In a remote part of the English countryside there are two artists who have helped shape the aesthetics behind punk, fashion as well as many other important areas of culture. John Dove and Molly White, husband and wife, have lived and worked together and have been for 50+ years. One of their big impacts on culture include the Raw Power jacket worn by Iggy Pop on the Stooges Raw Power record sleeve. After their recent collaborations with Lewis Leathers and with Comme Des Garcon I thought I’d visit them in their studio to see whats next for this incredibly creative couple.
The couple have an upcoming exhibition in Tokyo, Japan. A retrospective of their work at the Diesel Art Gallery.
Here is a slice of their history in their own words..
“When we started up in the 60’s, the immediacy of getting our first prints together ruled out preconceived ideas about art aesthetics. We had to deal with the elements of drawing and print technology all at once, then find a market and distribution. There were no commercial printing dyes available outside of the industry so we learnt the chemistry and made our own. The influences we both collected on the way would help drive the images on the drawing board. Pop Art, Dada, Surrealism and especially Rock & Roll would all be mashed into the mix – always searching to come up with something new.
John Dove at the print table.
By 1968 Molly White and I joined forces in the studio. I began to make ‘Multiples’. Molly had just exhibited her latest printed textiles at a show in Dering Street, London and prints of butterflies on silk at Libertys. She also began making Pop images woven into Knitwear (a first, I think). I had drawn an illustration of a tattooed man for Nova magazine. Molly was teaching part-time at Berkshire College of Art and I suggested she should use tattoos as a subject for the screen printing course but we decided to do it ourselves. We threw everything into it and our “Painless Tattoo Collection” went global. We have carried on drawing and printing together for the rest of our lives.
It has been said our work in screen-printed T-shirts paved the way for the printed 70’s T-shirt revolution. We felt the printed T-shirt belonged to us and a few other artists and designers that recognized this universal unisex garment was the new canvas for our art.
Molly and I are always aware that mere digital printing or auto screen-printing is not very different from lithographic printing in magazines and books. There has to be an element of drawing and hand printing, you gotta have soul! The Internet and the post-punk-media revolt has generated more diversity into art and music than ever before. Together with the expansion of the global television media, it has charged up the pace and changed the spectrum of creative output leaving everything open to new possibilities but it does make synthesis too easy and appropriation wholesale. By the 80’s, the urban graffiti artists were putting Art on the walls outside of the gallery rather than in it. At an exhibition we had at ‘La Viande Contemporary’ in London’s East End in 2007, the work was referred to as ‘Neo-Pop’ which may be an appropriate term for our work in art, media, fashion and design. It’s the Multiple, the Pop product. It’s Punk inspired fashion.
Molly and I have worked together for over fifty years. We work as a Duo and we have always been completely independent as a Duo. Some of our creations have been famously donned by Iggy Pop, Johnny Thunders, Mick Jagger. Jacqueline Bisset, Marc Bolan, Lou Reed, Sid Vicious, Steve Jones, Glen Matlock, Paul McCartney, Malcolm McDowell and Ewan Mcgregor. We’ve collaborated with many other Artists, Designers and photographers but recently with Rei Kawakubo of Comme Des Garcons and Derek Harris of Lewis Leathers to launch a remake of the Raw Power jacket.
Iggy Pop in Wild Thing jacket for the back cover and Raw Power album.
L.A band Dickies in Wild Thing jacket.
Eaddy from Ho99o9 wearing Wild Thing Jacket, part of Salvages photoshoot.
Since we joined The Paul Stolper gallery a few years back, we’ve had the complete luxury of working in the studio without having to think about exhibiting the work. Paul Stolper loves print as we do! Paul curated an exhibition at his gallery of our collages, drawings and prints in 2012 called FACE TO FACE. When we researched the type of paper we should use, we were amazed to find that the Bangladeshi hand-made papers were made from recycled cotton t-shirts – these papers were perfect for the print technology we had used for decades so we had a paper where nothing had to change. During the last few years, we have made enlargements of some of our T-shirts and textiles. We made prints that were drawn from the pages of BOY BLACKMAIL we designed in 1979-80.
A screen-print from the BOY Blackmail catalogue featuring John and Molly’s 77-UP and Lips prints including the SEX Anarchy Shirts. This print is part of their current exhibition in Tokyo.
So maybe the Art gallery has become our final destination. We continue to exhibit our sculptures, paintings and prints with Museums and galleries worldwide. Currently we are showing in Tokyo at The DIESEL Art Gallery from August to November. The exhibition is called “SENSIBILITY AND WONDER”. At this moment in 2017 we have one of the most exciting works in progress that we’ve had for years so we’re optimistic about the future – there’s some new images on the way…..Molly and I have to start the day with pencils in our hands. Molly says, “Sometimes you know exactly what you are searching for and sometimes everything happens on it’s own like there’s a ghost in your head”. That’s what you’re living for – it’ s the only way to go forward in life and work. When you look back, that’s when you realise with surprise that the images you’ve made correspond so closely to the direction your life had taken at that time. It’s an organic development that doesn’t start or stop – you can’t switch it off, but then you don’t ever want to…….”
This is an old interview on Italian television that John showed me…
Photos in Gallery by Ollie Murphy