Alan Hathaway is an artist currently based in The North East of England. His work is held in private collections internationally as well as the British Museum’s permanent drawing and print archive.
Using installation, collage, print, text and film, he traces an autobiographical journey through modernist abstraction and popular music.
Hathaway first encountered Jamie Reid’s graphics for the Sex Pistols at a youth club in the late 1970’s. “One of the older kids had bought a copy of Pretty Vacant with them. I didn’t really know anything about the group but I was immediately fascinated by the sleeve design. The fact that we weren’t allowed to play the record only added to its allure. I remember just standing and staring at it – wondering what it would sound like”. Later, as he began to buy and collect records (often on the basis of the cover artwork alone) he was struck by Peter Saville’s seemingly empty, sometimes monochromatic designs for Factory Records. The aesthetic language of record sleeves and the music they were created around, proposed a compelling alternative to what the artist describes as his “limited and claustrophobic suburban working class environment”.
The Reid/McLaren Sex Pistols project and Factory (both with roots in Situationism and Dada) were crucial in forging his sense of the apolitical, the absurd, the theatrical and the material, as tactics capable of resisting everyday orthodoxies – a position reinforced when, as an art student experimenting with abstraction, he discovered revisionist texts emphasising political readings of The New York School and the site specific signs and provocations of artists like Daniel Buren and Jenny Holzer.
Works like Blue Monday (2021) reference a minor act of resistance – when the band New Order insisted on playing live (badly) on a TV show where they were expected to mime. Site specificity, lo fi temporary construction techniques, mass produced industrial materials and a language of abstract signs are used to re present the Dan Flavin inspired set design that appeared behind them as both relic and proposal – materially present, theatrical, silent, architectural – post minimal. In The film Forever In Electric Dreams a lone worker is shown slowly dismantling a pre fabricated geodesic structure – a form synonymous with the collective ecological and technological utopianism of the 1960s. The work collages collective action with individualism, synth pop, 1980s audio visual equipment and solar technology – there can be no music on a dead planet.
Whilst Hathaway’s graphics reference the aesthetic feel and limited resources we associate with early punk zines – the works acknowledge the way in which the availability of low cost home technology and social media fundamentally changes the nature of what we can achieve technically and what space the printed material object might now occupy.
The artist sees all of his work as an ongoing attempt to connect historic and contemporaneous ideas through a playful examination of form, materiality and collective cultural experience.