Colin calls himself a ‘hunter’, seeking out connections between objects he has selected out from the detritus of mass consumption.
Colin exhibited at the Kasmin Gallery and the influential Robert Fraser Gallery in London alongside fellow British Pop artists Peter Blake, Clive Barker and Richard Hamilton who became household names in the early 60s by creating memorable images culled from advertising, film and TV.
He has lived in London, Germany, Scotland and from 1964 to 1980, he taught part-time at Norwich School of Art and in 2001 Colin received an honorary Doctorate. In 2006 he was awarded the freedom of the City of Norwich.
He has had a long, productive and eventful life with numerous solo exhibitions (30+), and his work is in several national collections including the Tate Collection, the V&A Museum Collection, the Arts Council Collection, The Imperial War Museum and the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
1950s AND 1960s
It was the height of the Cold War, yet few artists were addressing the threat to human existence that it represented. Art had not been seen as a forum to discuss the threat of impending war since WWII in the anti-war collages of German artist John Heartfield. Colin’s drawings, prints and paintings from this period share Heartfield’s attacking approach. Colin’s seminal drawing of a wolf-like guard dog baring its teeth with serried ranks of missiles behind it, stemmed from this period and was eventually bought for the Tate Collection in 1974. Guard Dog on a Missile Base No1, 1965, was intended as a stark visualisation https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/self-guard-dog-on-a-missile-base-no-1-t01850 . Colin recalls his approach to his subject at the time: ‘the conceptual idea of nuclear warfare became mixed with that of animal nature and aggression’.
In 1967 Colin joined Alecto Studio in London and started work on a series of prints called Out of Focus Objects and Flowers. He was awarded several prestigious prizes for drawing and for his prints produced at Alecto Studio. In parallel to his Cold War work were several strands to Colin’s imagery that married subjects as diverse as fast food, or ideas about nature in advertising, or how women were represented, to recognised art genres in still life, landscape and sculpture (or maquettes as he prefers to call them). These early motifs can be found in his work today.
His hotdog drawings first appear in the 60s and have morphed in various guises as collage or in heavily shaded pencil, varying from colourfully appealing, to a study in an unappetising charcoal grey. A discarded wooden ice-lolly stick suggests the rounded ends of a frankfurter in his hotdogs. The squirt of mustard, a foodstuff synonymous with his home city of Norwich, is made from yellow glue. Recent iterations of them have included spectacle cases representing the bun clamped around a charcoal sausage.
His ploughman series mimic advertising’s idolisation of the recently vanished past. These clever collages depict a lone figure of a farmer leading his horsedrawn plough across a field, they follow a well-practised marketing technique that appeals to a consumer nostalgic for a simpler time. Persuaded by a satisfyingly bucolic image of a once natural product we are prepared to overlook the fact that the product (whether it be eggs, bread or potatos) is now produced on an industrial scale. Despite his foresight in tackling serious themes, Colin’s output has always been relatable, irreverent, and often delivered with a light touch and sardonic hutspa.
For periods from 1964 to 1980, he taught part-time at Norwich School of Art and in 2001 Colin received an honorary Doctorate. In 2006 he was awarded the freedom of the City of Norwich. His work has been included in many national and international exhibitions.
Colin Self has been included in many national and international exhibitions, those listed below represent selected highlights:
– 2018: I Think We Should All Just Be Friends: Colin Self and Jim Moir (Vic Reeves). The Fairhurst Gallery, Norwich (Group) https://gallery.fairhurstgallery.co.uk/exhibitions/previous-exhibitions/think-just-friends
– 2017: Three Wise Men: Colin Self, Anthony Donaldson, Patrick ‘O’Reilly. Mayor Gallery, London (Group)
– 2017: This was Tomorrow, Pop Art in Great Britain. Kunst Museum, Wolfsburg, Germany (Group)
– 2016: The World Goes Pop. Tate Modern, London (Group) https://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/world-goes-pop
– 2016: International Pop. Walker Art Centre, Minneapolis. Dallas Museum of Art. Philadelphia Museum of Art. Touring Exhibition April 2015 to May 2016 (Group) https://walkerart.org/calendar/2015/international-pop
– 2015: Streetseen, Hearts and Glances: one man exhibition. Mayor Gallery, London (Solo) https://www.mayorgallery.com/exhibitions/499/overview/
– 2015: A Strong Sweet Smell of Incense: A Portrait of Robert Fraser. Pace, London (Group)
– 2013: Masterpieces, Art and East Anglia. Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich (Group)
– 2013: When Britain went Pop – British Pop Art, the Early Years. Christie’s Mayfair, London (Group) https://www.christies.com/features/when-britain-went-pop-4059-3.aspx
– 2012: Marianne Faithfull: Innocence and experience, Tate Liverpool (Group) https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/mapplethorpe-marianne-faithfull-ar00204/marianne-faithfull-innocence-and-experience
– 2010: Colin Self: One Thousand Sketches. Touring Show James Hyman Gallery, London and The Gallery at NUA, 2012 (Solo) http://www.jameshymangallery.com/exhibitions-more/1279/press/colin-self-one-thousand-sketches
– 2008: Colin Self: Art in The Nuclear Age, Pallant House Art Gallery, Chichester (Solo)
– 2006: Colin Self: Collage Mayor Gallery, London (Solo)
– 2004: Art of the 60s: This Was Tomorrow, Tate Britain (Group) https://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/exhibition/art-60s-was-tomorrow
– 2002: Modern British Art, Tate Liverpool (Group) https://www.tate.org.uk/press/press-releases/modern-british-art-tate-liverpool
– 1995: Colin Self: 60 Works in the Tate Collection The Tate Gallery, London (Solo)
– 1994: Modern British Drawings: Selection From the Collection, Museum of Modern Art, New York (Group) https://www.moma.org/calendar/exhibitions/429
– 1991: The Pop Art Show Royal Academy of Arts, London, toured to Canada, Germany, Spain (Group) https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/art-artists/archive/the-pop-art-show
– 1987: Pop Art USA-UK Tokyo, Osaka, Funabashi, Yokahama (Group)
– 1986: Colin Self’s Colin Selfs ICA London (Solo)
– 1984: The Hard Won Image The Tate Gallery, London (Group)
– 1968: Galerie Rudolf Zwirner Cologne (Solo)
– 1968: Galerie Hans Neuendorf Hamburg (Solo)
– 1966: Yvon Lambert Galerie, Paris (Solo)
– 1965: Drawings by Colin Self The Piccadilly Gallery, London (Solo)