Sometimes, an art exhibition comes along that has such an interesting story behind it, that you just have to tell it. Magic People is one such exhibition.
Mik Artistik isn’t your usual artist. In fact, he’s spent the last 30 years drawing people’s portraits on brown paper bags. It gave him the perfect excuse to speak to people he wouldn’t normally have any reason to speak to, offering a glimpse into their lives – and the same of true of his latest project, Magic People.
You see, when Mik decided to switch his biros for paint and his paper bags for canvas, he also decided to start ticking off his artistic bucket list, painting the people he’d always wanted to paint, but had never had the chance to.
“I decided I would do something similar, except in paint, and would ask those people who I had always been fascinated by around Leeds, people who had attended the same concerts as me, got pissed at the same parties and yet I had never had the opportunity or the confidence, to meet properly or to chat with,” Mik told us. “I call them ‘Magic People’ because they made me smile, they had a charge, they intrigued me and made my world a bit more colourful.”
They’re a real mix of people, some are artists, some are musicians, others are just great people he ran into from time to time. Mik calls them ‘Leeds royalty’ and they offer an interesting snapshot of Leeds.
“One chap, Geoff Clout, who I had seen as a performer with the Mirror Boys back in early 80’s, was an intimidating and electric frontman. I needed to go for a run and get myself psyched up before I went round and knocked on his door,” Mike told us. “He opened the door and in a dramatic baritone he said, ‘I’ve been expecting you!’ He gave me a tour of his cottage and told me he would be critical if the painting wasn’t any good. While I was painting him, my rickety easel kept moving and I had to hold the canvas with one hand while painting. Once it was done he asked to see the finished result. His response was… “Wow!” A day later he knocked on the door and left me a good solid easel he’d taken from the Art College.”
And he’s just one of Mik’s Magic People. There are many more and each has a story. You’ve got Andy Prowler, something of a South Leeds legend – in the 1980s he was in a blues band, and a good one at that. Then there’s Brendan Croker, a musician and artist who played in the Notting Hillbillies with Mark Knopfler, he fell asleep during his sitting, so Mik surrounded him with a wall of red paint.
And let’s not forget, Andy Hook, a fellow artist who’s since turned the tables on Mik. “He’s a one armed whirlwind, portrait painter, mosaic artist and performer. A knight of the modern age. Since I’ve painted him, he’s painted me and we have performed as Itchy and Scratchy (DJ ’n’ rapper) Him, leaping between two gramophones changing 78’s furiously, and me spouting adrenalin fuelled nonsense over the top.”
In their own way, Mik’s portraits tell these stories, which is what makes it such an interesting exhibition. From the pose to the colours, they’ll give you a glimpse of the person Mik sees them to be – and he’ll be there on opening night, if you want to hear the real stories behind his Leeds royalty. He’ll also be performing with the electric phenomenon that is Mik Artistik’s Ego Trip.
The opening night for Magic People is at 6:30pm on Friday 6th May 2016 at Besbrode Pianos and the exhibition will be on display until Monday 6th June 2016. It’s free to visit.