London based illustrator James Davison, working under the pseudonym Klarr, presents his debut solo exhibition at Dalston Superstore. Blending traditional notions of gender (masc and femme) to create candid portraits of men, James attempts to explore different representations of masculinity through print and neon light works. We caught up with the busy artist to find out more about his inspirations and idols and how they influenced his work...
Where does the name Klarr come from?
The name comes from the german saying "Alles Klar" - which roughly translates to all is clear. The pervert Herr Lipp in the League of Gentleman used to use it.
What inspires your illustrations?
Past experiences influence my style, content and direction. Growing up, I was a huge comic book fan. Comics were my first wank mags. I still find the body language powerful. The women are overtly sexual and seductive, the men are crotchy. Wolverine's nipples have definitely seen a suction cup or two.
I suppose there are echoes of Betsy Braddock's (Psylocke) original body armour in this show.
Do you use live models or are your portraits a composite of people you know, fashion imagery etc?
A mixture of both.
I recently visited the British Museum for the first time in a very long time and was really drawn to the Greek and Roman sculptures. Some of my early sketches for the 'Compact' image came from that.
I love the Versace campaigns in the '90s, I had lots of those references on my wall whilst producing this show.
The casting for Calvin Klein SS14 was hot; I'm using some of the models as a starting point for some new work.
What makes a man fishy feminine and free? Who would you say most embodies these attributes?
To me, 'fishy' means embracing your femininity and drawing power and confidence from it. There is a tendency in the gay community for gay men to consciously present themselves as 'masc', 'straight acting' or 'non-camp'. On apps like Grindr they wear them like a badge of honour. Personally, I don't get it. Everyone in this world is seems to be looking up to the macho heterosexual male. Women want to fuck them and gays pretend to be them. Urghh! I've had it. Officially.
What is your favourite piece in the show and why?
'Eros' (main image) is my favourite. I really like him, he was the easiest to come to me as well. I'm currently using him as the basis for a beauty story, bring him to life using a real model and recreating my aesthetic through make-up.
The neon light was a new thing for me that I definitely want to explore in the future.
Who are your fashion icons?
Tell the truth!
Check Klarr's show Powder Room ongoing at Dalston Superstore until Sunday 6th October.