John Maybury in conversation with ICA Director Gregor Muir recently revealed his ongoing fascination with with his own creative energies and those around him. A life full of enquiry John was brought up in North London where upon leaving home he quickly became part of the emerging scene of the mid 70's, a small Punk collective of artists, musicians, designers and activists who pursued a DIY ethos. Inspiring for a young boy fresh out of the drudgery of his Enfield school St Ignatious, John was very much a core member. I met John officially in 1977 having seen him around and about, we've remained firm friends through 4 decades. Even then his proactive and outspoken sensibilities gave him an aura that drew attention to his pursuits. Meeting Derek Jarman proved pivotal to the young Maybury who was then thought he set on a career path as a painter. Asked by Jarman to assist with his film Jubilee who wanted a real punk involved, John became intrigued with the possibility of film.
Throughout this talk John engaged us with a series of film extracts, his own and work that has inspired him over the years. Both Jarman and Kenneth Anger played a part in the technique John developed in his own 'art house' shorts. Working on super 8, (readily available and cheap), one of John's first exhibitions was indeed at the ICA of 1982 under the moniker 'The New Romantics', a collective show of young artists on the scene, (John's preferred the title 'Neuro Mantics' which he later put to use). It is with a quizzical eyebrow that John discusses his fascination with fame and the sense of 'underground' creative culture of the time. And indeed it was a thing we all realized, the fame game was easily obtainable and many of our mutual friends were becoming successful in their chosen fields, Andy Warhol's prediction of 'Everyone will be famous 15 minutes' ironically has become true.
John talks about the social consciousness of the 80's, the AID's epidemic and casualties of drug abuse that took many of our friends. A fact that has led him to retrieve archive film in order to remember and pay homage to some of the people that have played a great part in John's life.
Enquiring and pondering over technology both then and now, he adapted chroma key and worked with every scrap of creative media available to him. Cashing in on the pop video explosion of the 80's with videos for Neneh Cherry, Sinead O'Connor, Marc Almond and Boy George he recycled sets from his commercial work for his personal work. With his usual enthusiasm today he extols on the virtues of the world of apps, reediting film on his i-phone.
By the end of the 90's John first full length film 'Love Is The Devil' was released. Roping in friends, namely the Young British Artist's of the day, he got them to re-enact various scenes. Initially he cast Malcolm McDowell as Francis Bacon, it all fell through and the part went to Derek Jacobi, John tells how the scene where George Dyer (played by Daniel Craig) falls through the ceiling upon first meeting Francis Bacon is infact completely fictional but has been cited as fact by leading art historians. For your information they apparently met in a pub.
Realizing an ambition to explore further the medium of the feature film he went on to create The Jacket and most recently The Edge Of Love. Further to which he tells us about an Italian TV series 'Rome', where as a director he is enjoying the seemingly limitless budgets.
Summing up a creative life in the space of 40 minutes is really not long enough and John's engaging repartee throws up some amusing situations that are both insightful and refreshingly honest.