Tom Hodgkinson visits Vic Reeves. Pics by Chris Floyd
Vic Reeves, real name Jim Moir, lives in an elegant green-painted villa at the end of a dusty lane in a village in Kent. Out the front there is a neatly trimmed low picket hedge and at the back is a large lawn and four sheds, beyond which lie the train tracks of the London line. I’ve come down with photographer Chris Floyd to spend a couple of hours with Jim, who has just produced a new book called Vic Reeves Art Book, a sumptuous compendium of his drawings and paintings from the last two or three years.
We go out to sit on the terrace at the back of the house.
Tom Hodgkinson: So how has lockdown been for you? Have you found it quite productive?
Vic Reeves: Well, it’s not really changed things for me at all because all I do is stay at home and paint all day. I’ve never sold so many pictures as I have in lockdown, which surprises me.
TH: Why do you think that is?
VR: I don’t know. Maybe people have been at home looking at their laptops with nothing to do and buying things they shouldn’t.
TH: When did you start full-time painting instead of doing TV?
VR: Well I was a painter first, then TV came off the back of that. I only ended up doing comedy by mistake because a friend of mine had a comedy club and I was running it. I thought I was doing a performance piece from an art point of view. Like a kind of Gilbert and George thing, really.
TH: Who are your favourite artists?
VR: Er, it changes all the time. Week by week. At that point it was Gilbert and George, and Basquiat, and I liked a lot of classical stuff as well. I used to copy classical paintings to work out how to paint them. I’d go to the National Gallery and buy the postcards and copy them. I did [Carel Fabritius’s 1654 painting] The Goldfinch from a photo of it in a book. The real one’s tiny but my one was huge, because I just guessed the size of it. I’ve got that one in the house, it’s one of the few I’ve got left, I think it was from about 1985. I was a forger, if you like. I did sell some really cheaply.
TH: Didn’t you go to art school at Goldsmiths with Damien Hirst and that lot?
VR: They wouldn’t let me in but I went anyway. We all knocked about together. Good times, but you couldn’t do it again.
TH: Do you still drink?
VR: I still drink, not all the time but once or twice a week. I’ve got a cut-off point that’s quite low. I don’t drink that much beer now, I just have red wine.
TH: Were you influenced by performance artists as well?
VR: Oh yeah, I was a massive fan of Joseph Beuys. He does fat and felt stuff because he has this whole fabrication about crashing in Alaska and being saved by Eskimos who wrapped him in fat and felt. He lived with a coyote for a bit. I don’t know what it was, maybe I was just attracted to things that were out of the ordinary or attractive to the eye. I don’t like to analyse it too deeply. I was attracted to giant felt suits.
TH: You do need a degree of self-assurance to do this sort of thing. So many people would like to but are just scared. Are you a self-confident person?
VR: It’s like the comedy I’ve produced and the paintings – I’ll do it all for myself first. I don’t see any point in doing it for anyone else or trying to predict what they want. So, yeah, there’s a self-confidence…
TH: I remember the Big Night Out series, the original ones. We were so excited to watch it. It was a very strange show but people found it really funny.
VR: There were people like Spike Milligan or Monty Python who did stuff like that and then it got really political with stand-up… and got really boring.
This is an extract from our interview with Vic Reeves in Idler 75, Nov/Dec 2020. To subscribe to the magazine, go here.
Single copies of Idler 75 are available here
Vic Reeves Art Book (Unbound) is out now, £25. Buy here