Seen & heard: An interview with Ash King

ash kingMarta Jary has a conversation with Ash King for Somethingyousaid about her upcoming exhibition:

In her debut art exhibition, Ash King (yep, you may know her best from that viral video) is doing lines with her rock’n’roll idols – from Bob Dyan to Joni Mitchell and Mick Jagger, Ash’s collection of haunting black and white portraits, constructed from lyrics to the legends’ own songs, is an exploration of the guts and the glory of what makes music great, and artists unforgettable.

I chatted to her about sex, drugs and rock and roll – and that video, of course.

When did you start drawing/creating art?
When I was four, my mum told me the story behind ‘Tears In Heaven’. I drew a picture of Eric Clapton’s late son, Conor, and asked her to send it off to his dad. My love of art has been spiralling out of control ever since.

Why are old rock n roll stars your focus?
Music has always been my primary source of inspiration. Particularly 60s & 70s rock & roll. I thought I’d like to honour some of the greatest and most influential musicians in history by making them the heart and soul of my work.

You seem to have a fascination with the 60s era of rock n roll – what appeals to you about that time aesthetically and thematically?
I’m such a fan of reckless indulgence and blinding hedonism, and the pre-punk, 60s & 70s music scenes were simply throbbing with that. With musical and aesthetic influences coming in from the East, and the desperate need to create after the devastating destruction of the recent world wars, rock stars were more decadent and passionate than ever. They were musical monoliths back then, it wouldn’t be a stretch to believe they could take over the world. I still think Freddie Mercury could have taken over the world. FUCK AIDS.

ash king art 1What’s the idea behind calling the show Doing Lines?
The pieces in this collection feature images of iconic rock stars made up out of the lyrics of their own songs. The show’s title is a reference to the lines of their songs becoming mantras to live by and lifestyles to emulate, literally ‘Doing Lines’. And it also has a bit more of a naughty meaning…

Is there a hint of the 60s drug culture in your work?
Obviously drugs had a major influence on the music scene at the time. I think most of the artists featured in the exhibition had serious cocaine addictions. I would have liked to have been on more cocaine during the process of creating this art, but unfortunately I couldn’t afford it.

You’re also a musician – do you have plans to release your own music?
Musican? You flatter me. I think I’m more of a Mick Jagger/Stevie Nicks impersonator, but I’ll take it where I can get it. At the moment, the bands I’m playing with do covers, so not really release-worthy material. But who knows, a rich, old patron might pump us full of money to release a kinky Christmas album. So stay tuned.

What inspired you to put your work on display and have a show?
Friends and family have been hassling me to do it for ages. So I thought, why not? A good excuse for a mid-week party if nothing else.

You’re probably best known to some people because of a little viral video you happened to make. How did the response to that video affect you?
I found the reaction simply hilarious. I had no idea it would go so nuts and make people so furious. The problem with me is, I don’t really do irony. So much so that friends have to tell me not to go up to boys wearing Meat Loaf t-shirts at Flinders Bar because they’re probably not wearing them to engage in a 40min conversation with me about the Bat Out Of Hell album. Regarding the Surry Hills vid, this resulted in people thinking the whole thing was super serious, when it clearly wasn’t. Come on guys. I ate a fucking pie at the end of it.

ash king art 2Did you have any idea you’d get a negative response? How bad did it get?
I got it. bad.
Lets revisit some of my favourite comments:
“I keep watching it back, the part where she is crossing the road, and HOPING a truck comes past and flattens her…”
“This is like a bad dream where the spawn of Carrie Bradshaw and Cassie from Skins gets a job on Getaway.”
(Re: my G&R t-shirt) “I bet she doesn’t own Use Your Illusion (Vol 1 OR 2).” Jokes on you ‘lucydedl’. I own all their albums.

What was the video made for initially and do you regret creating it?
I love Sydney and love the characters who inhabit it (painful or not). I initially wanted to showcase this in a faux, inner-city travel style series, visiting suburbs all around the place like Bondi, Newtown and Kings Cross. But after the response from the first video, I couldn’t find a cinematographer with the balls to do it!

Are you worried that being back in the public eye with this show will drudge that stuff up?
My only concern is that some of my interviewees might see this as a golden opportunity to track me down and string me up by my tits. Mainly Tom Tilley.

Why did you chose the band Group to play at the show?
Because they’re the best looking boy band since Duran Duran. And they play the blues soft and smooth and hard and fast. Like whiskey and sex.

What are you hoping people come away with after seeing your work?
Non-serious drug addictions, and smiles.


Full details can be found on Facebook.



Interview by Marta Jary