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Exhibition | THE CLOWN WITH THE BROKEN HEART | Si Griffiths

by | Mar 17, 2022 | Evening Viewing, Exhibition, Meet the Artist, Opening Night

*Our new exhibition, THE CLOWN WITH THE BROKEN HEART opens on Friday 1st April, with our special evening viewing from 7pm – 9pm. All welcome.*

I had the pleasure of sitting down with lowbrow, pop surrealist artist, Si Griffiths ahead of his solo exhibition, ‘THE CLOWN WITH THE BROKEN HEART’. I wanted to find out more about the lowbrow art movement and how it continues to inspire and influence Si’s work.

 

Front Cover Bloodfellas
Si on a Harley circa 1988
Qu: You were a lad growing up in Reading in the 1960s and 1970s when the Lowbrow art scene of Los Angeles exploded. How did you get into it?

Si: Haha – I think it got into me!

My understanding is the “Lowbrow” scene as we think of it now came from the culture that was happening in California at the time. Specifically the custom car/motorcycle scene, music, surfing, tattoo, art, underground comix etc.  I just happened to be really into all of those things anyway!

So I started to appreciate the culture as I was reading Mad magazine, The Fabulous Furry Freak Bros, watching movies/TV, I was crazy on all sorts of music and especially what was coming out of the States, hot rods, drag racing, custom motorcycles. The whole (to me) explosion of colour and rebelliousness seemed so exciting and surreal to a kid going to school in British suburbia. I wanted more.

To cut a long story short, as part of my journey I joined the “Spirit of the Fifties” car club in London for a while, the membership requirement was to own a 50’s American car (mine a ’57 Ford Fairlane), I graduated onto building Harley- Davidson motorcycles which I rode, whilst devouring as much of the culture as I could lay my hands on. In my early 20‘s along with a group of friends travelled from NY to LA in a car we bought between us, which fuelled my passion.

Then my life went sideways with quite a long while in the wilderness due to alcohol and drug addiction. In getting into recovery in 2008 I met the tattooist and Visionary artist S.V. Mitchell, who became a close friend and who inspired and encouraged me to paint… the rest as they say is history… and I’ve been painting in earnest ever since, taking redundancy in 2017 to be a full-time artist.

Qu: Do you find Lowbrow beautiful? 

Si: The short answer is yes! Lowbrow suits my style and colourful palette and give me the platform to express myself as an artist the best I can. It’s also known as “Pop Surreal” and again, though I don’t particularly like “boxes”, that’s where my art sits best. That said I do incorporate dark art and figurative realism too.

Qu: Do you paint outside the Lowbrow box?

Si: Not really though I do some portraiture and would like to develop that thread. That said I’ve recently gone off at a tangent to paint some street art/graffiti influenced work, one of which will be seen at the show. Mind you I’d say graffiti is pretty Lowbrow in itself.

Qu: Who are your heroes that have been the biggest influence in your own work?

Si: Wow. That’s really difficult. There’s so many and I keep discovering more along the way. Robt. Williams, Harold Fox, Dave MacDowell, the tattooist Cory Miller, Dave Lebow, Greg Hergert Montague Tott, Clovis Trouille, Edward Hopper, Thomas Hart Benton – the list is endless. Not to forget S.V. Mitchell who was responsible for starting this!

I’m pretty lucky to have met some of my heroes and can say that the saying of “don’t meet your heroes they’ll let you down” is not true. I met Robt. Williams at his show in LA in 2015 as well as Harold Fox and Greg Hergert (who has also become a friend) and been tattooed by Cory Miller. They’re all very lovely people.

 

Zombie Mafia Character Designs by Mick Trimble
Artist Cory Miller (of the show LA Ink) tattooing Si at his own studio “Six Feet Under” in Upland, CA (Greater LA) Summer 2015 https://www.sixfeetunder.com/artists/corey-miller
Character Drawings by Mick Trimble
Si and artist, Harold Fox (Haroldfoxart.com) having lunch in LA in 2015
Meet your heroes
LA Municipal Art Gallery 2015. The show ran alongside the 20 year anniversary show for Juxtapoz Magazine which he started. The whole thing was mind blowing. https://www.robtwilliamsstudio.com
Qu: There are dark themes in your work and a clown character which you revisit at different times. Why the clown?  

Si: The Clown is my spirit guide. Since I started using clowns in my work they have given me direction and purpose.

As for the dark themes- I believe that we all need to embrace our dark side in order to start to understand who we are as individuals and what we are as part of the Universe. Without dark there is no light.

Too many of us bury our dark side which then festers underneath and more often than not comes out sideways. I say embrace the dark, make friends with our demons, we can learn so much from them. It brings me great joy when a viewer can identify with the dark elements in my work and hope that it helps them deal with their own. That said I try to keep a balance which shows the light as well as the darkness, the light within ourselves as well as the light within the shadows of the world.

Much of my art ponders the meaning of life – was it meant to be this way? Are we here now, in this place and time, through fate or fickle fortune, by accident, or design?

Clown Blue Si Griffiths
Clown Blue by Si Giffiths
Qu: What are the tools of your trade? 

Si: Up until 2 years ago I only worked in acrylic. I’d been toying with trying oils for some time and as we entered the first Covid lockdown, spurred on by my friends Shane Izykowski and Montage Tott I decided to give them ago. I ended up using water-based oils, which sounds like a misnoma, but they are truly oil paints. They have the advantage of drying more quickly and have no fumes, which used to give me a banging headache. I’m slowly coming to terms with them though still fall into a default setting and use them like acrylic. I am playing with alla prima (wet on wet) and would like to get some specialist tuition for them. I’m enjoying the journey so far though.

 

Qu: What pushes you to keep developing and growing as an artist?

Si: There is so much to learn on this journey of life and so with art. So much to learn about technique, style, application, composition. Art has given me a purpose after my train crash years. I want to pay it back and produce the best work I can, and in doing so, if I can help others to deal with some of their issues by identifying with what my work is expressing, then I’ll have been of some use.  For that to happen I need to keep moving forward in every way I can…….. That and the Clown inside that wants to get out.

You can follow Si on instagram @simongriffithsart and visit his website at https://www.simongriffithsart.com/

 

 

Original artwork by artist Si Giffiths
The Incredible Dancing Monkey by Si Griffiths
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