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Vic Reeves interview

Simon Binns and his fellow North Easterner discuss cats, careers and art appreciation in a working class town.

Written by . Published on November 3rd 2010.

Vic Reeves interview

Comedian Vic Reeves – aka Jim Moir – was up in Manchester for the Buy Art Fair last week to display some of his paintings with Eyestorm Gallery. Confidential’s Simon Binns caught up with him.

Simon Binns: We’re from similar parts of the world and I remember telling my careers teacher at school that I wanted to do something creative – writing or art or some such. He told me I should work in a steel factory. Did you have similar experiences in Darlington?

VR: That’s what I was told. Exactly the same. No encouragement whatsoever. ‘We don’t do creative round here. You’ll go and work in a factory and don’t even think about any of that fancy stuff.’

SB: So why did you stick with it then?

VR: Because it was what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to work in a factory. Although I did for a short time, making parts of something or other to do with trains and railways. I didn’t like it.

SB: You weren’t inspired?

VR: No. But I think it’s a working class North East mentality – to do what you’re told; so I went and did it. When I eventually woke up at the age of 18 I thought ‘I don’t want to do this,’, so I went to art college.

SB: And that opened you up to a whole new world of possibilities?

VR: Well, that was already what I was doing. Other kids were playing football and drinking lager; me and my mates were sat under a tree reading Dostoyevsky and Camus. That’s what we were, and I thought: ‘I’ve got to get out of this place...(starts singing)...if that’s the last thing I ever do...’

SB: Do you go back up to the north east much?

VR: Not really. My dad died and my mam moved down south near me. So no, I don’t really have much call to.

SB: Have you been to the Middlesbrough Institute for Modern Art (MIMA)?

VR: No. Have you?

SB: Yes.

VR: What’s it like?

SB: It’s...all right.

VR: But with all due respect, nobody round there is really going to be interested in it, and if you are, people will just call you a ‘puff’. (Laughs) I wish they would give stuff like that a go outside the big cities. Do you go back to Middlesbrough much?

SB: Bits and bobs. Go and visit my mam. Watch the football now and again. Hardly at all when I was living in London...

VR: Ah! You’re ‘the puff who moved to London’! That’s even worse!

SB: You ended up on the telly. That must be worse surely? Are you going to convince a TV station to let you do a programme about art?

VR: No. They’re not interested. I’d love to though.

SB: Is college where you got seriously into performance art?

VR: I was already toying with it and playing around with daft stuff and that sort of grew into Big Night Out. It didn’t take the place of painting. I just wanted to get it out there.

SB: How did it go down with early audiences when you were playing in pubs?

VR: I’ve no idea. I didn’t really care what the audience thought. I was doing it for me.

SB: And did you try and make your paintings as surreal?

VR: I wasn’t really trying to fit into any category with my paintings. Again, I was doing what I wanted. Although I did walk into the Royal Academy with a load of my paintings and they wouldn’t hang them on the walls. Then someone told me that all they sell is paintings of cats. Apparently they fly off the shelves. So I’ve decided to start painting cats. I’m going to see if it works.

SB: And if it doesn’t?

VR: I’ll start painting dogs. I’ve started doing landscapes too. I’ve done one of my street where I live.

SB: So you’re cynically tailoring your paintings to what the masses want?

VR: (Laughs) I never think about it to be honest. I just approach each painting with an open mind, I never really know what I’m going to do or how or why.

SB: What about the sort of art that you like to buy or collect?

VR: What’s hanging on my walls? I like really classical stuff actually. Big bold traditional oil paintings are what I put in my home.

SB: Do you still have half a car submerged in your garden?

VR: That’s not my garden – it’s in Paul O Grady’s. I gave it to him. That’s never coming out. It’ll be there for years. Even if it’s just a big lump of rust coming out of the ground.

SB: What’s the most expensive piece of art you’ve bought?

VR: A Salvadore Dali original.

SB: Is it on your walls?

VR: It’s a sculpture.

SB: Ah.

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