Page 1


6 Director's Foreword 8 It’s Hard To Be A Saint In This City 15 16 18 19 20 22 24 26

Painting   False & Inflatable Feeling   Make This Feel Like Home   How Soon Is Now? (Weak Become Heroes)   Doused In Mud, Soaked In Bleach   Fated To Pretend   The Sound of Loneliness Makes Her Happier   The Sound Of My Heart Breaking In The Dark

29 30 32 33 34 36

Sculpture   Creep  Wuss  Freak  Bum  Loser

39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47

Readymade   Geeks  Broken  Stars  Love  Weirdo  Answer   Running   Tonight

Paper   Fate... Up Against Your Will   Heart Soul Control   Trying To Walk Like The Heros We Thought   We Had To Be (Feat. Frances Bean Cobain) 56   Loser 58   Cool Kids Never Die 60   Young Kings 51 52 54 55

63 Print 64   All The Things I Should Have Done But Never   Did... (Wordsearch one) 66   This Time, We’ll Fade Out Tonight 68   Fluorescent Adolescent 71 CV 76 Acknowledgements

The Cat Street Gallery is thrilled to present Stuart Semple’s second stunning solo show with the gallery in Hong Kong. ‘It’s Hard To Be A Saint In This City’ is a new series of works on paper, large scale paintings, foam sculptures and modified readymades. Against the atmospheric backdrop of a creepy teen supernatural TV show, Semple weaves a story of a loser’s prayer to be more than human, to control and dominate his environment. Whilst doing so, he makes a clear judgement over humankind’s longing for fame and fortune or triumph over mass-media culture. Rather like anti-anthems for teenage weirdos, these new works are firmly dedicated to the loner kids, like Semple, who only had their dreams to get them through the day.  The works depict a multi-faceted, pick- and-choose, hybrid environment, which visually is totally defined by mass culture and pop. This space is inhabited by all of us and defined by our choices, desires and preferences. The work critiques the ‘us-and-them’ separateness that comes out of this disparity. Any visual result of that external cornucopia of ‘stuff’ can only be in the past - an advertising campaign, music video or product is always pre-conceived. The only element that is truly of the moment is nature itself, and humanity is the most present force of that in this particular context. Therefore Semple’s new work addresses the felt emotion of separateness humankind faces whilst living in a consumerist pop-culture society.  The works in this show are about isolation and alientation, but then they are also very accessible. These amazing works are such because of the language. The language is derived straight from popular culture, so they are symbolic in a way that many people can identify with them. Throughout his multi-media works, including his fabricated sculptural pieces, Semple leaves traces of error, of gesture and of the hand of the artist. By mixing high and low tech, his works contradict the false hope that mass production and mechanization gave to previous generations of pop artists.


Semple’s work contains a large amount of ‘80s and ‘90s youth culture references, including song titles and iconic figures. We are all surrounded by the language of popular culture; billboards, music videos, fashion magazines. What Semple does is remix these icons and popular culture and discovers that it is empowering to remix these ideas. People today strive for the perfection, when there are simpler ways to find pleasure in life. Semple believes that society today and how people live has meant that people become atomised and disparate, all trying to stake their claim on something. This kind of existence is lonely so people want to grasp onto popular culture in order to feel connected.  ‘’It’s the idea that people are going into the office reciting lines from sitcoms to each other in order to feel some sort of connection. In the ‘80s, with the advent of music videos, popular culture became an escape. These images and ideas were what helped people transcend the poverty surrounding them and inevitably made them want to escape their surroundings.”  Semple’s paintings are far more than re-mixing; they address ideas which immersion in popular culture sparks. Utilising captions from song titles and strong visual imagery, the viewer cannot help but stare. The results are works that fuse contemporary figurative painting with pop art.  Although Semple’s paintings inspire comparisons with Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat, he is more informed by their legacies. Art is his obsession.  Stuart Semple is an incandescent talent and artist whose works are intriguing and riveting and they leave an indelible imprint on the viewer, by eliciting memories of one’s own experiences. His work creates an imaginative opportunity to reflect upon the themes of life, longing, loneliness and desire. Mandy d’Abo January 2012


By Tom Jeffreys


‘It’s hard to be a saint in this city’ is a new series of works on paper, large scale paintings, foam sculptures and modified readymades by London-based artist Stuart Semple. The series marks an expansion in Semple’s creative output, the diversity of media providing a natural link between the paintings for which he is perhaps best known, and more technically elaborate projects such as ‘Happy Clouds’. It also connects his artistic output with his more recent work as a curator, by establishing its own fully realised conceptual environment. The works operate within and against a visual world that is uniquely distinctive and yet instantly recognisable. Bold, bright and clamouring with a multiplicity of messages, Semple’s vision is one that chimes with the world in which we find ourselves – a complicated, occasionally confusing world of constantly competing visuals. Outside - billboards, banner ads, glossy magazines; here, logos, anagrams, visual puns, even a wordsearch - all compete for the attention of these anguished, isolated figures, in particular the two hunched, seemingly devastated females in ‘Doused in Mud, Soaked in Bleach’ and ‘False & Inflatable Feeling’. But Semple does more than simply add another voice to the cacophony; he posits a tentative series of pathways through. Art is one way; music another.   Music has long been a key influence on Semple’s work, and these new works are no different. References to Radiohead, Beck, The Smiths, Echo and the Bunnymen and Nirvana run through the entire series. The title of the show, for example, references a track on Bruce Springsteen’s 1973 debut album ‘Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J’, but where Springsteen opts for the characteristically vague ‘the city’, Semple creates, or seems to create, a sense of specificity through the use of the demonstrative, ‘this’. By changing this single word, Semple emphasises the intensely personal nature of his relationship with his art. Semple’s work has always been informed by his own experiences. Right from the start, it was through creating art that he was able to come through the anxiety disorder that followed a near-death experience in his teens. Art and personal experience are, for Semple, inextricably linked, because his art is about personal experience.  

Photo credit: Rai Royal Stylist: Justine Josephs


And yet, this city is never actually revealed. Like the darkly relevant lyrics that are such a pervasive influence, Semple draws on his own personal difficulties to produce something that reaches out to the diverse array of losers, punks, emo kids and teenage New Romantic oddballs that populate these images. Similarly, his new foam sculptures subtly poke fun at the universalised playground bully, and their hurtful, but ultimately, juvenile insults – Bum, Creep, Wuss, Freak. In doing so, Semple maintains a delicate balance between communicating and keeping back. There is always a secret, an aporia, that maintains a sense of mystery, and it is this that transforms the personal experience into something of more universal significance. For all the text, the logos, and the imagery, there is always an unknown (which is often on what level these signs are operating) and it is this that keeps us coming back for more. What we are left with then is nothing as simple as complicity or rebellion, but a tangled relationship with the world’s own semiotic tangle. The question is really about where the emotion, the personality, of the individual can find the space to express itself; even merely to establish itself as a distinct, independent entity. The answer, in some ways, is that it is impossible. We can never entirely untangle ourselves from the pre-packaged commercial surroundings in which we exist. But as evidenced by the use of SMEG fridges (the kind of boundary-straddling collaboration that has characterised the artist’s career), Semple is keen to leave traces of ‘error’ throughout his works, thereby foregrounding the hand of the artist, the lasting mark of the individual. Yes, there is a dialogue with big name pop artists such as Koons and Warhol, but Semple complicates the false idealism that mass production and mechanisation gave to a previous generations of pop artists. Semple’s art is simultaneously an embrace and a struggle; a celebration and a condemnation. “Come as you are,” it implores. “As a trend, as a friend, as an old memory.”


Š Enzo Barracco 2011


Plate 1: False & Inflatable Feeling Acrylic, charcoal, spraypaint & paint marker on canvas 120 x 120 cm 2011



Plate 2: Make This Feel Like Home Acrylic, charcoal & diamond dust on canvas 120 x 120 x 7 cm 2012


Plate 3: How Soon Is Now? (Weak Become Heroes) Acrylic, charcoal & Kandahar ink on canvas 120 x 120 x 7 cm 2011



Plate 4: Doused In Mud, Soaked In Bleach Acrylic, charcoal & Kandahar ink & spraypaint on canvas 120 x 120 x 7 cm 2011



Plate 5: Fated To Pretend Acrylic & charcoal on canvas 240 x 170 x 7 cm 2012



Plate 6: The Sound of Loneliness Makes Her Happier Acrylic, charcoal & spraypaint on canvas 120 x 120 x 7 cm 2011


Plate 7: The Sound Of My Heart Breaking In The Dark Acrylic, charcoal & vinyl on canvas 120 x 120 x 7 cm 2012


Plate 8: Creep Pepperskin coated polyurethane foam Approx 150 x 150 x 90 cm 2011 Edition of 3



Plate 9: Wuss Pepperskin coated polyurethane foam Approx 120 x 120 x 90 cm 2011 Edition of 3


Plate 10: Freak Pepperskin coated polyurethane foam Approx 90 x 170 x 120 cm 2011 Edition of 3



Plate 11: Bum Pepperskin coated polyurethane foam Approx 90 x 120 x 90 cm 2011 Edition of 3


Plate 12: Loser Pepperskin coated polyurethane foam Approx 120 x 100 x 100 cm 2011 Edition of 3


Plate 13: Geeks Acrylic on refrigerator door 150 x 60 x 20 cm 2011


Plate 14: Broken Acrylic on refrigerator door 150 x 60 x 20 cm 2011


Plate 15: Stars Acrylic on refrigerator door 150 x 60 x 20 cm 2011


Plate 16: Love Acrylic on refrigerator door 150 x 60 x 20 cm 2011


Plate 17: Weirdo Acrylic on refrigerator door 150 x 60 x 20 cm 2011


Plate 18: Answer Acrylic on refrigerator door 150 x 60 x 20 cm 2011


Plate 19: Running Acrylic on refrigerator door 150 x 60 x 20 cm 2011


Plate 20: Tonight Acrylic on refrigerator door 150 x 60 x 20 cm 2011



Plate 21: Fate... Up Against Your Will Kandahar ink & watercolour on Saunders Waterford paper 76 x 56 cm 2011


Plate 22: Heart Soul Control Watercolour, acrylic, Kandahar ink & vinyl on Saunders Waterford paper 76 x 56 cm 2011


Plate 23: Trying To Walk Like The Heros We Thought We Had To Be (Feat. Frances Bean Cobain) Kandahar ink, biro, watercolour & acrylic on Saunders Waterford paper 76 x 56 cm 2011



Plate 24: Loser Watercolour, acrylic, vinyl, foil, Kandahar ink & vegetable dye transfer on Saunders Waterford paper 76 x 56 cm 2011


Plate 25: Cool Kids Never Die Charcoal, watercolour, acrylic, Dr. Martin’s ink, vegetable dye transfer, gold leaf, vinyl & spraypaint on Saunders Waterford paper 76 x 56 cm 2011



Plate 26: Young Kings Watercolour, acrylic, Dr. Martin’s ink, graphite & biro on Saunders Waterford paper 76 x 56 cm 2011


Plate 27: All The Things I Should Have Done But Never Did... (Wordsearch one) Wax crayon on Fabriano paper 100 x 85 cm 2011 Edition of 25 + 3 AP + 2 HC




Plate 28: This Time, We’ll Fade Out Tonight 5 Colour screenprint, hand finished with metallic paintmarker on 400gsm handmade watercolour paper 120 x 150 cm 2011 Edition of 6 + 2 AP + 2 HC



Plate 29: Fluorescent Adolescent 5 Colour screenprint on 400gsm handmade watercolour paper 120 x 150 cm 2011 Edition of 12 + 2 AP + 1 HC

1980 Born in Bournemouth, England 1997 School of Art and Design, Poole (Advanced Art and Design) 2000 Bretton Hall, Yorkshire (Painting and Printmaking) Currently lives and works in London and Dorset



2010 ‘The Happy House’, Morton Metropolis, London 2009 ‘Lipstick Vogue’, The Cat Street Gallery, Hong Kong ‘Everlasting Nothing Less’, Anna Kustera, New York ‘Born To Run’, Terminal Crociere, Bari 2008 ‘Cult of Denim’, Selfridges, London ‘Pop Disciple’, AUS18 Gallery, Milan 2007 ‘Fake Plastic Love part I’, Truman Brewery, London ‘Fake Plastic Love part II’, Martin Summers Fine Art, London 2006 ‘Epiphany’, Martin Summers Fine Art, London 2005 ‘Post Pop Paradise’, SKIT, London 2002 ‘Stolen Language’, The Art of Nancyboy A&D Gallery, London 2000 ‘Nancyboy Paintings’, Pause, London ‘Nancyboy Paintings’, BLU, Bournemouth

2011 ‘Polemically Small’, Charlie Smith, London ‘Mindful’, Old Vic Tunnels, London ‘Re:Define’, Goss-Michael Foundation, Dallas Art HK11, Hong Kong ‘Polemically Small’, Torrance Art Museum, California MOMAC, Gloustershire ‘Desire’, Portman Gallery, London 2010 ‘The Metal Ball’, Museum of Arts and Design, New York Art HK10, Hong Kong ‘Kate Brandt Pink’, University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee ‘Nobody gets to see the Wizard. Not No One Not No How’, Anna Kustera, New York 2009 Scope Art Fair, Miami ‘Gold Rush’, Roberta Moore Fine Art, London Pavilion of Art & Design, London Art HK09, Hong Kong 2008 Ruby Green Foundation, Nashville ‘Signal 8’, The Cat Street Gallery, Hong Kong 71



2005 2004 2003

curatorial projects

Special projects


Art Kessaris, Mykonos, Greece Next Art Fair, Chicago Art HK08, Hong Kong ‘Romance’, Kowalsky Gallery, London Bergamo Arte Fiera, Bergamo ‘Urbanity on Paper’, Anna Kustera Gallery, New York ‘Do You Nomi’, AUS18 Gallery, Milan Art Miami, Miami ‘Multiples 1’, Architecture + Design Museum, Los Angeles Art Car Boot Fair, London ‘I’ll Be Your Mirror’, Primo Alonso Gallery, London Xiclet Gallery, Sao Paulo Biennial, Sao Paulo ‘I’ll Be Your Mirror’, Independents Biennial, Liverpool ‘Irresistible Paint’, A&D Gallery, London ‘Art of Love 2005’, Oxo Gallery, London International ArtExpo, Mexico ‘Pop Culture’, Beatrice Royal, Hampshire

2011 ‘Mindful’, Old Vic Tunnels, London 2010 ‘This Is England’, Galleria Uno+Uno, Milan ‘Uber Collision: Epic Fail’, Idea Generation Gallery, London (curated by Stuart Semple & Harry Malt) ‘Bazooka- Kiki & Loulou Picasso’ Aubin Gallery, London ‘This Is England’, Aubin Gallery, London 2009 ‘London Loves the way things fall apart’, Galleria Aus18, Milan (curated by Stuart Semple & Cecilia Antolini) 2008 ‘Mash-Ups - post pop fragments and detournements’ Kowalsky Gallery, London 2007 2007 ‘The Black Market’ Anna Kustera Gallery, NYC (curated by Stuart Semple & Ju$t Another Rich Kid) 2001 ‘Non Compos Mentis’, Adlib Gallery, Wakefield

2011 Moncler Austria, Tokyo, New York Semple x Pizza Express x International Finance Centre, Hong Kong 2010 ʻFORMʼ Ambassadors of Design, Hong Kong 2009 ‘Happy Cloud’ performance, Piazza della Scala, Milan ‘Happy Cloud’ performance, Tate Modern Bankside, London 2008 ‘TOY’, Stuart Semple + Moncler, Art Basel Miami, Aspen, St. Moritz, Milan


SELECTed Bibliography

2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2005

Aubin & Wills / Amnesty International The Futureheads / West East Magazine / Lady Gaga Moncler / The Prodigy / Muse / Umbro Levis, Diesel, 7 for all Mankind & Evisu / Subliminal Girls / Selfridges NoiWear / Stimuli Magazine (with Ju$t Another Rich Kid) Ju$t Another Rich Kid

2011 ‘Future Girl’, Roxane Mesquida x Stuart Semple, Filler 2010 Lady Gaga x Stuart Semple : Pop Hybrid’, WestEast Magazine ‘Semple collection inspired by mental Britain’, BBC News, Jane Witherspoon ‘I’m Afraid To Swallow’, The Evening Standard, Liz Hoggard ‘Stuart Semple, Morton Metropolis’, The Arts Desk, Josh Spero ‘Popular Culture and the Aesthetic Discourse’, Aesthetica, Cherie Federico ‘Commenti al moto contemporaneo’, Italian Vogue, Leonardo Clausi ‘Semple Pleasures’, Live City & Islington, Mark Kebble ‘Stuart Semple. The New Order’, Yasmin Bryce ‘Pop Matters’ Filler, Jennifer Lee 2009 ‘The New Face of Brit Art’, Kee Magazine, Rachel Duffell ‘Semple Pleasures’, Esquire ‘London Calling’, Prim, Kristin Ferrandino ‘An Exhibition on the Implosion of Popular Culture’, Aesthetica, Cherie Federico ‘Painting Through A Complex Lens’, L’UOMO Vogue, Alan Prada ‘Storm Clouds Give Way to Smileys over London’, The Times, Kaya Burges ‘Oltre Il Pop’, Urban, Giovanni Cervi ‘Playing With Art and its Symbols’, L’UOMO Vogue, Alan Prada 2008 ‘Stuart Semple: Keeping the Brit Art Flag Flying’, Palladium, Catherine Wheatley ‘Duck Toy’ La Repubblica, Alessandro Retico ‘20 Best up-and-coming Artists’, Independent, Alice Jones ‘Does my art look big in this?’, The Independent on Sunday, Rachel Shields ‘Stuart Semple and the Limitless Language of Art’, Zoot, Andrea Probosch ‘Stuart Semple’ Blag, Sarah J. Edwards ‘Pop Art & Mass Culture’, Aesthetica, Niamh Coghlanr ‘Stuart Semple’, Exhibart, Marta Silvi ‘Giovane Inglese, Pittore New Wave’, Arte, Cristina Campanini ‘Golden Pop’, Elle Italia, Pia Capelli ‘Paint It Bleak’, ARTnews, Eric Bryant 2007 ‘Stuart Semple’, Zoot, Matt Hussey ‘Stuart Semple; 80s influences & popular youth culture’, Aesthetica, Shona ‘Fairweather’ ‘Neopop’, Arte, Pia Capelli 73

‘Io Che Mixo Gli Ottanta’, D Magazine, Le Repubblica, Leonora Sartori ‘Fake Plastic Love’, Financial Times, Peter Aspden ‘Stuart Semple’, Art of England, Pam Bates ‘The Black Market’, Saatchi Online, Doug McClemont ‘East End Boy’, Attitude, Caroline Smith ‘Generation Now’,, Milly Glaister ‘Semple Things’, Angel Magazine, Mark Kebble ‘Let The Show Begin’, Tatler, Clare Milford Haven 2006 ‘Bright Young Thing’, Harpers Bazaar, Francesca Martin ‘Burn Paradiso Burn’, Pig, Giovanni Cervi 2005 ‘New Art Rises’, Sunday Telegraph, Charlotte Edwardes 2004 ‘RIP YBA’, The Art Newspaper, Louisa Buck




2011 ‘Mindful’, Old Vic Tunnels ‘Re:Define’, Goss-Michael Foundation 2010 ‘The Happy House’, Morton Metropolis 2009 ‘Born To Run’, Bari Terminal Crociere 2008 ‘Pop Disciple’, Aus18 Gallery, VanillaEdizioni 2007 ‘Bergamo Arte Fiera’, VanillaEdizioni ‘Fake Plastic Love’, Martin Summers Fine Art 2006 ‘Epiphany’, Martin Summers Fine Art

2011 ‘Psychonauts, Sailors Of The Psyche’, Beautiful/Decay Book, USA The Joyce Handbook, First Edition, Hong Kong 2009 ‘Creative Space: Urban Homes of Artists and Innovators’, Francesca Gavin, Lawrence King Publishing, UK 2007 ‘Playground 1’, Zach Gold & Julie Ragolia, New York 2006 ‘300% Cotton’, Lawrence King Publishing, UK

2011 Presenter, BBC Art & Design 2010 Curator, The Aubin Gallery 2009 Presenter, JackTV

CoolBrands, Expert Council Member 2007 Columnist for Art of England magazine 2006 Member of DACS creators council (Design and Artists Copyright Society) 2003 - 04 Editor and art director of Still Magazine (online journal for contemporary arts & culture)


Book Acknowledgements Catalogue Design The Antithesis 1 Pak Tze Lane, Central

Exhibition Acknowledgements This book was published to accompany an exhibition of the same name ‘It’s Hard To Be A Saint In This City’ Friday, 17th February - Saturday, 17th March, 2012

222 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong T + 852 2291 0006

I’d like to thank Emily Mann, John Jones, SMEG, Jess at Artists First Management, Sarah Leon at Next, Clare Bryant and everyone at The Cat Street Gallery for all their support.

I’d like to dedicate the show to my son Ari.

It's Hard to be a saint in this City  
It's Hard to be a saint in this City  

It's Hard to be a saint in this City