Beautiful Crime will present the work of the pop artist who takes his inspiration from the demimonde of the Follies-Bergère.
Wildcat Will (real name William Blanchard) was born in Dorset in 1964 . Following secondary education, he briefly went to art school for a year in the mid-80s, lasting a year before dropping out to move to London to play drums for various musical acts.
Abandoning his art path for rock ‘n’ roll, he worked with a number of bands as a drummer, including Shakespeare’s Sister, where he met his long-term partner Siobhan Fahey. He stayed in the music industry for nearly two decades and continued to build his musical credentials, working with artists such as Beth Orton and Death in Vegas.
For his forthcoming show, he will present a body of work charged by the artistic, libertine spirit of the Follies-Bergère, a Parisian music hall famed for the titillating world of topless girls. He explains, “The women of the Follies-Bergère existed in a twilight zone; a demimonde who existed glamorously on the fringes of society. They become celebrities of their time but many died in poverty.” He remarks, “In a way, becoming a drummer is the modern day equivalent of joining the circus, a fantasy removed from normal life. The Belle Epoque period was the rock ‘n’ roll of its time. I wanted to produce work that had a correlation to the kind of duality that I have experienced.”
Describing himself as more of a rock artist than a pop artist, Blanchard would sometimes take a break from grueling world tours and occasionally, out of boredom, would often find work on building sites. During one of those periods, he formed a friendship with a co-worker, the now-internationally famous street artist Ben Eine, who was daubing illegally on the streets of London. Drawn into the sub-culture grafitti art in a world that was slightly gritty and dirty, Blanchard became inspired by the artists who would use the street as their canvas.
Though inspired by the punk nature of street art and its renegade figureheads, Blanchard avoided leaping on the bandwagon although it did steer him back towards art. With a hoarding gene inherited from his father, Blanchard started making multidisciplinary art from a vast personal museum of objects and memorabilia collected from his childhood through to his adult years.
Creating collage pieces from textures and materials, Blanchard had always been interested in painting, graphics and typography but creating his own artistic language has been his focus.
Blanchard explains, “My art is full of my influences, it’s a language that is personal to me.” As a non-conformist artist, his signature has become a meddling of images and assemblages. Combining surrealism with pop culture, Blanchard’s nudes are suspended in canvases adorned with butterflies, a recurring motif that appears in Blanchard’s work.
Blanchard explains why he has chosen the Follies-Bergère and why his interest is drawn towards the magnetic forces of counterculture. He says, “Edourard Mamet’s ‘A Bar at the Folies-Bergère’ is full of ambiguities and doubt. What’s seen in the mirror behind the barmaid isn’t something that we see in front of it.” Blanchard explains that the dreamlike dislocation of Manet’s materpiece became the starting point for his next show.
Blanchard is an active fantasist, who likes to dress like some of his favorite movie characters, from a chopper-riding hippy biker from Easy Rider to channeling a 1970s Gram Parson’s inspired Keith Richards, complete with poncho and Stetson. Feeling an affinity with the Follies Bergere featured elaborate costumes (and often a good deal of nudity), he explains, ‘It was showtime every day and I have always felt like a member of a flamboyant demimonde who manages to shimmy away from a conventional job.”