On the meaning of the knuckledusters! – Knuckledusters being a signature of Devonport’s transition from Criminal to Artist, it pays to drill deeper into his biography in order to be rewarded by a clarity of meaning void of pre-conceptions: It pays to know that Devonport was never a thug, a mugger, an enforcer for someone other; nor has he ever committed an ‘Aggravated Robbery’ or hurt an innocent. So have no fear, – approach him, – since the truth is that Devonport was actually a highly entrusted upper echelon Drug Dealer within the drug world, – within The Business, – and still today, with his departing, he is held within the highest esteem by that community. Like any other business which buys and sells, – trades; yet unlike any other business, there is no recourse to a Small Claims Court to enforce collection. Yet, the drug business is run on a currency of trust par excellence (entrusting one another with millions of pounds worth of product). Trust is earned by one’s ability to pay one’s suppliers, – supplier must be paid otherwise there are consequences. From time to time, one therefore needs a talent for collection. In this light, Knuckledusters becomes a symbol which represents the force of Natural, as opposed to or at least barred from Civil Justice…. And within this acknowledgement, – after mining, – we find that deeper and more general meaning void of misconception: Knuckledusters represents Force, once again, par excellence because its raw and fundamental! No wigs, no boys in blue, no state or civil society backup only, – and with Kev in particular, mano o mano, – oh it’s definitely personal! So look after him: The Art World’s gain is the Drug World’s loss! You’ll gain insights into life and society (and much more) from Devonport in his years of maturity as we did in the Drug World from his more youthful years. There are many drug dealers which are obviously concerned with Wealth and Acquisitions. And many who are primarily interested with Consciousness, – especially the expansion of it. Decide for yourself which camp Devonport belongs to. But for us, his metamorphosis is in fact no loss, – rather its Welcomed with both Blessing and Grace. Let the Blackbird sing his awesome song!
One quick superficial glance and it’s all too easy and summary to define Devonport’s work as being ‘Neo Pop’ because and only because, his subject matter is ‘Pop Art’ to some extent. And it may well be; but, if so, then let’s ask what it means to be ‘Neo Pop’. Devonport is an artist of our present emerging Zeitgeist (post-industrial; post-modern; post-9/11; post- Banking crisis and post-Covid, hopefully), not the Happy Days of the 50’s from which ‘Pop Art’ emerged celebrating the repetitiveness of mass production and consumerism; whilst embracing the ephemeral window dressing of fashion and celebrity which masks substantial toil and waste of resources. Yet the carpet of space-time is forever unfolding, so let’s fast forward 70 years where the only fish left in the oceans are plastic and let’s ask ourselves, are we still celebrating these aspects of our Society and Economy with Botox and Instagram (whatever happened to ochre)? Perhaps, and perhaps that’s why it remains a major issue of concern. What we can say is that any present celebration comes with a caveat of critical questions concerned with waste, pollution, climate change, manipulation, power and social control etc: For example, all us being born into Late Capitalism are all too now painfully aware of how the Kaleidoscopic and Technicolor World of Advertisements mesmerises the children among us into raving addicts of sugar-coated Materialism; how Coca Cola rots our teeth and how Campbell’s Soup represents the poverty to provide a balanced diet. Born into the Great Depression of the 30’s, surviving the horrors of the 40’s, it was only fair I suppose for the ‘Pop Art’ of the 50’s and 60’s to celebrate the excess of supply and the immediacy of consumption,- and to believe the best Coca Cola for example qua a beverage for Princes which even the pauper can afford; or, the belief in the corporate propaganda that process foods are beneficial to our health. The ‘neo-Pop’ of today, however, has much more to consider. And Devonport is most definitely questioning and considering issues such as Consumerism! Look for example at his previous works ‘On Garbage’ in order to contextualise his present work hermeneutically. Better still, I believe, a previous work by Devonport entitled Knuckledusters and Devil Tarot spells out Devonport’s critical stance towards Materialism generally.
Which begs this question, – is ‘neo- Pop’ anti ‘Pop’ or is it just the flattery of imitation? Is ‘neo-Pop’ critical of ‘Pop Art’ and what it represents or is it simply Homage?
Let’s contrast the manner of production: Pop Art celebrates and embraces the quantity and excess which the ‘Factory’ of mass production and its methods produce (eg. Silk screen printing or filming someone sleeping); whereas Devonport, being a student of the Renaissance, holds his talents to the quality of far higher and much older standards from the canons of art. I’ll ask an honest question, – did Warhol have the talent and skill set to actually paint a Campbell’s Soup Tin as well as Devonport? It’s an unfair question really because I’m sure Andy wouldn’t give a damn because he never signed up for that project. But Kev did, so I feel that it is, mas o minus, fair enough to ask the question on Kev’s behalf. The point of the question though is simply to demonstrate the contrast and difference between the two in these terms. Concluding that within the divisions of Art, I doubt that they are even playing the same sport. In other words, I struggle to find any ‘Pop Art’ techniques in Devonport’s work.
Their attitude toward the subject matter, – which essentially remains the same ie. A study of mass production, consumerism et al, – couldn’t be more different. Warhol embraces them, Devonport rejects them: not only is one of Devonport’s Campbell Soup Tins damaged; but also, with Warhol’s signature Campbell’s Soup Tins juxtaposed alongside the triumph of Devonport’s signature of Undamageable knuckledusters, we find something quite disturbing. Screaming for an evaluation of the force of mass production perhaps!?!- Moreover and personally, I suspect that tin got damaged by those knuckledusters, which is paramount to Young Kev smashing Young Andy in the face. Consequently, I doubt very much whether Andrew will be attending school for a while (lol). Alas and furthermore, can we read something into the fact that they are tins of Mushroom Soup? I mean, what do mushrooms signify in our contemporary semantics? – nuclear mushrooms? – mushrooming economic growth (or lack of), – waste, population, pollution, unemployment, crime, existential distress? We can never read too much into art when we are active trying to find ourselves and state of affairs through art; albeit, perhaps absent from the artist’s conscious intent!
Contrast also their differing idea of role of the artist in society (which is inevitably always a social reflection): With Warhol you find an immediacy in his art which flashes in and out of existence. Like a Conductor, Andy points his finger at something and abracadabra its ‘ART’, diverts his gaze then it’s just a tin of soup again, – easy come, easy go. With Devonport however, you find critical evaluation and a depth of consideration, – Kev points his finger like a prosecutor and asks ‘what’s the value of this art? And to whom? And why? And can we do better (not more, and more, and more of the same)? And these considerations are not going away anytime soon. Once determined then Judgements last. There is no flickering in and out of existence like a banshee with Devonport. Today- 2022 as we are shepherded toward the Great Reset where we will, apparently, own nothing – exists the urgency, the imperative and will to move away from this throw-away culture toward something more permanent and substantial. Perhaps we seek a return to Skill and Craft. Something unique and difficult to discard because we appreciate that it was difficult to master. More Value, rather than, the value of more.
Interestingly, Warhol and Devonport have fundamentally the same childhood background; insofar as, they were both born into the steal furnace of near poverty in the industrial Heartlands of their respective Nations. Both initially experienced the material world of mass production, consumer culture, cult of celebrity in a simpler manner ie. from the bottom without money. Moreover, I feel that they both found their salvation in art. Unsurprisingly, the shy introverted mummies boy took a lightening flash bang route to his salvation; whereas the street kid on the other hand, got slung into the Mighty Tigres and had to swim his way through a deluge of violence called ‘Service’ and ‘Debt to Society’ before reaching his destination. Andy Warholla roller-skated his way to Manhattan to become Ikea Boy wearing sunglasses and a cute little Naval Spetsnaz tee-shirt with a shock lightbulb head of hair. Kev Devonport joined the British Army for a regular haircut and a square meal which didn’t come from a tin, and fought in wars for our so called ‘National Interest’. Became a Boxer. Became a Drug Dealer. Then a prisoner. Shedding skin after skin, finally emerging as an Artist and young parent to boot. You decide who took a real Walk on the Wildside and then you’ll discover who the real Tyler Durden is. I don’t believe Devonport is an acquiescence of a superficially bright and ‘exploding plastic inevitable’ future coloured in pious yellows and golds, neon reds and electric lapus lapilli of Catholic Iconoclasm which the young Warhol was influenced by in Philadelphia and subsequently exported to New York. Rather, I know Devonport is Fight Club, – blood stains! Appraising Devonport however, I don’t want to palm off Warhol neither. Both are our kids! If, anything, I would like to return Warhol to his Industrial working-class family, which is where he truly belongs. For let’s face it, the bright lights of Broadway seduced and kidnapped a young, naïve and vulnerable boy! Bona Fortuna trying to seduce and kidnap Kev with a set of fairy lights and ‘15 mins of fame’. Ironic, that one brother went directly into the World of Art and the other brother indirectly via a World of Violence, and it was Andy who got shot! Strange too, – the only people who have ever asked Kev to kill someone is the British State.
In conclusion perhaps, – as they say in Thailand: ‘Same, same. But different’! Which really means they are different.