The Magpie Index
18 January – 12 February 2012
The Magpie Index is a single-screen high-definition video artwork by artist Richard Grayson, focusing on legendary singer-songwriter Roy Harper, and is Grayson’s third exhibition at Matt’s Gallery.
In The Magpie Index Roy Harper delivers a series of monologues to camera. Each section addresses a different aspect of his work, his philosophy and history, covering the counter culture; religion and superstition; ornithology; nature and the environment; political engagement and the end of politics as well as Harper’s experiences in the music world and the importance of changing light bulbs.
Roy Harper released his first record, Sophisticated Beggar in 1966 and was revered by contemporaries such as Led Zeppelin for his integrity and the uncompromising way he followed the dictates of his conscience rather than the prerogatives of the music business, ‘Hats off to Harper’ on Led Zeppelin III acknowledged this. He was resident at the legendary Les Cousins Folk club in Soho in the early sixties and became a staple of Free Festivals in the late sixties and seventies. He has worked with musicians such as Jimmy Page, Dave Gilmour, Keith Moon, and Kate Bush, who describes him as ‘one of the greatest of English song writers’. His recent solo concert at the Royal Festival Hall in November was described as ‘historic’ by the Guardian, and by the Telegraph as ‘a bright burning of never more vital talent, full of pure, deep emotions and devastating performances of musical brilliance.’
His work and approaches are resolutely independent and informed by a strong personal and ethical vision. He has used his songs and writings to propose alternative histories of culture, launch attacks on establishment positions and to critique social, political and religious operations.
The Magpie Index explores the ways that a fierce personal vision developed and how it shaped and expressed ideas of the ‘alternative culture’ of the sixties and seventies where music was a central platform for debate. The work moves from the biographical into the social and cultural spheres to present this individual voice in ways that allude to the traditions of the radical non-conformist, the visionary and the outsider.
The Magpie Index extends Grayson’s interest in alternative and heterodox understandings, the operations of belief and unorthodox modellings of the world and its histories, and his focus on the sites of culture and music as places where subjective readings and understandings are translated into wider societal and political spheres.
The Magpie Index was commissioned by Locus+ and the De La Warr Pavilion. It debuted at the De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea, as part of Richard Grayson’s solo exhibition that opened in January 2010. Matt’s Gallery is generously supported by Arts Council England.
Further exhibitions at Matt’s Gallery
W.S.I.N. (Weird Shit In Nature)
31 January – 24 March 2024
By Our Own Hand
1 – 3 June 2018
1 January 2016 – 1 January 2019
Nothing Can Stop Us Now
23 May – 15 June 2014
The Golden Space City of God
13 May – 28 June 2009
19 January – 13 February 2005
24 November – 19 December 2004