To celebrate the opening of his new exhibition at Buckland Abbey, this week we caught up with the inimitable Andrew Logan, to talk over his life and career.
Andrew Logan is an incomparable cultural figure; sculptor, designer, performer, host of Alternative Miss World. He's been freaking out the norms, breaking down cultural boundaries, and generally being fabulously OTT since the 70s, when, as a key figure in the Butler's Wharf squatting scene, he was hanging out with Derek Jarman and the artists who colonised the Thames-front location. He had his first retrospective in 1991, and now he's opening a second at Buckland Abbey, a 700-year-old property in Devon. He's installed a selection of new and old works across the Abbey, in response to its architecture and grounds. We got in touch with Andrew to talk about his work, his life and the continuing power of Alternative Miss World.
What attracted you to Buckland Abbey as a place?
It's the combination of ancient and modern, I like crossing barriers, the National Trust well, it's all those old buildings and to put new objects them, it spans time. Buckland Abbey was originally a Cistercian Monastery, then Henry VIII rebuilt some of it and then it became the home of Sir Francis Drake, so the architecture is very strange, it's a little like MC Escher. The work fell quite naturally into place amongst that.
It's a very different kind of retrospective, to the normal White Cube kind.
Well I'm not part of that gallery system, I never have been, I've always been independent since the beginning. It's very natural. I don't like the hallowed gallery. I think art should be everywhere. So I treated it more like an exhibition than a retrospective, I wanted to respond to the space. For example, one piece, Gold Field from 1976, which I showed at the Whitechapel, and it was perfect for this tithe barn at the Abbey. It's actually the first time it's gone on display since then. To me the works feels as fresh now as it did then.
Do you enjoy looking back your own work?
I am my own greatest fan by the way, I think you have to be. My message is joy and happiness and the celebration of life. We're here for a short time and we need to celebrate it. So I want all my pieces to create joy, so I get pleasure from them. My work really is a physical manifestation of the spiritual. It's really about playing with light, that's why it's called The Art of Reflection. Most people don't think about mirrors, but it's a magical material. Anything I can try and reinterpret in it I will. I've never done a car, only flying horses, which are a bit more lyrical.
One thing that's very important when discussing your career is Alternative Miss World.
Over the years I've seen so much at Alternative Miss World, I like how the event stays the same and everything else changes in society. When I come out on that stage there's a feeling, a wonderful feeling, and I think as long as that feeling is there, then I'll carry on. It's wonderful, too, to see different generations interact with it. We've had actual different generations of the same family enter now. Alternative Miss World has a very simple message, it's all about joy and expression, it's a very special event. We're hoping to do the next one next year. The world is a messed up place, but all we can hope to do is our bit to make it a better place. All working together, I do feel it's so important, we're in a world that likes labels, that wants to put you in a certain camp, but we're all human beings, let's all cross over irrespective of religion or gender. It's what it's about, total acceptance.
What's your favourite thing about the exhibition?
Well my favourite thing would be for people to come and be inspired and have a joyful time. I'm very flattered too, to be asked. When you're working you need to play, and I hope that comes across. It's so hard for younger artists to have that space to play now, especially in London, there's no space and it's too expensive. You need to be able to live a bit. When I first arrived in London in the 70s, we had that space, especially with Butler's Wharf space, my brother Peter and Derek Jarman set that up. It's sad for the city because it will strip it of artists.
Text Felix Petty
Photography Steve Haywood / National Trust