HE was better known as a pivotal figure in punk rock, but now a new art exhibition puts the spotlight on singer Ian Dury’s talent as an artist.
The show, called More Than Fair, is being held at London’s prestigious Royal College of Art (RCA), of which Dury was an alumnus.
It features more than 30 of his pieces of Pop Art paintings, drawings and collage work spanning the years 1961 to 1972.
The star, who came to fame as singer with punk band Ian Dury & the Blockheads, penning such hits as Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick, and What a Waste, died of cancer in 2000, aged 57.
Curated by the singer’s daughter, Jemima, and his friends, former Clash manager Kosmo Vinyl and designer Jules Balme, the show has taken two years to be pulled together.
Ms Dury won financial backing for the exhibition through a Kickstarter campaign – receiving pledges of more than £6,000 from the public through the internet site so far.
Much of the singer’s artwork, owned by his family, was stored away after he moved into the music scene with his first serious band, Kilburn & The High Roads, in 1971.
Other pieces have been loaned by auction houses such as Christie’s or independent dealers.
Afflicted by polio at the age of seven and sent to a school and hospital for disabled children, an experience that had a profound effect on the rest of his life and work, Dury left the school at the age of 16 to study painting at Walthamstow Art College, before going on to the RCA in 1963.
While there, he studied under the hugely influential artist Sir Peter Blake , and upon leaving in 1966 was a featured artist in the Institute of Contemporary Arts’s important group show Fantasy & Figuration the following year.
Though a talented artist, Dury was modest about his own skills. When asked once why he did not pursue a career in art, he replied: “I got good enough [at art] to realise I wasn’t going to be very good.”
But according to Robert Upstone, director of the Fine Art Society and curator of last year’s 175 RCA anniversary show, Dury’s work is worthy of serious consideration.
“[Dury’s] use of textual and photorealist elements, and his incorporation of celebrities, singers or showgirls, ally his pictures with major Pop proponents such as Peter Blake and Joe Tilson,” he said.
His daughter said it was at the RCA that Dury developed “from serious art student, with a strong work ethic, into an artist, albeit an insecure one uncertain of what medium to pursue.”
Dury always spoke warmly of the RCA, where he met his first wife: “Getting in was the only thing I’ve aspired to in my life. I spent two years trying to get in. It’s the only achievement I’ve ever felt, a bit like going to the university of your choice. I’m really pleased I went there, I’m proud of it. I wouldn’t have been able to learn about how to live as a person doing what they want to do if I hadn’t gone there, allowing your determination and output to control the way things go – my nine and my five.”
The exhibition runs until 1 September.