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BOWIE FAN FOCUS – Sara Captain, 48
~ What does David Bowie mean to you?
SC: Everything! The world! Obviously my loved ones, close to me in my own life I mean, are everything to me - but I mean that for Bowie in a different way. Let me explain: Bowie was a man who, for some mysterious reason, was able to touch us fans so personally, and so very deeply - in a way that nobody else could. We often talk about this between us fans, don’t we? There is this real, genuine artistic fire in him, and he has the Muse on his side, so to speak: talent, an open mind and the desire for greatness. All of this gives him the ability to transcend the limits of our finite, puny little lives and to speak a language that is universal. What makes him even more special is that in his work and even in his appearance his soul shines through – and what a beautiful soul that is! He gives so much in performance, and this makes him inimitable. So in a nutshell to me he is the ultimate artist and just a little more than just a human… This is not Bowie mythology. It’s a funny thing maybe, but it is true.
~ When and how did you first become aware of him?
SC: When was around 12 years old I used to watch MTV a lot and one day this...being… this…otherworldly human...thing… appears on the screen. He had a mesmerising, deep voice that came from God knows where - something had never heard before - and it struck at the heart of my very soul. I can safely say I was never the same since! It was the video of ‘China Girl’, so I guess the year was 1983.
~ First item you ever obtained, including music, memorabilia, magazines, etc.?
SC: The Space Oddity album…I stared and stared at the cover, wondering why he didn’t have curly hair on it. Or was it ‘Do they know it’s Christmas?’ in the hope of hearing two milliseconds of that voice on the B side (see above). Does that count?
~ Is there a Bowie holy grail for you that you have yet to track down?
SC: YES!!! The full video of ‘The Elephant Man.’ I would give anything for that, even my painting ‘Sad David’. Maybe!
~ Most valuable Bowie possession you own on an emotional level?
SC: His signature – Not something I ever thought I could ever have. To know it is real is so magical – I can’t explain! Next to that would be my first Space Oddity album, the one that I mentioned above.
~ The best Bowie show you ever attended?
SC: I am ashamed to say, sadly, the only one: the Glass Spider Tour, Turin, 1987. Not allowed to go before and life turned too complicated for gigs after. Any gigs, that is. Regrets? YES! All the ones I missed at either end of that date.
~ The show you wish you had witnessed?
SC: Musikladen, Bremen -May 21, 1978 They seem to be having one hell of a time on stage and I love the fact that Bowie seemed to be taking himself quite seriously (but never too seriously) then as an artist, doing all the Brecht stuff and looking very much the mitteleuropean intellectual. Oh yes! Give me the Time Machine!
~ What would you have said had you met him, or, if you did meet, what did you say?
SC: I think I would have told him how much the song ‘God Knows I am Good’ means to me and how much comfort his music always was. I would have thanked him first and foremost. Oh, and of course I would have slipped in that I can draw, hoping that would get us talking about art. Maybe he would have made it easy for me with a quip or witticism…
~ Favourite album?
SC: If I really have to …it’s got to be LOW
~ Top ten songs?
SC: Heroes, Some Are, Letter to Hermione, Width of a Circle, Space Oddity, A new Career in a new Town, The Man who Sold the World, Word on a Wing, Five Years, the Bewlay Brothers or maybe…. And also…can I include Amsterdam…? Oh, come on man, ten? It’s impossible…!
~ Favourite lyric?
SC: ‘And the guns, shot above our heads/ And we kissed, as though nothing could fall’ – I know that feeling.
~ Favourite film?
SC: The Man Who fell to Earth. I am a bit of a Man Who Fell to Earth freak – I know it by heart, I can analyse each camera angle and each line of the dialogue till the cows come home. Tommy got under my skin, as he obviously did his. He is a great metaphor for alienation be it from the inner or the outer world – the film is so profound on every level and funnily enough it is particularly poignant today : isn’t Tommy is the ultimate immigrant? Coming to a new land and then stuff happens and you fall in love and get stuck – you don’t know if you are coming or going, and you belong and you don’t and they don’t treat you nice (though some do), they find excuses because you are ‘overstimulating the economy’ but you are not bitter because that’s just not you and you know that it would have probably been the same if they’d come over to your side… So true.
~ Favourite video?
SC: Hard as it is to choose, I have to say that for my money nothing beats the video of Wild is the Wind (and the Drowned Girl, which is the same thing). the jazzy feeling of it all, the tantalising effect of the solarised images where you see and you don’t see David’s face, accompanying what I think is David’s most sublime vocal performance, make this utterly addictive for me. It is ‘less is more’ (my motto) and it’s pure bliss.
~ Favourite era?
SC: 76-77 On the cusp of becoming a grown up man – looking incredible and with the fire of inspiration in him.
~ Best Bowie moment?
SC: Ah, there are just so many! The eye rolling in ‘Five Years’, the funny, pouty duck lip movement when he is interviewed at the Plaza Athénée in Paris. There’s his prank where, in the ‘L’Atra Domenica’ interview, he is sitting at a table with pretty Italian journalist Fiorella Gentile and he pretends there is something creeping from under the table, then he squashes it. Hilarious! There’s the great Jeremy Paxman interview. The winner, though, has got to be an hyperactive, whip smart and slightly irritated Bowie pointing out in a 1977 Amsterdam interview, when asked for the umpteenth time about showbiz, that he is not a rock star, ‘you see’. Why do I like it? Because he is not, ‘you see’. He’s so, so much more.
~ Guilty secret?
SC: Ah, that’d be telling! And then my reputation would sweep back home in drag… Ok, I confess: I do secretly mime his expressions quietly to myself when I am painting him, I practise pursing my lips in that way, lifting the eyebrows, that sort of stuff. Please don’t tell anybody.
~ What impact upon your life has Bowie had? Eg: Music, art and literature? Children or pet’s names? Tattoos? Mannerisms? Clothing? Choice of life partner?
SC: HUGE! I can say he was the first man I ever fell in love with. He was my awakening… no doubt! I didn’t like David Bowie – I looooooooooooooooved David Bowie!!! Everyone knew that about me when I was a teenager – he was and is an integral part of my identity. He accompanied my becoming an adult and his music was a sort of anchor, a safe harbour in the darkest moments, throughout my life – there is huge empathy in it. He was also a bit of a mentor who, from afar, by namechecking all manner of cultural connections, made me discover some many new things. He opened fantastic aesthetic horizons, which brings me to his greatest gift of all: he was instrumental in liberating the artist in me. Seeing how much he’d packed into this life of his, I thought: ‘Hey! Look at that! I too have got a gift and it must be for a reason, so I had better not waste it! David didn’t!’ I felt an irresistible urge to say so much, through painting – to paint not only him, but people I love, and stuff about life and death, time…you name it! It was what I could do with my life: art was a kind of obvious destiny that, for one reason or another, I was trying to escape, put off. Now, with David as the catalyst, and I am fully immersed in it and it is my chief occupation. Didn’t he say: ‘I always wanted to be that catalystic sort of thing’? Well David, with me, you fully succeeded.
~ Do you have a Bowie related photograph we could use? If so, what’s the story behind it?
SC: This is one of my latest paintings and I like it very much because it is simple yet effective – less is more! The palette is stripped down to a minimum, with the background used as a colour, and a contrast between ultra-soft and very stark brushstrokes. David is pictured in a Paris hotel around the time of ‘Be my Wife’, a lyric from which is visible in the back ground: ‘Stay with me’. He had that gorgeous, slightly pained ‘Rudy Valentino’ / Buster Keaton look around that time, which fascinates me no end. The focus here is on his elegance and charisma, while the lyrics create a tension between us wanting him to stay with us and him wanting us to keep him close, to pay attention, to keep listening to his music. This was painted for my upcoming Paris exhibition … but it sold before it got there. There will be many others, though! The leitmotif of the new show is this incredible creative connection David establishes with both those he loves and those who love him. @galeriestardust La Galerie Stardust in Paris, which will host it, are themselves massive Bowie fans (as the name suggests) and they have held many a great Bowie –related show: Sukita, Hanekroot and more. My one, ‘Sound & Vision – the Universe of David Bowie’ will run for two months from 31st May to 31st July and will feature, alongside my portraits of our David at the centre of it all, people he loved and those on whom he had a big impact – for example, I will pay homage to Linsday Kemp. Plus, we might have some illustrious guests, but I can’t reveal who just yet… It should be a very exciting show!
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