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Drunken Butterfly – Neal Fox & Jeremy Reed’s voyage to the Afterlife

The two Love Lovers, painter Neal Fox & poet Jeremy Reed are currently showing their exhibition Drunken Butterfly at galerie Suzanne Tarasieve in Paris.
On Sunday May 22 from 4pm to 7pm there will be a finissage and a release event for the book of the exhibition. Welcome everyone!
(Le livre a été traduit en français par Lisa Marie Järlborn.)
As an introduction to this epic collaboration Lisa Marie has dived into Drunken Butterfly to tell you all about it’s magic…welcome to learn more about this fantastic art collaboration.

Drunken Butterfly –

a voyage to the Afterlife with Neal Fox & Jeremy Reed

 

Once upon a time the whole world needed to dream, and Neal Fox was dreaming. Accompanied by the words of author and poet Jeremy Reed, the British artist decided to hide away on a Greek island, somewhere in the Ancient Aegean Sea, to develop his painting in a mythical place, where the landscape hasn’t changed for thousands of years and the colours of every sunset are more psychedelic than LSD. There he began to paint a kind of afterlife where Greek gods, legendary cultural icons and lost loved ones could hang out together and live again. In imaginary, fantastical situations that the painter calls “psychodramas” these gods and iconic figures meet with the Fox and the inhabitants of the island, drinking wine, dancing and playing music in an alternate reality.

Fox the painter and Reed the poet, though separated in worldly space (Jeremy lives in London), create together by riffing off each other’s ideas; Jeremy’s poem will inspire one of Neal’s paintings and vice versa. In this collaboration the two artists are weaving a tale of a mysterious, psychedelic island, which starts off in an opium den in Malta, called Drunken Butterfly.

This is where Scott Walker and William Burroughs meet the Fox, while a geisha is decadently observing Tintin, quietly smoking his pipe on a futon and they all decide to set out on a voyage, on an old steamboat, to find the magic island of their destiny.

 

The captain of the boat is Neal Cassady, the muse of the Beat Generation and Neal’s namesake. Fox’s parents, both artists, were good friends with Carolyn Cassady, his first wife. On their quest for the island, the old steamboat and its crew make many stops. Dionysius joins the party, and while chugging down red wine he starts turning sailors into dolphins. Popeye is on board too and Cassady cuddles a mermaid. It seems like they’re going into a kind of vortex.

Neal’s late grandfather, John Watson, an author, publisher, chat show host and bomber pilot in World War II is keeping a look out at the bow of the ship. Watson is an often-recurring figure in the paintings and a kind of spirit guide through the narrative, always portrayed in his black overcoat and hat.

They then stop to pick up Lou Reed on another island, where he is playing guitar in a field of poppies to Poseidon who is listening in the ocean background. David Bowie takes a nap on the boat in a light blue hammock, rocked to sleep by Hypnos, the god of dreams. In another port, beat writer William Burroughs is having a coffee and a cigarette when the god of gay love, Antinous, walks out of the water and Burroughs falls helplessly in love with him. The writer later gets picked up on the pier, with all of his suitcases, by the drunken steamboat crew. Then the Somnambule, which is the name of the boat, continues on her quest…

On the island, Dennis Hopper is making a 60s underground movie starring Eros, the god of love and Psyche, the soul. They’re having a lazy time in bed, while a cat works the spotlights and yellow Cycladic cat statues are enlightened by a psychedelic sunset. It’s a colourful scene. In the Fox’s house on the island, Eros makes a surprise visit, floating around like a ghost in the room, while Leonard Cohen peeps through the window, guitar in hand. The Fox sketches away with a femme fatale cat on his side. It’s a rendezvous of friends.

In the village, Billie Holiday is singing. Everyone is intoxicated by raki and retsina, and the Fox is having a conversation with his grandad on one of the chalky, white steps painted with hearts and stars and love.

Somewhere in the background Tom Waits is playing a drunken piano and Anita Berber plays chess with a snake. Leonard Cohen lights the cigarette of femme fatale Lola the Cat. (Most of the “real people” on the island are portrayed as cats, donkeys or other animals, except for the Fox, who’s a fox.)

Bob Dylan takes off his mask and shows his real beaded bird face, next to Bowie who sits stark naked in his alien skin with his face resting next to him. They’ve fallen to earth and now they’re enjoying a pagan party at an ancient temple.

It sounds like a dream, doesn’t it?

Yet the dreamers are real…

Neal Fox began drawing as a child, his father Jeremy Fox is an artist, as is brother Leigh Fox. Neal grew up surrounded by art and literature, as well as tales of his legendary grandfather John Watson, a creative, enigmatic figure, who at an early age had to join the army and bomb Germany as an aviator in World War II. An experience that traumatised him for life. He later wrote pulp fiction books to make a living, then became a “serious writer” when he wrote the novel Johnny Kinsman about his experiences in the war, and then, who would have guessed, went on to be a chat show host, interviewing people like Cary Grant, Walt Disney and Steve McQueen. Watson pops up in many of Neal’s paintings as a kind of guide and an intimate link between the Fox and the afterlife he is creating and imagining.

As mentioned earlier, Neal was also imbibed by the writings of the Beat Generation, his family being fans and even good friends with Carolyn Cassady.

Neal graduated the Royal Collage of Art in London and went on to start Le Gun collective with fellow artists Robert Rubbish, Bill Bragg, Chris Bianchi and Steph von Reiswitz. The group of five would draw and paint in black ink together, creating whole worlds of imagery that looked like the works of one giant octopus artist. The group also publish the annual Le Gun magazine.

Around 15 years ago, Neal Fox met with author Jeremy Reed, introduced by Aaron Budnik, a legend in his own right (another story) and the two became friends. This was in Aaron’s bookstore Red Snapper Books in London, Soho. Reed, who is somewhat 15-20 years Neal’s senior, was already a renowned poet and author. To this day he has written over 20 books of poetry, 12 novels and numerous works of literary and music criticism. Jeremy writes everything in purple ink, by hand and usually works for a consecutive 7 hours a day. He often performs his poetry to the music of the Ginger Light and is currently working on a novel about Sylvia Plath and one about Francis Bacon. He lives close to John Keats’s ghost on Hampstead Heath in London.

It is not difficult to see why the minds of these two artists work together. One could say that their dreams and imagination intertwine. The Greek gods, dead superstars and long lost loved ones living in their imagination and art represent archetypes and ideas that echo eternal.

Drunken Butterfly is the shared, epic dream of Neal Fox and Jeremy Reed. It is a voyage into the unknown, which could be called the Afterlife. It is also a quest for all seekers out there, looking for life’s magic and poetry. Through Drunken Butterfly it isn’t hard to find. It is painted and written out for all to see. There is a magic island where we all can go. And where the dead are alive, also.