Wednesday 16th July saw Mr Bingo entertain yet another sold out auditorium at the Arnolfini. Now, I’m not too sure whether I was the only one that was incredibly surprised to see quite a young, softly spoken, polite guy take to the podium in the place of what I was expecting to be a bitter, miserable, middle aged man, dropping all manner of expletives in the same tone of his witty, NSFW illustrations that had brought us all to the talk in the first place, but I was blown away to say the least.
What ensued was one of the most flitting, random and hilarious talks that I have yet to see at the Arnolfini. It had me losing it in fits of laughter at pretty much every quick paced slide change, as can only be compared on the cheek-ache scale to the talk that was held there a few months back by Steve Edge, who probably verbalised as many profanities as Mr Bingo has illustrated through his 900-piece strong Hate Mail campaign that began as a drunken tweet more than 2 years ago.
I can’t really give you a comprehensive write up, as the subjects moved from childhood sketches of World War II scenes, photos from the book ‘Dancing with Cats’, dodgy fan art of Brad Pitt, drawings of porn star’s hair styles and all manner of things inbetween, while trying to get over laughing from the previous slide before moving on to the next one, but I’ll give it a whirl.
Mr Bingo - a name originating from him winning a decent amount on a game of bingo as a student, hence the ‘Bingo’ part - the Mr was added at a later date (also, was hoping someone would ask him what his real name was in the Q&A session at the end, but no such luck, the wikipedia link is pretty useless too http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mr_Bingo) grew up in Kent and started his now career as a ‘Visual Entertainer’ at an early age.
He would draw the kind of obscene things that teenage boys could only draw at school, with great and worrying attention to detail, and pass these round the classroom, enjoying the attention seeking fulfilment of making his classmates laugh before getting caught by the teachers. This, mixed with the work experience of screenprinting with his Aunty Penny and Uncle Bernie made him realise the kind of freelance, fun and exciting work that could be done, rather than the other boring career choices that were on offer.
As a student at Bath uni he would draw flyers and posters for obscure fake club nights, again all for fun, (the look of which reminded me of the illustration that he designed for this very talk) before moving off to London where all designers go to get a job, make loads of money and get famous. Instead he ended up working in the HSBC head office, wearing a red suit and handing out mail to all the bankers.
He swiftly got the sack after drawing on a misdirected envelope for one of the big cheeses at HSBC (his first piece of mail art), tried his hand marketing lipsticks to teenage magazines before trying to make it in the art world by designing club flyers, and illustrated for editorial publications that had a much more polished and cartoon like style to what we are used to seeing him create today.
His love for illustration comes from the fact that you can ‘draw anyone doing anything and make them look silly.’
He then proceded to show us various snaps of everyday objects that he found amusing, smoking pavements, hand made DIY signs, enjoyable because ‘everything is art, it’s all down to you the viewer, looking at things differently and enjoying them.’ Such as the weird and wonderful fan art websites that can be found on the internet on sites such as Star Portraits (disclaimer: if you stumble on this site you will lose an hour of your life - Beyonce is a classic) which swiftly moved on to sending pictures to illustrators on ebay who will draw portraits of you for as little as 12 quid, and the fun that can be had with this (see first image of this post!)
Other topics that swiftly got touched upon - not being paid for 7 months by Dazed and Confused and so creating a website for them that had one page simply reading ‘Where’s my fucking money’.
A lifetime mission to bad mouth Martin Olly at every possible oppurtunity after a bad review in a magazine.
Moving on to the main piece of work that launched his popularity from 2007 - an exhibition of hair portraits. These ranged from porn stars to the Mighty Boosh to Star Wars characters (Chewy is awesome) and my favourite piece of work of his that doesn’t contain a c-bomb - his portrait of Amy Winehouse for the Amy Winehouse Foundation.
The exposure of this work led to other comissions such as Esquire magazine, Movember and also a lot of fan art coming his way in the forms of other people sending him pictures of their own hair portraits. Odd.
The talk then picked up pace even more, and was all a bit of a blur really, touching on other work that he had done like his piece 'Cannabis beard' which appeared in the New Yorker, a design for beef curtains and some work he did for a Channel 4 programme called 'Showdogs'.
We then moved swinftly on to his love of postcards. He has a large collection that ranges from vintage saucy postcards, postcards of mundane workplaces and postcards from the early 1900s that almost act as text messages of the day. It was from this collection of postcards that drunkenly inspired him one evening to send out a tweet to his loyal Twitter followers telling people if they paid a small fee (£5) he would send them an abusive postcard through the post. He only had this request line open for 3 days before he had to shut it down again due to the sheer amount of requests he received from people wanting to be sent hate mail by a complete stranger.
Q: Do your research people before sending them a postcard?
A: No, that's called bullying.
Alot of his postcards have a strong typographic look (which I love) and he talked about it being one of his fascinations too, collecting type books and also being intrigued by the efforts of everyday people creating their own signs (see images earlier in the post).
The Hate Mail phenomenom took off, and he opened the lines sporadically over the next few years. After being persuaded by a friend to approach Penguin, they offered him a book deal and the rest is history. In true Mr Bingo fashion, he sent them a piece of Hate Mail after having a meeting with them, agreeing his book publication. They made the book anyway.