sico carlier & ben laloua
persistence of memory
Mystery is the fuel of any legend, be it dead or alive.
In Amanda Lear's case the most persistent mystery is the
rumor that she once might have been a man. Was she?
or Wasn't she? As far as I'm concerned she might once have been a frog. I can tell you, however, that not only is
Amanda very much alive, she is denitely a woman.
We all know, as well as she, that the uncertainty adds
to the mystery and makes it all so
much more... entertaining.
According to Amanda her mother has been English, French, Vietnamese, and/or Chinese. Her father has been at times English, Russian, French, or Indonesian.
Amanda's place of birth ranges from
Hanoi to Hong Kong. Her date of birth ranges from
1936 to 1946, which would mean she is, or could be anywhere between 55-65 years old. It is extremely difcult to fathom this when meeting her in person, considering her flawless and youthful complexion.
One of the things we do know for sure is that Lear came to notice in London shortly after she moved there from Paris in the mid-sixties. Lear's first roomate, Anita Pallenberg, then girlfriend of Rolling Stone, Brian Jones, Amanda would later date him as well introduced her to the London scene. She instantly became an icon of the nightclub circuit, and her circle of friends included Brian Eno, Keith Moon, and
Marianne Faithfull, to name a few.
According to one version of the story Amanda met Salvador Dali while having dinner in a Parisian restaurant with Brian Jones, and the Guinness heiress Tara Browne. Dali told her she had
a beautiful skull. Another version is that two years earlier Dali paid for her sex-change operation, which was
carried out in Casablanca. Whatever the story, she met
Dali in the early sixties, and for more than 15 years Lear
was his muse and companion.
Her androgynous appeal continued well into the seventies, when she was asked by Bryan Ferry to pose for the cover
of Roxy Music's 1975 album For Your Pleasure. David Bowie saw this famous image of la Lear and they became lovers.
Persistence of Memory
It was Bowie who encouraged her to pursue a career as a singer. Their relationship ended because Bowie was in love with a picture. Fittingly, Lear titled her first album I Am A Photograph.
Dali told Lear she was a lousy singer and that if she wanted to sell records, she would have to find something other than the music to attract people to buy her records. Dalis statement that she was unlike any other women, who were simply made to produce embryos, along with her guttural baritoned voice, fuelled the already existing rumors about her sex.
Amanda Lear, the model, turned into Amanda Lear Disco Diva. She became a notable success with her brand of deep-voice disco pop. Andy Warhol put her on Interview magazine and became one of her friends. Meanwhile her assessment of her appeal was as cynical as it was clever. With her atypical
self-invention Lear became the prototype of the Postmodern celebrity age, erasing and reinventing herself as she went along.
In the eighties, Lear turned TV chat show hostess and
eventually movie star. After acting with Gerard Depardieu last year, she just finished shooting a film produced by
Pedro Almodovar, and has a new film scheduled.
She continues to host her prime-time televison show in Italy and after the release of a planned single this summer, will be returning to the recording studio in the fall to record a new album.
an interview with Andrew Logan
I meet Andrew in his Glasshouse in the Sky near London Bridge, gunshots across the Thames salute Her Majesty the
Queen on her birthday.
Andrew has been described to me as a star and as a widely respected precursor of, for instance, Boy George and Leigh Bowery.
He rose to fame by doing enormous fibre-glass
flowers for Biba's Sculpture Garden in 1974, but discovered the noxious disadvantages of sculpting in that material and chose
to work in mirror glass from there. Among 1000 other
things—he designed jewelry for Divine and last year exhibited his
Universe of Smiles in the Basic Needs pavilion at Hannovers Expo 2000. My interest in Andrew arose from both of us being included in 'Not A. Lear' a group show around Amanda Lear, which travels to New York and Boston this fall.
Sico I became aware of your existence because of a portrait you did of Amanda Lear, can you tell me something about it?
Andrew Why the portrait?, well it might have had to do with Ulla, you know Ulla? She is a very old friend of Amanda's, she's Swedish, and she lives in Chelsea, she was the one who suggested how nice it would be to portray Amanda, and as I knew Amanda and thought she always looked so fabulous, it seemed a good one to do. Ulla, she is fantastic... Ulla knew Amanda long before I did, very early on in Berlin, so if you want any information on Amanda, Ulla's number is
Sico What is very early on in Berlin about then?
Andrew Well before anyone knew her, before Dali and all, it's part of the Amanda mystery I suppose, I do not really care...
Sico For me, as a boy, seeing Amanda on television was all about mystery too, everyone seemed to know about her and still no one could figure her out.
Andrew Yes laughs.
Sico So what was portraying her like?
Andrew It is a flat portrait which was done from a photograph, with
3D portraits. I insist on working from life but not with the flat ones, there I use photos. Ulla has taken many photographs of Amanda over the years, so she supplied me with this particular one, it is of the disco period.
Sico She was one of the major disco queens?
Andrew Absolutely, disco queens! Yes and it is Ken Lane's jewelry she is wearing in it, I do not know if you know Ken Lane?
Sico No I don't.
Andrew He did lots of that kind of black diamond stuff, still does it, it's still going around. Jackie Onassis had it, everyone had to have it in that period.
Sico So Amanda had it too.
Andrew Oh yes, she was draped in it! So I thought this made a very good image. You see that particularily with those arms up it is kinda... well difficult on the face... working in glass is very difficult because it is such an opposite of ﬂesh.
Sico I love the way you do hair in glass, do you always work in glass?
Andrew Yes, I am obsessed by it, and mirrors, it is such a dangerous brittle material and of course, flesh is just soft and yet there is something very human about the glass & mirror portraits as well.
Sico Amanda herself suggested to Jimi Dams, the curator, of the Not A. Lear show, it should be included.
Have you spoken to Amanda since the death of her man and his friend in the horrible fire at their place in the south of France last winter?
Andrew No, not since the tragedy, but I hear through Ulla. Ulla speaks to her all the time—they are really good friends and they speak on the phone a lot. When Amanda comes to London, she tends to come to Chelsea. She's from the old school who think over here where we live is some god-for-saken area—it’s really peculiar with that generation, they just think it's Chelsea or the West-End and that’s it, if you go elsewhere you are into dangerous territory. However, the last time Amanda visited the Glasshouse she was doing a photographic session in London, a french magazine was doing an a day in the life of Amanda feature, and they ended up here for some reason. I do not consider myself a close/close friend of Amanda; she lives in France, I live here, she comes to London once in a while to see Ulla, she's always very quick and leaves again. But I've always liked her, she's a very good energy. I like her because she has dedicated her life to what she believes in really, and she is funny as well. We were very shocked to learn about the tragic accident.
Sico It is strange you mention Amanda hardly leaving West London when she visits. Ray Oxly quotes you describing the West End around 1980 as vraiment affreux, les gens tellement insensibles, pas assez tolérants but London still being your city; la plus civilisée de toutes les villes que je connais.
Andrew I do travel a lot nowadays, but yes, I have been based in London for 31 years now, a long time in one city, and things here have happened once and then twice, but when you see them the third time around, you think, oh. Although being one of the great cities in the world, London is still 20 years on from New York really. Strangely enough, people here now have developed the idea for themselves that London is the capital of the world again, which, of course, is ridiculous and boring. I liked London when it was obscure and no one wanted to come, I am kind of perverse like that.
Sico The same feeling seems to prevail in New York nowadays, my friends there complain all obscurity has faded and almost everything is clean by now.
Andrew Yes I know... I like to go to Russia alot nowadays. Russia very much has the feeling of perhaps London in the seventies, although there it is changing quickly too.
Sico Are you considering leaving London?
Andrew No, but the winters are getting worse. I can cope less and less with the winters here, starting sort of in October and lasting through late April; I really would like to set up somewhere hot, perhaps in India, and be able to work there during the winter. The winter is surely as dark here as in Rotterdam, I bet, very wearing. But I love rain when in a big car and adore wind in my face, dress properly. England is best for the complexion and mind.
Sico Your beautiful glass studio structure here is certainly getting all the light there is, it has sort of a Memphis feel to it.
Andrew Yes, if there is any light we get it here. That was the idea, it was built after my friend Michael’s design, we feel very priviliged to be here.
Sico Can I come back to things happening a second or third time that you as described in the midst of the advent of punk.
Derek The Andrew Logan All Stars have dominated the social life of London since the beginning of the decade—since David Hockney went into tax exile with the other working class heroes of the sixties. They missed the sixties but inherited the daydream which they tried to make reality for a second generation. But they were the flash of the super Novae before darkness. Now the seventies have caught up, and been pulled from under their feet by a gang of King's Road fashion anarchists who call themselves punks. They have stolen the All Stars' hair-styles, taken them to an extreme, and turned them on their heads. Unlike the glitterati, these boys and girls have the music business behind them to give them a real high—with its coke rolled banknotes of international finance. They've turned our gentle ineffectual friends into Demons of Nostalgia.
Andrew Derek Jarman was a great fan and a very good friend and I think he always felt I was being underestimated, but that happens in life doesn't it? It is just time & place & everything. You live your life and do the best you can and try to have a good time on the way.
Sico Another striking thing for me in terms of revival once, twice or a third time around lately has been the Egyptian theme.
Andrew Oh yes, the Egyptian theme...
Sico In Paris, André Walker was sending these absurdly huge shoulderbags over the catwalk for his R.A.S.T.A. summer 2001 collection, decorated in Egyptian style leather. In New York Miguel Adrovers' Fall 2001 collection had an Egyptian theme to it as well. Top hit Walk Like an Egyptian I suppose was its weird eighties peak. I understand you did a scaled down mirrored replica of the pyramid of Cheops in that period?
Andrew In '78 I did the Egypt Revisited a sand and light spectacular super-tent on Clapham Common, the pyramid of Cheops was part of it.
Sico And then, like Amanda now, you were victims of a fire, and all the Egyptian material
Andrew There was a fire, yes, but that was a year later at Butler's Wharf' but nothing burned, I escaped, though I lost my studio.
Michael It was miraculous: The whole block was on fire, we had this steel fire-door closed, smoke came in and everything went jet black but nothing was destroyed, it was all still there.
Sico Luckily, your work is in glass, easily cleaned.
Michael Everything was restored—but the clothes and costumes, those dry cleaners went mad.
Andrew In a strange way, again it was a wonderful occasion. When we actually could go back into the condemned building to get everything out. The telephone was still working so my friend, Luciano, she started phoning everybody and they all thought they were coming to a party—there were all these people arriving Dressed to the Nines with gloves and fabulous outﬁts and gorgeous hats. They all stayed and helped, we were 6 floors up, this snake of party-people going down and then 3 ﬂoors up again into a storage nearby. Everything we owned went from hand to hand it was fascinating and funny.
Sico You make no distinction between art and life, party and life?
Andrew No, not really, no no!
Michael The fire was a big shock though, and it took us a long time to settle down again. It sort of marked the end of an era for us. Others were less lucky and lost everything. Derek moved out of the building just before, but there were Peter Logan and Diana; she was one of London’s top hatmakers at the time, like the Philip Treacy and Steven Joneses of today, she never looked at a hat since, isn’t that sad! They saved their rabbit, nothing else.
Andrew Our love birds survived all the smoke too.
You like avocado?
Sico So who were these Andrew Logan All Stars?
Andrew Oh that's Derek's invention, he was so good at quotes—another one recently came up where he said I was famous among the famous (It is only words, but mind you having seen words—people writing history of times I remember.) I haven't done a book yet myself, the one I want to do will be mostly pictures though—I have been working on a book for 20 years now. Anyhow, These All Stars I suppose were Luciano Delarosa, Dougie Fields, Kevin Whitney, Zandra Rhodes, there was definitely a group of us.
Sico Zandra Rhodes lives on the West Coast now doesn’t she?
Andrew Yes, but like me, she has her museum here.
Sico In terms of media attention, designers Zandra Rhodes and Vivienne Westwood stand out nowadays from that London punk era, why do you think that is?
Andrew Well fashion I suppose! And Zandra has had an incredible sense of publicity always, Saatchi & Saatchi have nothing on Zandra, she’s fantastic, amazing. Vivienne Westwood I suppose is kind of... well I sort of admired her work, but she isn’t a nice person; she just isn’t nice to people, and in my life I like nice people, I don’t care who or what they are or how rich or famous, if they are not nice people, I’m sorry, I am just not interested. All my friends, like Derek was a lovely person, all the people I have known, Amanda too is a very nice person, I’m sure that in her world, the entertainment world, it is difficult, it is quite tricky all that. What is interesting is that Vivienne and Zandra now have become very similar in what they do. At one stage they were very very different, Zandra starting out with like high-couture and Vivienne being about punk and street fashion. Zandra was pure fashion from the start, but now they've met in what they do, with Vivienne even becoming for a while sort of a guru of fashion designers. I had a lot of fashion designer friends in the seventies but I must admit I got very bored with them.
Derek How would you like to dress yourself?
Andrew Very cheap. I love to feel that one can dress unconciously with a bargain. Definitely, I prefer glitter and colour, the sombre doesn't suit me.
Derek What would you like to wear in heaven?
Andrew Nothing. Just a solid gold harp.
Sico Some 2 years ago I did an internet-work in which I used a text by Timothy Swallow from Gold a magazine from the late seventies.
A party is described where Paul Cook, Poly Styrene, Malcolm MacLaren, Vivienne Westwood—the lot, are all screaming and cursing at each other.
Andrew Oh yes, and we threw the party, of course!
Timothy Swallow On the dance-floor Punkdom's Poly Styrene, out on the tiles again, shimmied her weight problem from foot to foot almost in time to the music which was organised by Peter Logan, Andrew's talented and kilted artist brother. Trade was represented by Teddy from ACE Keith from SMILE and Christian from PLAZA and the volatile New York crowd was headed by Big-Apple Stephen Holt, I love his voice, Styles Caldwell, so good in KLUTE and Glen O’Brien the ex-editor of Andy Warhol's Interview who arrived with a woman who was as ill-mannered as she was unattractive and whose pimply fourteen year-old son was causing havoc in the kitchen. Doesn’t she know that children should be seen and not turd?
Sico So the first Sex Pistols'gig ever was at one of your parties?
Andrew We threw their first party and their last party! In that last party Vivienne punched Johnny Rotten in the face. Things were getting a bit out of hand, and we just had this brand new colour TV, so Michael said something like mind our television set. So it was like you bourgeois whatever and the fire extinguishers were set off. But that was towards the end of the Pistols. The beginning was when they arrived and played on stage in that same place, somewhat earlier but not much earlier really 'cause you know punk didn't last long, only a few years, not like the Beatles Later there were all the New Wave people and Romantics. We got to know all of them too, and they were such nice people, it was all very exciting. Aren't we longing for a new movement right now? Commercialism has completely caught up with new movements nowadays, anything interesting that happens now is immediatly taken up by the likes of Saatchi, swallowed up. I still believe one needs freedom to lay a base first, and then maybe later your art can become a business.
Sico So we need more time...
Derek What time do you wake up?
Andrew Alone, 8:30 to 12 o'clock. With a guest, when the sun rises.
As an artist you need a lifetime. When I see all the YBA's now...
Sico Europeans seem to have become rather fed up with the YBA's. Critics have even started mentioning it being interesting when no YBA's are involved in group shows. How have you experienced their advent through the nineties, how did they affect London's atmosphere?
Andrew It's partly just the grabbing of publicity—what they seem about, can you imagine living with it here? In the end it's really what is in the media, how much of Tracy Emin media coverage can one take? And there certainly is an art-maffia here; Serrota, Goldsmith, the Royal, Saatchi, they work perfectly alongside each other. Like in India the most beautiful things have been made out of cow dung for centuries; this whole thing with New York's mayor was a perfect set up. Saatchi is brillant at it, if you can create a conservative government then art is an easy one. We were in Hoxton Square the other day to see Storm at the Circus theatre there and also looked at this new White Cube building on the way, White Cube 2 it is called. We were so amused to find it looking exactly like an American bank building from the midwest, amazing! How are we doing, lunch? I suppose we just have to live through this YBA marketing period, a true spirit is also still here for sure! Our young friend Pierce for instance runs a lovely club called Show-Off, people just go there to show-off and eventually he gives them awards, it’s lovely, innocent isn't really the word though, people flock there because it's a little haven hiding inbetween all the big-business parties.
Michael Our own parties are always motivated by fun, never money.
Andrew Coming back to Amanda, do you know she was one of the judges at our 1975 Alternative Miss World, the one that Derek won as Miss Crêpe-Suzette?
Derek This time I was going to win. On stage I act: I fall in the swimming pool with a bottle of gin as a drunk from the Titanic. As Joan of Arc, I conceal Josephine Baker's J'ai deux amours on a small tape recorder beneath my armour. Seizing the mike, I secretly switch it on. No one knows where the sound is coming from as I mime to it. I win.
Sico Are you still organising Alternative Miss Worlds?
Andrew Oh yes! We are planning one next year, I hope things will work out.
Michael We have some lovely young people willing to help us.
Andrew The last one was in 1998, it was on the Void the fifth element and the winner was Miss Panny Bronua from Moscow, who I believe is 78. Somehow, we had a lot of Russian entrants that year. She was brilliant and she won the audience, that’s what it is all about.
Michael What happens is that there is a feeling, there are the judges, and the audience, but if the contestant manages to engage with the audience and win them, the judges feel this, you always just know at some point who is the winner.
Andrew I call it The surreal art event for all-round entertainment. The costumes where getting bigger and more elaborate again lately, they were becoming whole little acts. Then she came on with Pat Luro, a performance artist from Moscow, who brought her over, and her winning look was an off the shoulder pink satin little dress, I mean so simple—but so glamorous and extraordinary at the same time. Her mother used to be a ballet dancer and she also moves in a sort of ballet kind of way, a divine little old lady who has been through the revolutions, all of them, and took the audience by storm, took everybody's hearts, little innocence came in and changed everything. That is what is great about the Alternative Miss World's, that all over the years this happens, there is always an unexpected twist.
Michael Somehow it never is the most ﬂashy contestant who wins. Nothing about sex or age or beauty is in there, it's performance and how you carry it off, so you can just have one person, or you can have a whole team of 15 trying to do it, but when it is 15, it often gets lost somehow. Andrew just creates the stage and leaves it open.
Andrew There's no rehearsals.
Michael It's all spontanious and not rehearsed to death, so of course, people get more and more drunk during the evening and start falling over—just adding to the spectacle, a lot of flesh laughs there is deﬁnitely a lot of flesh in it, but our crowd is unshockable.
Andrew And we just do it by word of mouth. It’s been through so many transitions since it started in '72, the height of it, I suppose, being '78 and '81. It had huge amounts of publicity then.
Derek Andrew's Miss World competitions had grown like Topsy to gargantuan proportions, in 1981 he had the great hall at Olympia and filled it with a fairground for one thousand people. The highlight a Miss who appears with a whole troop of guardsmen, real ones not transvestites, in evening wear and swim wear. Her act climaxing with a huge choir ranged around the balconies which sing her to her coronation. There were fire eaters, and stilt-walkers, a ferris wheel, and a score of side events. There was also a life size tyrannosaurus rex, twenty feet high and hideously lifelike, which waddled in led by Beardsly androgynes.
Andrew Now it is sort of an institution, people know, but media response is rather lacking. It is notorious.
Michael And people just see it as drag which, of course, it isn’t.
Andrew A German television journalist who was here the other day said it is the only event he knows that has resisted corporate image.
Derek Why do your parties swing?
Andrew Preparation, thinking about them for a few weeks, decor has to be exotique and don't forget the people. Concentration and joie de vivre, the right guests, surprises. The recipe for a swinging soiree !
Sico My friend Yuko here in London seemed to know all about you too, as party boy par excelence...
Andrew Oh! A party boy, that's me, yes.
Michael Like Ulla, upset being called a party girl! Imagine a party with Ulla not being at it, Ulla has such charisma.
Andrew You see, there is Ulla again.
Michael Nothing wrong in being a party girl at the age of 60! She’s wonderful, a spark of joy and light.
Sico What do you think of the posthumous Leigh Bowery attention right now?
Andrew We follow it a little—there was an exhibition here, and that book is very good, a lovely book. Leigh was a genious you know, but he was in a world of constant transition.
Sico This spring I saw how they showed his costumes in Au delà du Spectacle a show from the Walker Art Center which had traveled to Paris. They completely missed the point, showed his costumes like artifacts, dead birds, it was quite sad...
Andrew The way to show his work now, of course, has to be in ﬁlm, and he did quite a lot of film.
Michael He was quite a special spirit.
Andrew Leigh was definitely special—we ﬁrst met him at Michael Colendus's didn't we? He was in his Blue period at the time, with the Alternative Miss World's, he seems one of those people where it changed their life.
Sico He contested?
Andrew Oh yes, he couldn’t believe what he was seeing when he first came. He once contested as Miss Bucket running around naked with nothing but a bucket.
Michael He didn't win of course!
Andrew Oh no laughs but it has given him a springboard to carry on the rest of his life and work, I think it gave confidence.
Sico Charles Atlas is doing these films on clubs, one on the Jackie 60 and another one on Leigh’s Taboo F=for Freak recently throwing this reunion party here in Soho for footage.
Andrew Yes, Charles from New York, I think he asked me for that, I know he phoned me about something—probably about this, but I wasn't here, unfortunately.
Sico His project seems to make more sense than putting costumes in a curated museum show.
Andrew Definitely... Leigh's legacy—as far as visual arts—in that sense, I suppose, is his modeling for Lucian Freud. I think with him knowing about his AIDS... from all that elaborate bodychanging he used to do, the transformations, just to lay himself bare to the canvas and to the world...
Andrew What are you up to tonight?
Sico A club called Duckie.
Michael Who runs that one?
Sico Must admit I don't know... my friend Joshua Sofaer is fond of the place, as he performs there now, and then and he is keen on seeing Tim Etchel perform tonight. Joshua once did this series of performances there, hiring several beauticians every Saturday night. He was on stage getting waxed, facials, nails, the lot, while the club was in full force. This week at Eve he is taking Polaroids of the genitals of the guests and making them into personalised armbands—so that clubbers can visually check out each others soft/hard spots on biceps-height...
Andrew Sounds perfect!
quotes: Derek Jarman’s Dancing Ledge, London 1984 Ray Oxly in Magazine Trimestriel, Paris 1979
Timothy Swallow’s Gold, London 1977 Andy Warhol’s Interview, New York 1974
an interview with Amanda Lear
Jimi When exactly did you decide to be an artist?
Amanda Right from school. I was always playing with pencil and colours . . . so when I settled in Paris, I went to the Academie des Beaux Arts.
Jimi How did you end up being a model in
Amanda Because I was kind of pretty, people called me and asked if I wanted to be a model, so that started it. The modeling also paid my room.
Jimi It didn’t prevent you from doing your art?
Amanda No, even when I moved to London I went to St. Martins School of Art and I followed some classes there, but not really full time. Anyway, I realized that what I really would love the most, would be to express myself on canvas, and at this time I met Salvador Dali.
I told him I wanted to be an artist and he put me off. He was the first person to say No, it's not a woman's job, it's a man's, there's never been a famous
woman painter which I disagree with completely, of course. He kept telling me my art was a woman's art, and that woman's art has got nothing to do with real art, it's wishy washy, and it's children's portraits, pastels, etc... only men have this capacity to express themselves through their balls. So that was a bit off-putting, and I thought, perhaps, he was right, because I mean Dali being a genius and he knew so much about art. Who was I to discuss his statement, after all he knew better than me. So for a few years
I started thinking that perhaps it was not right to carry on painting, at least the way I was painting. Eventually, I went back to Dali and
I said, listen I really love painting, I really want to express myself on canvas, please will you teach me. And so this time, I started painting a little bit more seriously with his colours, with his canvas in his studio and slowly my painting came along. Unfortunately, it was then Surrealistic painting à la Dali, and that was wrong obviously. After
a few years I realized that I was wasting my time following Dali's teaching. Dali was teaching what he did, it was Surrealistic art, following one's dreams and metaphysical stuff, and I realized this
is wrong... I've got a good eye for colour and I should perhaps stick
to what I see, and not what I've got in my imagination, you know.
Jimi So your interest always went basically to painting, not sculpture or any other discipline?
Amanda No it was always painting and always traditional painting—not acrylic, oil painting, you know, with firm sketches on the canvas. It was very traditional, my approach to painting. I played a little bit with sculpture as well, playing with Plasticine and clay, and stuff like that. I made some plates, I did some ceramics, but painting was my first love.
Jimi Your move to Provence, obviously, created some change in your
Amanda When I moved to Provence, I realized that my favorite painters, right from school, had always been the Fauves with their bright colours, and I realized all those painters actually lived
in the very place where I live now, which is in Provence, and obviously, they saw what I am now seeing with my own eyes. It is
the same landscape and I realized that’s why I was so attracted to this place, because those were my favorite painters, bright colours, bright colours, bright colours and nothing to do with Dali. My paintings then started changing radically. I started painting landscapes, but again through different eyes, changing the colours of the skies, of the trees and so on.
Jimi When a painting is finished, in your mind, what is it you wish people to see?
Amanda Well the big problem is, that the painting is never finished, it's permanently questioning. When I think it is finished in my mind I say okay. I want people to understand the violence that I'm trying to put in the painting. If I paint a couple embracing, making love, I want them to understand that. I see this like a fight . . . like somebody trying to dominate somebody else, you know like a rape perhaps, something soft I try to avoid . . . because I remember always Dali's teaching . . . I want to avoid being feminine in the painting, which is pretty . . . and the idea of prettiness, I try to erase. I don’t mean them to be ugly, but I would like them to pass on an idea of strength . . . of continuity, of long lasting things. Ultimately, after I see my paintings in a gallery . . . very often . . . I wish I had worked a little longer on them, I’m never quite satisfied with them.
Jimi I think that's a healthy approach.
Amanda There is something very . . . erm . . . how do you say this . . . I mean, how would I dare to say, now this painting is achieved, that's it, it's perfect, you can take it. I mean who am I to say look I've done something great, you know . . .
Jimi How exactly do you start a piece? Is it intuitive? An intellectual concept?
Amanda I used to start, like I was still at school, by first the drawing . . . carefully with a pencil and then fill in the color. Now my approach is completely different. I start right away with bright colours straight from the tube you know, with a brush, no sketching before. And very often I start a painting, and as the painting goes on, it changes completely. Sometimes I start making a man and later on it becomes a woman or two women or a horse . . . I follow . . . I follow instinct . . . and once it’s finished, it's never quite as I visualized it.
Jimi Do you see relations between your paintings? Are they interdependant?
Amanda Yes, there is . . . there is a recurrent . . . there is some colour, currently the bright red, and bleu d’outre mer, those are colours that come recurrently, but lately, the whole of last year, strangely enough, all paintings have had one thing in common. They have been . . . pretty dramatic paintings, with this lack of quietness, this turmoil . . . most of them black and red, and it's only recently that somebody pointed out to me that there was some kind of premonition in those paintings, because what I painted was the colour of the fire, red, and of the ashes, burned, which is black. And everything I painted was black and red and . . . strangely enough . . . I had been painting like this for six months, including a self portrait of myself . . . like a Madonna with my heart pierced with knives and arrows, all I painted was martyrs and bodies . . . so perhaps there was some kind of premonition there Amanda Lear's house in the Provence burned down last December which led to the death of her husband, and a friend of the couple
I really very much would like to get out of this phase of . . . sad, tortured paintings, but again, my paintings reflect my state of mind, which is tortured, which is troubled at the moment, which is in turmoil.
Jimi There's this duality in your paintings . . .
Amanda Yes there is, it's true. I very often paint . . . two faces of the same thing, a man and a woman, or the same men, but twice you know, one is black, one is red, There is a sort of duality, it is true, because
I found there is in everybody a sort of ambiguity. There is a real person and a person they pretend to be, or there is the real them and the subconscious them. I found that nothing is as it seems, there is always another thing.
Jimi How can you combine the life of a showbiz star with the life of a painter?
Amanda Unfortunately, I am confronted with another life which is all sequins . . . and shows . . . and television . . . and frivolity . . . and I am very much disenchanted with this life, I find it frivolous and useless and I try in my painting to find what's behind the mask. At the beginning, I was painting a lot of people wearing masks, I would never show their face. I would paint them from the backside or their face was done away or wearing a mask. It is hard for me to find smiling faces. I realize that everybody behind the mask is in fact, very unhappy, and very angry, there is a lot of anger I think, in my painting because I am frustrated. I feel frustrated in my work and that frustration shows in my painting. There is a lot of splashing painting and angry emotions. I am obviously the complete opposite to Leonor Fini, who desperately wanted to be on show all the time—Leonor Fini kept putting on a disguise, and dressing up and having her photograph taken. She wanted to be in show business and so did Dali, I mean he loved being photographed and to appear on TV. I have my TV days and my photographs and I’ve had enough of all that. I would like it very much if people were to look at my painting and not at my personality anymore. I say to them, don't look at me, don’t look at me, look at my paintings. People say: Oh, you paint? . . . and that frustrates me, because I realize that nobody has paid any attention whatsoever to my paintings, and I've
been painting for 30 years. I’ve had, I don’t know, 30, 40 personal exhibitions of oil paintings and still nobody knows that I am painting . . . it is a great frustration.
Jimi It would be great if you could find a balance between the two things.
Amanda Yes, that's true, the ideal would be to find a balance. I mean, it's like Dali—when he was painting he was really the painter, nothing counted but the painting. And then suddenly he had this capacity to put down his brushes and clean them up, and say, all right now let’s go and have fun, and then he suddenly would be somebody else, you know. Andy Warhol was doing this too, he was always going around to parties and everything and then, when he was painting, he was actually painting. It’s great when you can find this balance. When you can stop being a painter and become a socialite. Strangely enough, I thought when you are a painter, you are a painter all the time. You are a painter when you walk the street, when you go to parties, when you have dinner—because you see everything through the eyes of a painter, and . . . I thought that was very much the way you see everything around you.
Jimi Through the lyrics of your songs and through your paintings I get the impression you have a very melancholic personality.
Amanda It's all . . . it's all very . . . It’s some kind of desecration you know, very Saint Germain-des-Prés, Baudelaire, spleen . . . and isn’t life a shit laughs Yes, I think it is true that I am rather pessimistic and people don’t realize that because I’m always playing the part of party girl, the jet set girl. I play the part that they expect me to play great laughter making puns and jokes and everything, people think that’s my personality... and there is, again, this duality, there is the other side of the personality which is quickly . . . depressed and tortured and sad and melancholic. But that part nobody sees, it only comes across in my paintings; it doesn't come across in real life.
I was always trying to put into my lyrics something a little melancholic, but unfortunately again, there is some kind of frustration there. I was writing what I thought were intelligent lyrics and nobody gives a shit, you know laughs because actually nobody listens to lyrics when we're talking about disco music and dance music. Obviously, you just move your body, but you don't pay any attention to what you’re listening to. So I picked the wrong music to express myself. If I had been a rock singer, or if I had been . . . I don't know, a ballad singer, then people would have listened to the lyrics, but only a few fans bothered to actually read the lyrics. Yes, again, that makes me really sad, because I thought I wrote nice stories laughs and nobody's interested.
Jimi Do you have a wish?
Amanda Well . . . I would like . . . prrffff . . . I don't wanna leave my mark and go down in history, that's not my ambition, but when I come to the end of my life, in a few years, I really would like to have . . . the satisfaction of saying, okay, I am now about to go, but at least this painting and this song and this movie are really good . . . I'm gonna disappear, but the least I've done is really a good job, I'm really proud of it and . . . until now . . . I haven't got that feeling. I know I wrote about a hundred songs, I don't think any of them will be remembered. I've done hundreds of paintings and there's not one of them that the whole world would know . . . even if it's just one painting and the rest is crap at least you know, I would have the feeling that I have done one good thing in my life. Until now I haven't got that impression and that makes me sad. Perhaps by working together with several young people, creative people, like you, like artists in New York, in Antwerp you know, I know they are young people and they are creative and they are ambitious and that’s . . . stimulating. It is not stimulating to be with people who've made it, because they've made it and they're not interesting for me. I want to be with the people who are still on the make, because they are willing to move things, they are willing to provoke, they are willing to shock, they are willing to make things happen, you see.
Jimi Are you ever pleased with what you do?
Amanda I'm not at all the type you know, who looks at an old cassette and says, oh wow, I'm great. No, I'm not like that at all. I see every fault, every failure, everything that I did wrong, shouldn't have done. It's true, I'm a perfectionist . . . and such is my nature.