In 2014 celebrated contemporary artist Simon Claridge began a collaboration with Twentieth Century Fox Consumer Products – a Hollywood studio synonymous with some of the greatest films in living memory – and one of their most illustrious film stars; Marilyn Monroe.
The Diamond Dust Collection adds a new dimension to the Fox and Marilyn Monroe film legacy. With this unique fine art work, Claridge’s technique builds layer upon layer of colour and shade in his work and serves conversely to peel back the layers to reveal a quality in Monroe beneath the Hollywood veneer.
The collection was launched with a private view at Castle Fine Art, Mayfair on Thursday 15th January. We sent After Nyne’s Luciana Garbarni along for an exclusive After Nyne Meets…with Simon Claridge
You were granted access to Fox Studio’s archives where you were faced with, I can only imagine, a plethora of images of Marilyn. Can you tell us a little about your selection process and why some photos stood out to you more than others?
Choosing the images was the hardest part of the whole process – at the beginning I was literally flagging up every one because they were all fabulous and I could see how they could finish as a work of art. In the end I went with my gut instinct, and picked my favourites. I also made sure that the six images sat well as a whole together – so there’s a span of how Marilyn comes across: at once as a playful dancer, in another image a more sultry and appealing stage siren, and conversely, a more innocent giel behind the scenes away from the spotlight.
Who were your earliest influences at the start of your career in art?
Pop art had an enduring appeal for me when I first started out– the likes of Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein who created such simple, but captivating works. I like to refer to my own work as ‘glittery pop’ in reference to focusing on just one impacting subject matter.
When I was starting out at university, the Young British Artists (YBAs,) whose front runners Tracey Emin and Damian Hirst really influenced and inspired me.
Which other artists might your work be overheard in conversation with?
Not really for me to say!
What influences outside the visual arts inspire and impact your approach to making work?
Popular culture plays a big part in my art worldview: the fast moving and vibrant music scene, the big movies of our day and of the past, the huge film stars. I gravitate towards this youthful and constantly evolving culture. Anything of standout beauty also goes a long way in sparking me too. Whether it’s a beautiful editorial image, a stunning scene in nature, a shot in a movie which has been masterfully composed – beauty speaks deep to our hearts and this is what I want to recreate too.
Naturally, each piece will be reflected differently according to the light sources around it due to the diamond dust. Have you yet discussed with the curators what kind of light you would like used around the art?
Seeing how my work looks in different lights is thoroughly tested! I always take the artwork back home to see how it looks in different lights. From this process I know my diamond dust works looks amazing in natural daylight, and even better in sunsets or when pure and powerful rays of sunlight blast across the canvasses. A warm light, or a hazy pink or red really makes the images pop too.
Later on in the day, light by a flickering fire makes the works glimmer as well.
How do you know when a piece is completed?
I trust my instinct and finish when I’m happy – when the piece emits a simple beauty.
You’ve often stated you enjoy depicting icons you admire. What do you admire most about Marilyn Monroe?
She’s the ultimate portrait! I began specialising in portraiture and of course, never got, or will get the chance to paint her. She’s fascinating in photography though and the pull is in trying to capture her and all her different sides.
You’ve also expressed an underlying goal in your pieces is “to leave the viewer with some tangible emotional feeling.” How has this goal influenced your work conceptually and aesthetically?
It’s all about the hair on the back of your neck standing up! Good art is more than colours on a canvas, it stops people in their tracks, makes them change what they were thinking about, and absorbs them in. Art is beautiful, but it’s more than that – it’s about producing a reaction, whether that be positive or negative. Now my aim is choosing the most striking images to ensure I get a ‘wow’ or a deeper emotion.
Throughout the years, an exhaustive number of portraits and images of Marilyn Monroe have been recreated in art and almost all audiences would have experienced an exhibit with her as the subject. How do you anticipate the audience to react differently to your pieces?
I believe I’ve picked images which show a whole span of Monroe’s personality. And in terms of my images being different: the diamond dust portrays something of Marilyn’s aura and the luminescence at being under the spotlight. Using diamond dust also means that no two people will view my art in the same way. The sheen created by the shiny particles dictates that it will reflect differently according to the light sources around it. View it in bright sunlight, in artificial light, through the beams of light cast by a setting sun, and the same piece will appear transformed.
Fox Presents the Films of Marilyn The Diamond Dust Collection by Simon Claridge
Castle Fine Art, Mayfair
24 Bruton Street
T: 0203 588 0011