We are pleased to announce that our latest exhibition, Ottoman Fight Club by the wonderful Jamie McLeod, has been so popular that we've decided to extend it until the 4th of March. We caught up with Jamie to get his perspective on the show...
What was the concept behind Ottoman Fight Club?
The concept was to fill Superstore with my Turkish Oil Wrestler photos that Alex Noble always adored. He asked for them personally for my first show there called "Jack Off Johnny" and I refused as I wanted to show new work. But second time around I was asked again and I succumbed because Alex has a good eye for what is on the pulse and not many people get asked back twice. The Superstore people were so good to work with I thought give it to them and not be precious.
So that answer is more about why I was invited and to answer the concept question well, Dalston, as we all know, is a Turkish area and Superstore has a mixed sexuality crowd that would appreciate the pics. I had to think hard how can I fill this space with my images to make the most epic and bombastic assault and I found a way by having them screen-printed on fabric to really fill this space and make the images as powerful as possible. These pictures are old for me and I have so many that it was a difficult task to edit these as I have hundreds but really the concept was about how to present these ethnographic/erotic type portraits in a new way so people could enjoy them. And what I really like is to see peoples reactions. I have seen lesbians, homo's, trans and straight men and woman like them and that really makes me happy. Also I have delivered postcards to some local Turkish businesses in the area that I like and they have really been happy that we are making this show and celebrating a side of their culture. Just that was worth it in itself.
How long have you been preparing for this exhibition?
I have been preparing all my life for this show!! No, really, I have. Ok, the nuts and bolts of the show go back about six months, but that doesn't include scanning and printing the negatives to prepare. The six months I spent was working with trial and error of composition and printing on the fabric and getting the half tones right for the finished product. It wasn't six months of continual work but it was six months of preparation off and on. The best thing is, what I first dreamed of making was what I ended up producing, and in the beginning of trying things out they didn't go smoothly and I thought Oh no I'll fail with my vision, but I didn't.
How does this exhibition compare with your other work?
This show is integral and runs parallel to my other work, however it is more classical than how I work right now. This is essentially classical black and white portraiture where as my current work now is more maybe fine art and a hybrid of photography and graphics and design. This exhibition is really about Turkish male masculinity and a study of ethnography and if people find it erotic that is a bonus but that wasn't the main reason I went to Turkey.
I'm very interested in hyper masculinity and femininity and I have also done a body of work on portraits of Mexican wrestlers and Turkish transvestites and of course performers and musicians and pop stars. I love to blur the boundaries between the "stars and the non-famous" because we live in a culture that is obsessed with fame at any price with people who have very little talent. And there are all these incredible people out there doing amazing things who in my mind are the real "stars" who never get paid much attention so when I find them I represent them the same iconic way I do with the "stars". I don't see the difference but I know our society does.
Do you have any follow up work to this exhibition?
Yes I am always working on new work but if i don't have dead lines I tend to get lazy. Right now I have been making portraits of performance artists and "Dandys" or the what I call the "Extravagance". That's people who dress a lot better than me. People who have a refined aesthetic and a hyper-theatrical appearance, who are not just dressing up for a night out but who live what they wear and are super freaks or attention seekers or peacocks. I love these people because let’s face it, our world has become so generic and unoriginal that it depresses me and it needs people like this, even though they get beaten up for looking so different.
What is your favourite piece from the show?
I love the 12 meter composition on canvas because this was made specifically for Superstore's space. My friend Ricardo Matos helped me print this and to get it correct, with some hiccups. I have heard that Elton John wants the canvas to cut up as curtains and to use as upholstery for a sofa and hopefully Lady Gaga will be buying the same piece to make a toga for the Oscars as she has never done Turkish Oil Wrestlers yet.
What has it been like exhibiting a completely different exhibition in Dalston Superstore?
It has been a real challenge and sometimes I thought I would fail, but because I am professional when I say yes to a show like this I would never allow myself to fail. And to be asked back twice to my favourite bar/club/restaurant in the east end and to work with people that believed in my work like Alex, Saskia, Dan and Matt has been refreshing. It makes me so happy that people want my work and can help me direct it and produce it because, as I told you, if I didn't have people ask for my work I would lie on my bed all day and become the worst type of friend and probably never leave the house and be 30 stone.
Do you have any exciting plans for this year?
Yes just to keep working and achieving my next goals which hopefully will be a book on the wrestlers and a show called Punks, Pimps, Cunts and Drags and after this show something called "Dead Behind the Eyes" based on performers that are not alive anymore.
Jamie McLeod's current show Ottoman Fight Club runs until Sunday 4th March.