bespoke framing

How The Silkscreen & Silver Screen Inspired Russell Young

How The Silkscreen & Silver Screen Inspired Russell Young

Art is ultimately about exploration, not only of the external world but of the inner, more personal aspects that make artists who they are.

Within the bespoke framing, the materials and the technical skill is ultimately the result of those explorations, and one contemporary artist that epitomises this is Russell Young.

Born in York in 1959, Russell Young was adopted from an early age and so has only a very vague understanding of his familial history.

However, because of this, Mr Young also has the freedom to forge his own trail unburdened by expectations and channel his interests into using a wide range of art and evocative imagery to explore contemporary history.

He initially started as a music photographer, with arguably his most famous work in that field being the album cover of Faith by George Michael.

He also worked on music videos, a challenge that brought him to the United States. but by the mid-1990s, Mr Young was looking for another challenge.

Inspired by the work of Andy Warhol, as well as his outsider’s perspective on the American Dream, he started to produce his most famous series of works.


The Pig Portraits

As a music photographer and director of music videos, Mr Young portrayed the rise of hugely popular musicians from young talented people to commodified icons, and as an artist, his main muse was the disconnect between those placed on pedestals and how fair they fall.

This led to the development of the Pig Portraits, a series of silkscreen printed mugshots blown up onto brightly coloured canvases, creating a distinct focus on imperfections and flaws that works in direct contrast to most publicity photographs.

Mr Young would be most closely associated with silkscreen even if he explored many other artistic mediums, with his signature style of combining silkscreen with diamond dust taking shape in 2007.

By pressing the tiny crystals into the pigment, the images take on a distinctly aged quality and yet one that creates an almost ethereal quality, like a moment that has been frozen, captured and reinterpreted through its use of colour.


Marilyn Crying

The most famous example of this is the Marilyn Crying collection, a series of silkscreen prints featuring a picture of a particularly vulnerable moment where the persona of Marilyn Monroe breaks and we see Norma Jeane Mortenson the person for a moment framed in diamond dust.

That vulnerable moment captured a wealth of emotions, each of which is highlighted in the 65 different repeats of the image.

At once there is the personal, the connection Mr Young has to an actress who was born in an orphanage and tried to fight the perceptions people tried to force upon her for her entire life, as tragically cut short as that was.

Alongside this is how her death fit in the narrative of the death of Americana and the American Dream as it was known in the 1950s. The torment captured in that image, one that foreshadowed the tragic end of her life, would also fit in a wider cultural narrative.

The images, particularly when taken as set and a spectrum, reflect the end of old Hollywood, one that could not fit in a world where presidents were assassinated, nuclear apocalypse was seconds away and the Vietnam war showed some of the greatest horrors humanity could unleash on each other.

As Bob Dylan would sing, the times were a-changing, and Marilyn Crying reflected the moment when that shift began.