative’ I’ve heard is the expression ‘thinking outside the box’. This was when I was teaching art in a school for children with autism and ADHD. I had to sell my subject, make it both interesting and relevant. That experience has definitely helped formulate my current working practice. I think some people are more creative than others, but I wouldn’t say it was a prerequisite for anything. As a musician, I’m a bass player, a supporting musician – I don’t sing or play a melody instrument, therefore, I am dependent on the ‘creative’ members of the band to write the songs. I’m good at getting behind an idea and making it work but I would suggest I’m more ‘creative’ as an artist than I am as a musician. As an artist, I am more vulnerable … I sometimes say my art is my solo album! I also think creativity exists on many different levels, for example, in everyday things like cooking … is cooking a task to be completed or something that is invested with thought, research, imagination, love? I would suggest the outcome when creativity is applied is different, and that applies to most things … gardening!
Q. You have a lot of experience within the music industry. Music is created primarily for the enjoyment of others, just as art is. But comparatively a tiny minority of people engage with art compared to music. What, if anything can artists and other parties involved in the art industry learn from the music business?
A. I have the music industry model in how I approach my painting. If you write a song or form a band, you don’t just leave the song on a tape somewhere, you try to perform it in front of people or get a record deal. The same is true with my painting. I am very fortunate to have a partner who is my agent/manager/record company and harshest critic, who does all the ‘other stuff’ and allows me the time and head space to get on with the painting. She brings years of experience and an MA in marketing to the project and the fact that she happens to be my wife helps an awful lot. Like I say, I’m very lucky! To return to your question about what artists can learn from the music business, I would say musicians are usually very proactive; they know from the get-go that it usually takes years of slogging away and perseverance … I’m not saying artists don’t push themselves but they are often a quieter breed!