Short interview with Donald Urquhart in occasion of his exhibition BALLS at S.A.L.E.S Gallery (Rome).  The exhibition will display a series of mid-size and small-size ink drawings on paper, realized between 2000 and 2012, inspired by Leigh Bowery, a key figure of the London scene of the 80-90’s and close friend to the artist.

For this opening, at 6.00 p.m., indipendent curator Cristiana Perrella will hold un introduction to the show and a conversation with the artist in the gallery.

ATP: Can you tell me about your frendship with Leigh Bowery?

Donald Urquhart: I first met Leigh in 1983, just before I moved to London. We shared hundreds of nights out together, and a delight in gossip and acid wit. A telephone conversation with Leigh could run to three hours long. We were both incredibly bitchy about our mutual friends behind their backs, but this was commonplace in club land in those days. Leigh was always pushing me to become a performance artist, and highly encouraging when I eventually did that. Always adamant that he wasn’t a “drag queen”, I was the one who got him to dress up in drag for the first time – to attend a popular transvestite night. The result wasn’t exactly “femme real”: he looked like Benny Hill done up as a Gestapo Shelley Winters.  

ATP: How does Leigh Bowery inspires you?

DU: Well Leigh picked up the ball and ran with it but he didn’t reach the finishing line. His was a life cut tragically short. In a way I am slightly envious as I’d like to think that I could upset as many people with my own demise. His death has inspired me to take myself more seriously, and to leave something of lasting value behind. He worked bloody hard, and I try to work as hard as he did. Pleasure is a serious business.

ATP: Could you tell me shortly about your solo exhibition in Sales Gallery?

DU: It is part retrospective and part introspective. I am examining my working practice; holding a mirror up to my past and trying to make sense of it. It’s a bit nutty really.

ATP: You have chosed to show some of your drawings, and also a unseen  video of Leigh Bowery’s  performance. Why did you choose to display this video?

DU: Because nobody has seen it. It is an interview, but Leigh was so theatrical that everything became a performance. I’m that way inclined myself. Dramatic and camp. It will soon be twenty years since that video was filmed. It would be selfish of me to keep it hidden from public view for any longer.

ATP: In your works you take inspiration from a rich cultural background, where historical motifs merge with queer iconography. Your drawings remind me some Ray Pettibon’s works… Besides Bowery what inspires you?

DU: Clear precise writers. Muriel Spark is a huge influence. I suppose my favourite writers are women: Anita Loos, Dorothy Parker, Julie Burchill, Louise Brooks, Edith Sitwell, Patricia Phoenix.   Actually “what inspires you?” is the question I hate most of all and it usually inspires disturbingly violent thoughts. Sometimes uninspiring things can urge me to transfigure my repulsion of the banal into something deeply interesting. Thank you for that last question: I’m off to make some new art.