“It’s not about being a ‘fan’
it’s about being an artist”
QUESTION: What do Don Bradman, Marilyn Manson, Julie Andrews, Kim Kardashian and Nelson Mandela have in common?
They have all been photographed with Richard Simpkin.
Who? you may ask. Who indeed. For ultimately it is Simpkin and not his starry stooges that is the true subject of this art project.
Richard & Famous
Richard Simpkin has amassed hundreds of photographs of himself with the stars of stage, screen and stadium. While individually they are simply fandom’s flotsam bobbing on the sea of celebrity, collectively they become something very different – a temporal portrait of the artist.
The installation ‘Richard & Famous’ maps a journey from adolescence to maturity that spans almost a quarter century. The images document the artist with a host of heavy-duty notables. The 21 x 14 centimetre prints are pinned to the wall in the form of a bar chart. Each column consists of a double stack of snapshots made during a single year from 1989 to the present. The height of the column depends on the number of starry meetings achieved in that year.
The celebrities come and go; some familiar, others masked by an aging process their profession so often denies. Meanwhile, the bright-eyed teenage Simpkin matures to adulthood and inexorably on towards middle age. The inversion of roles in uncanny, as each luminary becomes an unwitting extra in the artist’s own biopic.
‘Richard & Famous’ has itself achieved fame through a series of serendipitous connections. It received its first major showing when selected by Alasdair Foster for presentation at the Australian Centre for Photography in 2008. There Foster introduced the work to a visiting colleague, Mindaugas Kavaliauskas, the Director of Kaunas Photo Festival in Lithuania. Kavaliauskas programmed the installation into his 2010 festival where it came to the attention of the eminent photographer and curator Martin Parr. Parr took the exhibition to England for a showing at Liverpool’s Open Eye Gallery in 2012. Most recently, Robert Hewitt – who had previously commissioned Parr to make new work in Western Australia – selected ‘Richard and Famous’ to feature in the Fotofreo festival.
“Richard Simpkin’s work is a true revelation. Obsessively having his photo taken with the celebrities of the world, he shows them almost to be puppets in his own game of charades. Knowing how difficult it is to get access to celebrities in this day and age, it is an awesome achievement, and turns his whole game into a compelling piece of art.”