Football vs Art

Harry Bix

Harry Bix

Football and art have always been regular bedfellows. The iconic images of LS Lowry captured perfectly the importance of football to the working class of northern England. Football itself might considered a form of art, a geometry of beauty and skill that is then itself captured by photography or rendered in words to feed the imagination of fans gathered around a radio or readers pouring over the previous night’s results in the morning paper. Recent exhibitions, such as Fantasista, curated by Hotspur & Argyle in Southwark, or the display of graphic design on football panels done for Nike’s recent Risk Everything event, where friends and Pickles Magazine exhibited their contributions, show that the links between art and football are growing all the time.

Mark Cocksedge from the Officials Only series

Mark Cocksedge from the Officials Only series

With the coming of the World Cup in Brazil, it is an excellent time for the Football vs Art show, which launches on Thursday 5th June at Collective on Camden High Street, to bring a new range of football-related art to wider attention.

I was lucky enough to communicate with some of the artists prior to the show, and I asked them a few simple questions and football, art, and the World Cup: why as artists they look at football and deal with it in their work, what they think art adds to our understanding of football, and what they hope for from the World Cup.

Daniel Haddock:

This is the first time I have used football as a subject matter in my practice, but I find that when subjected to artistic interpretation, the imagery used in football has a lot of artistic weight. For me, the older imagery, especially from when I was child, has such a resonance of not just that period of time in football but of wider culture in general.

I think that interpretations of traditionally non-associated artistic subjects can sometimes open up new avenues of debate about football. A picture could stir up a political discussion about various aspects of the game or simply inspire someone to start a Sunday league team.

Aside from a triumphant Steven Gerrard lifting the trophy for England, I’m hoping that the two Arsenal players in the squad get some games and have a good tournament and most importantly, don’t get injured!

Orlando Robinson:

Well, currently looking at football is a little unavoidable (which is no bad thing). But for some people like the subject of my piece, football isn’t just unavoidable it forms an integral piece of their lives. Not just their identity, but their entire value system is given meaning by a bond provided by the kinship and escapism provided by their club and their mates. Anything with that kind of power is worth taking a closer look at.

I guess [what art adds] depends on the piece and how successful it is. As a subject it’s packed to the brim with shared mythology, contradictions abound and iconic imagery is everywhere, so there’s a lot to go on.  If you’re doing well, then hopefully you’ve got someone to look at the subject from a different angle with a new point of view… baring in mind this is something that they may already spend many hours each week either staring at, reading about, or playing each week. So that might not be very easy.

[From the World Cup]…an absence of absolute crushing disappointment… but as an England fan, we may already know the score.

Charles Sheldon

Charles Sheldon

Charles Sheldon:

I’ve always been interested in the cult phenomenon football shirts have generated. Whether they’re from a successful period or a stand out design, a classic shirt can have a similar legacy to a great player. Eric Cantona in the black Manchester United Away shirt from 93 to 95 is an image equal to that of James Dean.

There’s already a lot of design and imagery already involved in football which is all part of the culture. Highlighting it shows that’s more to liking football than drinking beer and making a lot of noise.

[I’m hoping for] England to win it with Jack Wilshere scoring a ‘Golazo!’ against Brazil in the final having beaten Germany in the semi-finals.

Anthony Ellis:

This is the first time I’ve produced a piece about football, or about any sport for that matter. I was a bit nervous about what I might come up with – football is something I normally watch to get away from my work! As Toby Leigh was curating the show, I knew it would have the right kind of approach and an interesting mix of contributors and so I decided it was worth giving a go. It became an interesting challenge and, in the end, I got a lot out of the final piece: I’m really happy with it.

Football takes years to understand if you haven’t been taught by someone. I don’t just mean the actual games There is everything that goes along with it: the chants, the codified language, the managerial politics. I don’t think it’s easy to add to that in any significant way unless you work in football professionally. But it’s nice to offer a left-field take on it. I think managers are a bit more open to new ways of thinking these days: some artists could certainly offer something practical on space and form/formation.

[I’m hoping for] a new 42-inch plasma TV with surround sound. Only messing. I love the group stages of the competition: the carnival atmosphere. It’s interesting checking out the smaller teams – there is always a surprise package – and, of course, stumbling on that classic group game between two minnows. Those first two weeks are the best bit for me …

Football vs Art is at Collective, 26 Camden High Street, London, NW1 from 5th June to 14th June. The website is here and they are also on .

With massive thanks to curator for his help.

Toby Leigh mixes football and politics

Toby Leigh mixes football and politics

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