PopBang Colour: The Art of Movement
If British people were as good as Americans at romanticising their industrial past, then there would be paeans to Birmingham all over the pop charts. There aren’t many cities left in this great nation with a network of industrial workshops in their centres. But Bimingham’s beating heart still resounds with the sounds of people doing stuff, making stuff. In the days of gentrification and property boom time, the Birds Custard Factory in down home Digbeth right in the heart of Brum, is such a place. But now it’s not powdered milk product that emerges from the double doors: it is Art.
Ian Cook, creator of Popbang Colour and a whole body of artwork about and produced by, the movement of four automotive wheels, is a most appropriate resident of the industrial creative quarter of Britain’s Motor City. “Growing up in Solihull, there was something about the Rover plant that was comforting to me” Says Ian. “I suppose it was inevitable that I would end up with cars as central to my life in some way or another.”
Because in fact, Ian Cook’s work is possibly the most fundamentally car-related art one could imagine. “I make art with toy cars. I draw pictures of cars using toy cars, tyres, I make art of the toy cars with which I make the art!. What’s not car-related about that?”
Ian’s passion is easy to trace. After leaving school in the car-industry heartland of Solihull, his uncle, who was pretty senior at Land Rover, gave him a list of contact numbers. Bashing the phone and knocking on a few doors, he eventually scored an elusive work experience gig in the design studio at Rover.
Soon deciding that straight-ahead car design wasn’t for him, he took a place at Winchester School of Fine Art. It wasn’t long until he was tearing his collection of model cars to pieces, making sculptures out of the detritus.
A trip to Latvia on the Erasmus exchange program had him sending scrawled-upon, autographed toy cars to friends, who would return them with their own inscriptions. Graduating from college in 2005, and moving on to teach art himself, he came upon the idea of turning the teenage charges on to colour theory through the use of toy cars. And there you have it. Popbang colour came into being.
The core of the body of the work has been, for the last couple of years, the ‘auto drawings’ in which he creates paintings using radio controlled cars rather than brush and pen .“It’s all about movement, and creating something live and dynamic,” says Ian. Many commissions have arisen from Ian’s live appearances at many car events around the country, and last year a plum job arose when he was asked to do a portrait of F1 champ Lewis Hamilton for sponsors Reebok.
“It was mad. There was good budget, it was on a huge scale and it exposed my work to a whole new bunch of people. When the piece was first commissioned I thought it was a wind up – until I turned up at London and saw this huge canvas.”
This high profile commission on London’s Regent Street has kept the phone ringing and facilitated a further exploration of the artist’s rather unique form. In the flesh, Ian’s work is arresting, and stunningly colourful, and to watch Ian’s rhythmic working of the toy cars is fascinating.
As Picasso said: Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.
“I suppose I’m just living a dream of every big kid. Playing with cars and making stuff in loads of bright colours.”
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