Welcome to Exhibit A. An exhibition of new work from Hugh Tisdale and Dan Murrell
comprising 50 heroes and villains, both respected and notorious. Imagine yourself putting on a celebrity mask, looking through another’s eyes, and ask yourself, well, what does lie beneath? You might think of it as a mask that projects virtue or courage – perhaps Harvey Milk or the great Nina Simone – or as the kind of mask, like those worn at Venetian masquerades, that licenses otherwise unorthodox behaviours - the ghoulish, leering Jimmy Savile would be a particularly extreme example.
A word about technique. For all their photorealistic qualities, Dan Murrell’s portraits are in fact intricately hand-crafted pieces, employing careful draftsmanship in pencil or ink, overlaid with watercolour.
There’s plenty of wit in the way subtle differences in technique are used according to the subject – JF Kennedy as a cathode-ray tube image (complete with bullet hole), Debbie Harry in 1980s fanzine style, a pixelated Mohamed Atta. The faces are flattened, of course, but the box frames and lighting give an eerie illusion of a three-dimensional object.
London and politics were the reasons why the pair met, in 1997, at the offices of the New Statesman magazine, and they have worked together since that time on numerous design projects for online t-shirt publisher philosophyfootball.com, and their own publishing company, Owlgate Ltd. Oliver Carruthers
Rich Mix Head of Programming Tisdale&Murrell This is the second joint exhibition of prints by Hugh Tisdale and Dan Murrell whose work I have known and admired for over 20 years.
Hugh studied at Winchester School of Art, the London College of Printing and the Royal College of Art. As a recent art college graduate, he designed newsletters for the group set up to celebrate the centenary of the Russian revolutionary and writer Victor Serge in 1990. Later, he designed the New Times newspaper for Democratic Left, the Eurocommunist campaigning group which succeeded the Communist Party of Great Britain after the fall of the Soviet Union. It was there that he met Mark Perryman, whose partner edited the paper. Together, they created Philosophy Football, designing 100% cotton T-shirts, adorned with quotes from philosophers and dissenters such as Albert Camus and Tom Paine, as an alternative to the corporately branded, bri-nylon kits sold by football clubs. More than two decades later, the business continues to flourish and its humourous, left-field T-shirts now celebrate numerous other sports as well as football.
It was at another left-wing publication, the New Statesman, where Hugh worked as a freelance designer, that he met Dan Murrell in the mid-1990s. Dan studied at Ipswich College of Art and Bath Academy of Art. When I first joined the magazine, as literary editor, he was the man to whom one turned for help when grappling with the somewhat temperamental computers. But I soon learned that there was more to him than that. When I became editor in 1998, I struggled to get arresting covers that could sell the magazine on newsstands. Various ideas were tried and failed. All along, the answer was in the office, right under my nose. Dan’s brilliant illustrative skills, initially produced under the guidance of the former Sunday Times Magazine design supremo Michael Rand, came to the fore and took our covers to new levels of sophistication and daring.
In 1999, Dan and Hugh founded Owlgate, a publishing company, in 1999, at first to produce graphic histories of football clubs, later to publish their prints. Their joint efforts are far too little known to the wider public. I hope this exhibition gives them a wider audience. Peter Wilby (was editor of the Independent on Sundayfrom 1995 to 1996 and of the New Statesman from 1998 to 2005. He writes the weekly First Thoughts column for theNS.) Tisdale & Murrell Think Morecambe & Wise meets Penn & Teller (they’ll make you laugh, they’ll make you think).
I first met Hugh Tisdale and Dan Murrell in 1998 when I joined the New Statesman magazine as Art Director. Hugh, The-Nicest-Person-In-The-Universe-And-Possibly-Beyond, was acting Art Director interregnum, but had offered to stay on to show the new guy – me – the ropes.
Hugh was very patient as I stumbled towards an understanding of the mechanics of the task in front of me and I was sad when finally he departed for pastures new. Dan was the guy fixing computers and their technophobe users. But whenever a problem occurred he was always there, with a smile and a joke, to get me out of a hole. Then one day, when a certain cover idea had proved difficult to achieve Dan said casually “I could have done that for you”. Enter the fray Dan Murrell, Mr. Modesty, Mr. Photoshop genius and also the Nicest-Person-In-The-Universe-And-Possibly-Beyond!!!!!
It wasn’t long before I managed to persuade the editor that Dan would be far more useful in a creative visual role than telling hacks to switch off their computers and switch them back on again. Over the next 12 years we produced some memorable covers for the New Statesman. Dan also contributed many striking images to illustrate articles (my all-time favourite was half of Maggie Thatcher’s head in formaldehyde – much funnier than Damiam Hirst’s shark original!).
Meanwhile, Hugh had set up a company - Philosophy Football - designing T-shirts displaying strong images and witty slogans. Dan was soon taken on board in his spare time to help the creative processes along. This exhibition of bold graphic images represents Dan and Hugh’s creative and technical skills and above all their belief that life is about having fun and "less is always more" (and having the odd pint or two!). I hope you go home after this experience feeling just a little better about the world. David Gibbons (New Statesman Art Editor) £190. (GBP) Signed, limited edition, deep box framed print. 335x438mm Edition of 50 prints per image. Price includes UK crating and delivery. For overseas delivery contact us with your requirements. £17.50 (GBP) Signed, limited edition, 44 page perfect bound catalogue with matt coating. 200x200mm (stamped out pupils on the front cover). With foreword and opening essay by Journalist and critic Adam Newey. For any other info please email: [email protected] OR, for direct sales contact: [email protected] Tel: +44 (0)1273 472 721