Scott King

Joy Division, The Moonlight Club, 4 April 1980, West Hampstead, London, England

2000

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Scott King born 1969
Medium
Lithograph on paper
Dimensions
Unconfirmed: 260 x 210 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased 2000
Reference
P78395

Summary

This print is one of twenty works produced by contemporary artists for the Cubitt Print Box in 2000. Cubitt is an artist-run gallery and studio complex in north London. In 2001 the complex moved from King’s Cross to Islington and the prints were commissioned as part of a drive to raise funds to help finance the move, and to support future exhibitions and events at the new gallery space. All the artists who contributed to the project had previously taken part in Cubitt’s programme. The portfolio was produced in an edition of 100 with twenty artists’ proofs; Tate’s copy is number sixty-six in the series.

King’s lithograph is printed on heavy card. At first glance it appears to depict a geometric abstract image. Eleven rows each containing twelve black circles are printed on a white background. Below them is a thick black line, underneath which a further four black circles appear spread out in a diamond shape. On the bottom right hand corner the title is printed in small black lettering. The title immediately contextualises the image as a schematic group portrait of a band and audience during a concert: Joy Division, The Moonlight Club, 4 April 1980, West Hampstead, London, England.

Joy Divison were a Manchester-based band who formed in the late 1970s. Comprised of singer Ian Curtis, guitarist Bernard Sumner, bassist Peter Hook and drummer Stephen Morris, the band gained a cult audience for its influential dark, post-punk sound and intense live sets. Curtis’ brooding persona and deep monotonous singing voice were a large part of the band’s success. He committed suicide on 18 May 1980 at the age of twenty-three and this tragic event increased the band’s now mythical status.

King is dedicated fan of Joy Division; the title of their most famous song, ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’, is tattooed on his forearm. The gig his print commemorates was the band’s last in London; they performed publicly only five times subsequently. Curtis had suffered an epileptic fit during an earlier performance that evening, and had to be helped off the stage at the end of the Moonlight Club set. Despite his ill health the performance was reported to have been riveting.

There is a tension in King’s print between the specificity of the title, documenting the band, date and venue with all the loaded connotations they imply, and the simplified graphic rendering of the image. Individuals are depicted as identical circles, with no differentiation between musicians and audience members. This suggests a sense of emphatic connection between the concert-goers and the band. The horizontal line, however, creates a sharp demarcation between the stage and the floor, maintaining the band’s position apart from the audience.

In addition to making artworks, King works as a designer and curator. With his collaborator Matt Worley he is co-publisher of the magazine Crash!. This occasional publication, which criticises what King and Worley perceive as the mediocrity of contemporary British culture, was set up in spirit of Blast, the provocative Vorticist journal founded by Wyndham Lewis (1882-1957).

Further reading:
Matt Worley, ed., Crash!, exhibition catalogue, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, 1999.
Matthew Higgs, ‘Matthew Higgs on Scott King’, Artforum, vol.40, no.5, January 2002, http://www.findarticles.com/cf_dls/m0268/5_40/82469550/p8/article.jhtml?

Rachel Taylor
March 2004

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