TOP 30 – R.Kelly Clipperton
Artist Statement, April 2011.
Music and Photography. Styling and Music. Writing and Producing. Everything I love to do overlaps, feeds from one to the other somewhat seamlessly, to the point where others need to tell me where one starts and another ends as I see it all to be one expression. One vision. One version.
The impetus for this series of photos was the album It’ll End In Tears by This Mortal Coil. My head flooded with images as I kept thinking of this title. I then thought what a perfect thesis: take album titles and re-imagine them. No influence from the original album artwork, the band or the music, just let the title feed me ideas. As I’m not one to be subtle I figured let’s do 30 of them, like a Top 30 countdown… something I loved as a kid. I’d always look forward to the Thursday Countdowns, both the Top 40 stations and the Alternative ones, probably with similar anticipation that others look forward to Oscar night, who is going to climb up and who is going to make a dramatic fall. Perhaps and early example of what Reality Television has become.
So in this Top 30 I took 30 titles; some famous, some not so, and full on “Kellified” them. Rio by Duran Duran turning into sun, sand, sweat, sex; Version 2.0 by Garbage - a woman post-plastic surgery admiring her new self; Katy Perry’s One of The Boys explores what she might have meant had she the balls, and Hotel California by The Eagles showing the less than desirable aspects of L.A.’s casting couch.
Oddly It’ll End In Tears was the very last image I shot. I took me forever to find the moment that really fit that sentiment. It ultimately became a more universal and apocalyptic message with injured mermaids escaping the dying sea, not the one-on-one romantic notion that the title first brought to mind.
I’m not a traditional photographer, entirely self-taught, and some of my mistakes have been my best images. I trust that part of myself implicitly. I take great pride in styling the whole shot myself from hair to make-up to costumes and props. I shoot film and build most of my shots after scanning them, as nothing I see in my head really exists anywhere. For example I don’t know any mermaids personally so for It’ll End In Tears I created them with shots taken at a wildlife park in Florida. The pink convertible in Highway To Hell was real but taking it out on an actual highway with naked men in it was not an option so I built the road in under them. Similarly for the Sports images, I couldn’t find… A) a locker room that would allow me to shoot provocative shots in it, nor B), locker rooms with neon bright lockers, so I made it happen in post. For my self-portrait, Out Of The Woods, I took images of horse’s legs; a ram’s horns and owl’s claws, and built the Minotaur/Centaur that you see dragging the schoolboys into the woods. That day was perfect synergy as I was hoping for a “light dusting of snow” (having booked the shoot weeks in advance with all involved), and I got it.
The plexiglass was a two-fold choice. My last exhibit Order Will Keep You Calm, featured my work on maple, sheet metal and plexi. Though for me the sheet metal was the favourite, the plexi got the grandest response so in keeping with the music thesis here, I figured the plexi best represented the vinyl on which music was first pressed: reflective, glossy and sturdy.
I thank all my friends, new and old, who graciously threw themselves into these photos with heartfelt abandon. I tend to work in a guerrilla style set up, never being a fan of controlled environments, so their enthusiasm and fearlessness were paramount. They put their trust in me and I’m indebted.
Fittingly, Kelly and the Kellygirls, my band I started 8 years back has just released a “chapter round up”, if you will, in the form of an album/DVD called MMX. It too is an example of me overlapping as songwriter, stylist (built a whole bunch of those costumes…) and recently editor, having cut most of the music videos, documentary and all the live performance myself. When I was in my twenties I became resentful that the outside blood didn’t come flooding in my direction sooner, I now see that my ability to hone anything I put my mind to is my voice, is my reason.
April 28 – May 22, 2011
Opening Reception April 28 6-9pm
Pentimento Fine Art Gallery
1164 Queen St E
Toronto ON www.pentimento.ca
In the tradition of Top 30 countdowns, visitors and patrons of the gallery were asked to rate their Top 10 favourite albums (or all 30 if inspired…) and a weekly update of the chart was complied, ultimately creating a Top 30 with a No. 1 as voted by you.
R.KELLY CLIPPERTON ~ TOP 30
Week Ending May 22, 2011
M1 M8 LW TW ALBUM
1 1 1 1 Violator *
3 2 2 2 First Of A Million Kisses *
9 7 3 3 The Gambler
2 3 4 4 The Queen Is Dead
5 6 8 5 People Are Expensive *
7 4 7 6 It’ll End In Tears *
13 11 ^ 5 7 Highway To Hell *
15 ^ 10 9 8 Stick Around For Joy
4 9 6 9 Mexican Moon *
8 5 11 10 The Sweet Escape *
6 8 10 11 Adapt Or Die *
20 19 14 12 Mad, Bad And Dangerous To Know *
11 12 12 13 Hotel California *
12 13 13 14 Nightclubbing
17 15 15 15 I’m Your Baby Tonight
14 14 16 16 Wild Animal
22 20 21 ^ 17 Show Your Bones
18 16 17 18 Out Of The Woods *
19 18 19 19 Version 2.0 *
10 17 18 20 One Of The Boys *
21 22 20 21 Back To Black
26 24 22 22 Brothers In Arms
16 21 23 23 Crazy From The Heat
28 25 25 24 Rio *
27 28 28 25 Easter *
23 23 24 26 Higher Love
25 26 27 27 War
24 27 29 28 Ill Communication
30 29 26 29 Sports
29 30 30 30 Revenge
^ biggest jump
M1 week ending May 1st
M8 week ending May 8th
LW week ending May 15th
R.KELLY CLIPPERTON "Order will keep you calm" , FEB '10
One of the things I actually enjoy about getting older is self-actualization. Some folks probably had it all figured out at 20, but I’m a late bloomer in every way, and realizing great and finer details about myself as the years pass is invigorating and exciting.
I love order. I need order. This is one of these new realizations. Though entirely obvious to those who’ve been close to me for years, I didn’t realize why I needed order until recently: it keeps me calm. The calming effect it gives me to see my CDs alphabetized, my photos in my album in chronological order, my toothbrush in the same place, lists, deadlines…. I believe the modern term for this is Anal Retentive or Control Freak, both of which are fantastically negative and I choose to ignore.
I was born with a frenzied and chaotic personality and order allows me to get tasks completed.
I’ve spent much of my life trying to figure out how I fit into the pastiche of socialization and creativity. In this ever increasingly detached world, I search for community and a sense of belonging even more than in my youth. That effortless fit into your tribe.
My fascination with order, is evident in my earliest of works. A play that I wrote and directed in ‘91, brotherhood, was about a family with 4 kids and I insisted that the 20somethings look very similar. Hair colour, eye colour, height… It stemmed from photos I’d seen of famous families, noting how facially similar some were, to the point that I assumed their lives were effortless with this aspect in tact.
These photos are an extension of my need for order and an expression of want for togetherness. Uniforms, resemblance, balance... In each image there is a slight element of distress, which enhances the notion that no matter what goes wrong, continuity will pull you through. In my darkest of dark places I see the simplicity of uniform to be lifesaving.
People as a whole: their heart; soul; dreams; desires… are like puzzles, as cliché as that is… slowly assembled over time to reveal an actualized image. A complete picture. Sometimes pieces are bashed together that don’t fit. Often pieces go missing. Some are realized very early in life, some never. I love taking photographs that could be one of those pieces to someone: the subject, the audience but most of all, me. This body of work is me trying to fit a few more pieces in place, still looking for that world that seems effortless, searching for happiness.
Kelly and the Kellygirls new album ‘Modernism’, MARCH '09
When Kelly and the Kellygirls song and video for ‘Catherine Deneuve and the Deus ex Machina’ became an international success in 2007 via youTube, mastermind, songwriter and leader R.Kelly Clipperton had affirmation that his work could reach greater audiences. Following the additional success of playing to 10 000 people in Trafalgar Square for London UK Pride, he found himself inspired to surge forth on his most ambitious project of songs to date: ‘Modernism’ the 16 song concept album by Kelly and the Kellygirls will be released internationally on May 19, 2009.
“This is the album I have always intended to make, the one that has been lurking deep in me for years… I’m not sure why it came out now, but I’m thrilled it has. It’s certainly the most accomplished thing I’ve done”. Kelly
The Latin-influenced, beat-driven, multi-lingual and strikingly optimistic album is sure to be the feel-good record of the summer as it drops May 19, 2009 on Clipperton’s own Renaissance Projects.
‘Modernism’ is a very dense, energetic collection of songs with a sonic assault of horns, flamenco guitar, solid rhythm and Kelly’s sexy baritone voice buoying the whole experience in a way that has yet to be heard… hence the title.
“Concept albums; everywhere from Kate Bush’s ‘The Hounds of Love’ to Eurythmics’ ‘Savage’ to Bowie’s ‘Outside’ inspired me to hone my themes both lyrically and musically.” Kelly
‘Modernism’ officially began its journey in December 2007 upon Kelly receiving news that The Toronto Arts Council and Canadian Council for the Arts were both to be funding the project. The first few songs brought to rehearsals included ‘C’mon Boys’ and ‘Chest Full of Love’, but it wasn’t until the Italian-sung ‘Tarantino’ appeared, and became the backbone of the album, that the concept gelled.
“If I have a desire for a future life, it would be to return as one who has a natural inclination for languages. I sadly do not, but it is an overwhelming desire of mine to appear as though I do. I worked very hard on the Italian and Portuguese that I sing on the album. The bits of French and Spanish came easier. What I learned the most about myself through the process was how free my voice was while singing in other languages… an entirely different colour came through. It was very liberating.” Kelly.
Continuing a pioneering journey that began with Kelly and the Kellygirls first album ‘swing swing’ in 2004, to the black and blue bawdy burlesque of ‘We love You but not as Much as we love Ourselves’ in 2006, ‘Modernism’, which was engineered by Peter D. Hudson and Rob Sanzo and mixed by award-winning Brad Nelson, threads Kelly’s characteristically diverse baritone with elements of swing, ska, jazz, big band and more recently reggae, fado and mariachi.
The opening flamenco twists and soca beat of the anthemic ‘C’mon Boys’ sets the tone for the album. The record then travels down a feverish road of discovery as we are exposed to the island flavoured ‘Chest Full of Love’, charmed by the innocence of the ska-tinged ‘Big Heart / Big Tears’, seduced by a sad plea for understanding in the Cuban-fueled ‘X’ and experience the strikingly beautiful fatalism of ‘Para A Espinha’ (eng trans: ‘To the Spine’). The album closes in the sonic explosion of ‘City on Fire’, inspired by the Queen St West fires in Toronto, early 2008.
Kelly along with The Kellygirls will be touring Canada, Europe and parts of the US in the summer months following the albums release in Toronto at the end of May.
“Performing these songs live it what truly brings them to life and what I enjoy doing the most. I can’t wait to bring them to the world. The spirit of Latin celebrations has inspired me for decades, and now a new chapter in the story of Kelly and the Kellygirls has begun.” Kelly.
Artist: Kelly and the Kellygirls
Label: Renaissance Projects
Catalogue No: KATKGM03
Release: May 19, 2009
via Indiepool within Canada and iTunes internationally
01. Two Hundred Degrees Fahrenheit
02. C’mon Boys
03. (Quentin on the Radio)
05. Chest Full of Love
06. Big Heart / Big Tears
08. Para A Espinha
11. Better Times
12. (Bully II)
13. Erotic City
14. California Mille
15. City on Fire
16. Summer’s Gone (excerpt)
© 2012 Kelly Clipperton.