Ray Lowry: London Calling


Ray Lowry: London Calling was an art exhibition focusing on the genius of Ray Lowry, with reinterpretations of his timeless art work for The Clash's third studio album, 'London Calling' from 30 artists, including Tracey Emin, Nick Hornby, Billy Childish, Harry Hill, Paul Simonon and Humphrey Ocean, from the front cover of 'London Calling'. Celebrating 30 years since the release of this worldwide phenomenon of an album, these artists have looked at how Ray and his ideologies have had an influence on their artistic output and also on them personally. This exhibition included original sketches, ideas and designs for the actual album cover as well as personal letters, private sketchbooks and previously unseen paintings and photographs.


Ray Lowry: An Introduction:

Ray Lowry was a Manchester born cartoonist who dominated much of the 1970's and 80's with his "stylish and witty" illustrations, and satirical strips and drawings. However, alongside this, he is also remembered as a graphic designer of course, with his iconic and unforgettable for The Clash's seminal album, London Calling. Although he was Rock N' Roll's leading cartoonist in Britain, he didn't just stop at his work for world famous musicians and bands, but he also worked for non-music publications such as Punch and Private Eye. This exhibition was a celebration of his life work, as he worked prolifically and promptly until his death in 2008. Most notably, in the later years of his life he much preferred to paint in oils, with many of the works being urban landscapes of northwest Britain. His love for raw rock and roll was the perfect complement to the new punk mentality that emerged in late 1970's.

His relationship with world class bands begun when he saw the Sex Pistols at the Electric circus in Manchester on their Anarchy tour; at this tour is where the Ray Lowry met The Clash. Ray struck up a friendship with the members of The Clash, and this furthermore led to an invitation for him to join them on their tour of the United States in 1979. From being friends with the band and accompanying them on tour, he then created the artwork for 'London Calling' using a rejected photograph by Pennie Smith. During the 1980's, Lowry wrote a column in The Face and was a regular contributor to The Guardian and stayed inspired and obsessed by rock and roll, creating a long series of colour images inspired by the tour of UK by the American rockers Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent. Ray Lowry's work has dominated for over thirty years. From energetic ink sketches to graphic design, he has left such a mark on the arts for decades, and will continue to do so forever.


A Few Of The Artists:

Billy Childish

Billy Childish is a British artist well known for his painting, song writing and poetry. As well as being a member of sever bands such as The Headcoats, the Pop Rivets and The Milkshakes and releasing 100 full length albums, his own personal artwork includes some 40 published collections of poetry, 4 novels and around 2,500 paintings. His work over the years has become staple due to how personal it is to him, in both his writing and painting; along with developing a style in technique and creativity, his early poetry and artworks explored the abuse suffered as a child, making it highly individual and distinctive.


Tracey Emin

Tracey Emin is one of Britain's most acclaimed and successful contemporary artists. Her works include the installation pieces My Bed and Everyone I have Ever Slept With 1963-1995. Tracey is most commonly known for her specific style of artwork and craft, ranging from her stitch-work installations, sculpture and use of neon lighting. Furthermore, along with her personal techniques, her work is so very personal to Tracey, often raw and unfiltered and sharing her mind through her artwork, no matter how vulgar or uncivil to some. It's entirely autobiographical, taking the phrase "telling a story through art" very literally, as she shares her life experiences and feelings through the form of art.




Exhibition Summary:

The Ray Lowry: London Calling Exhibition was an incredible display of the genius of Ray Lowry, and the inspiration he had and has on so many people, from fans, to artists, to musicians and the arts industry. This exhibition shared such personal identities and attachments, demonstrating the impact that Lowry has on so many people. From personal interpretations and artwork from over thirty artists and photographers, it became a welcoming zone for personal connection and feeling. With world renowned musicians like Damon Albarn and David Bowie sharing their illustrations and art, to phenomenal artists like Tracey Emin, Kevin Cummings, Mick Jones, Billy Childish and Nick Hornby to name a few, truly everyone in the industry got to reinterpret and reimagine the iconic album cover from 'London Calling', and share what Ray Lowry meant to them through this exhibition.

The beauty of this exhibition is that it didn't just focus on the legacy of The Clash, although it's such an integral part of music history, it focused on how much love and appreciation the community of music lovers, Ray Lowry lovers, The Clash lovers, and people for a huge love for the whole of the arts, from the music illustration to the plethora of astounding artists constantly drawing inspiration from it. Eloise Rowley, Idea Generation Gallery Manager commented, "The Idea Generation gallery feels honored to have such a varied selection of Ray’s work. Not only is Ray remembered for his links with punk movement band The Clash and The London Calling sleeve but his cartoon imagery maintains some of the greatest ever seen. He has played part in so many people’s lives and this exhibition demonstrates how talented Ray was and how far his influenced reached." Furthermore, Julian Williams, Curator of Ray Lowry Foundation commented, "This exhibition demonstrates how much influence Ray had on so many people for so many reasons. London Calling is a tribute to the outstanding contributions that Ray made to the Industry and the effect that he had on so many."



This exhibition opened from 18th June to 4th July, 2010 at The Idea Generation Gallery in London, 11 Chance Street. 

Blog by Libby Mitchell


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