A 20-question interview with contemporary artist Alexander Newley
The Steeple Times shares “wit and wisdom”. What’s your guiding force?
Eros, anger, anxiety, love – in perfect and contradictory admixture.
“Don’t get even, get medieval” is, in our humble opinion, a great motto. What’s yours?
When fate raises its sword to make you tremble, go forth into it and you will find bliss.
Kerry Katona was considered unacceptable in 2007. Who or what is unacceptable in 2017?
Who’s that? Cancer/Steve Bannon – basically the same thing…
Tony Blair misses being Prime Minister. What do you miss most in your life?
No missing – still on target.
What might you swap all your wealth for?
I have no material wealth. Health and creativity is ALL, although I’d like some new drapes in the kitchen.
Donald Trump was once a case of: “If you owe the bank a thousand, they close you down; but if you owe the bank a billion, you own the bank”. What’s your view on the state of the financial system?
The dollar rocketed when Trump came in. Need we say more?
What phrase or word do you most loathe?
“The UK” delivered in a peppy, north London accent and “Your call is very important to us, please stay on the line…”
In the UK, some people consider charity to “begin at home”. What’s your view and what causes do you personally support?
I couldn’t agree more. Everything is a spiral: work from the centre out. I have just raised a fair bit for the St. Martin-in-the-Fields homeless charity through the auction of my paintings.
The judge in Law Abiding Citizen states: “I can pretty much do whatever I want” before being blown up whilst answering her mobile phone. What’s your view on the appropriate use of such devices?
A necessary evil. Can you imagine life before? The carousel goes faster and faster and we have to find a way to stay on it. That said, the counter-revolution: silence, mindfulness, not giving a fig is pretty good, too.
If you could fill a carriage on The Orient Express, who would be your fellow passengers?
Shakespeare (of course), Oscar (of course), Churchill (large brandy in hand), Chaplin (tearing tickets), my father (Anthony Newley), Sheela (my love), Ava (my daughter), Freud x2 (grandfather and grandson) and the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders (for perfect Surrealism).
If you were unfortunate enough to end up on death row, what would be your last meal and where would you eat it?
A tuna melt with ketchup, on the undercliff in Lyme Regis, watching the sun sink on a balmy summer’s eve.
What time is it acceptable to consume the first drink of the day?
10:45am (if it be a mixture of German dessert wine and seltzer).
A Negroni, a martini or a cup of tea?
Tea please, milk, no sugar (although I want the sugar).
Whose parties do you enjoy the most and why?
I rarely enjoy them because I don’t go to enough, and you have to invest in the social whirl before it pays back. I’m still working on that—but I did have a pretty good time at Hugh Hefner’s once.
Who is the most positive person you know?
Myself, although periodically encumbered by massive humbug.
What’s your most guilty pleasure?
The occasional bout of self-love.
If a tattoo were to sum you up, what would it be of?
A minotaur rampart on a bed of roses.
If you were a car, what marque would you be?
A prototype Isotta Fraschini. Only two were made and one crashed at very high speed.
Cilla Black presented Surprise, Surprise. Tell us the most surprising thing about you.
I can identify almost anyone from the back; the habit of a portraitist.
What’s currently sitting on your mantelpiece?
Two vases of anemonies, one tall one short.
Alexander Newley is a contemporary artist. His subjects have numbered Steven Berkoff, Christopher Reeve, Oliver Stone, Gore Vidal and Billy Wilder and his work features in the permanent collections of the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC and at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
Follow him on Twitter at @alexandernewley.