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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Beatlefan Interview with Youngerman Art

2:28 PM Posted by Nicole M
Article by John Firehammer and originally published in Beatlefan magazine (P.O. Box 33515, Decatur, GA 30033). Adapted with permission.

Many visual artists draw inspiration from The Beatles’ image and music. But Manchester-based printmakers Ivan and Ed Chapman have ties to the group that date to its earliest days. Their mother, Margaret, attended the Liverpool College of Art with John Lennon and Stuart Sutcliffe. She dated Stu and roomed with both John and Stu in the infamously grungy  “Beatnik Horror” flat on Gambier Terrace. Back then she was Margaret Duxbury and known by the nickname “Duckie.” She went on to have a distinguished career in art, known for her Edwardian street scene paintings, before passing away in 2000. Ivan and Ed gravitated toward the arts, too, and produce a variety of graphic works under the name “Youngerman.” Their pieces include bright, Roy Lichtenstein-style prints of The Beatles, The Who, Jimi Hendrix and more, along with a series of maps where the street names of Liverpool and London are replaced with song titles. Here, the Chapman brothers respond to a series of email questions from Beatefan contributor John Firehammer. 
Can you provide some details on your business? When did it open? The map designs first went on sale in mid-2015 as soon as a license had been granted by mapping companies A-Z and Ordnance Survey, on which the real streets are based. The pop art originals and prints have been on sale for longer. The works have sold all over the world. There are fans on every continent!

What is you background in printmaking and art? Did you study professionally? Do you create the art together or individually?All Youngerman designs are created as a team. Our parents were both qualified artists and passed on their knowledge from an early age. Later study was at college. 
 What type of printmaking is this, in terms of the techniques and materials used?
The Beatles “All You Need is Loverpool” is a Giclée print utilizing the latest lightfast dyes and printing techniques on distinctly textured Hahnemuhle heavyweight German Etching board, which recreates the desired “vintage” style look of the design perfectly. The premium mould-made paper meets the highest industry standards regarding density, colour gamut, colour graduation and image sharpness while preserving the special touch and feel of genuine art paper.

Your mom had a close connection with the early Beatles. She attended Art College with John Lennon and Stu Sutcliffe and shared a flat with them. What time period was that? 
She studied at Liverpool College of Art for five years from 1957-62. She was especially good at painting, as was Stuart Sutcliffe. She went on to have a successful career as a professional artist creating works of Edwardian street scenes, from the early 1970s, with several sell-out exhibitions. She continued to paint professionally until she died in 2000.

How did she end up sharing the flat? Were there other roommates?She was Stuart's girlfriend at the time when they moved into rooms in a large, austere 19th century house on Gambier Terrace, very close to the art college opposite Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral, along with another couple, also college friends studying art.After some time, Stuart asked her if it was OK if his best mate and their fellow-student John Lennon could move in as he was finding it hard living with his Aunt Mimi, or had possibly been kicked out already. She agreed it was OK and John moved in, along with all his musical equipment.The place itself was the scene of the national newspaper article called ‘The Beatnik Horror’ (1960) which showed pictures from inside the flat and the apparent squalid living conditions, maybe somewhat exaggerated!

Did she see the Beatles play frequently? Did she get to know the other members of the group, too?The Beatles were not even called The Beatles at the time she first met Stuart. It would be the period when they were changing the group's name regularly. John Lennon asked her one day if she could think of a name and she suggested the jazzy title “John Lennon Quartet,” which apparently John liked although presumably this was quickly vetoed by his band mates! She also referred to art college non-friends as “nowhere people” and teachers as “nowhere men,” which John liked and found amusing. Maybe he remembered this?She remembered Paul and George, who used to call round to rehearse at the flat, coming up the wooden fire escape at the rear of the property and in through a window. Presumably songs like “Love Me Do” would be rehearsed at this time. They all called her “Duckie” (her maiden name was Duxbury) and she recalled George being very good-looking and Paul confident even then, both of them very polite too. They would all play cards and Monopoly, which she said John, Paul and George all cheated outrageously at. She never liked the game much after this! Even though she was five weeks younger than John she never saw them at the Cavern, possibly considering herself too old - at the age of 20!

Did your mom share any stories about those days that you haven't heard elsewhere, that haven't come out in any of the Beatles books?Yes. Albert Goldman got her name incorrect in his biography of John, surprising considering how in-depth he supposedly researched and interviewed for that book. Philip Norman and Ray Connolly both mention her, although in Connolly's book the story about hanging spiders above her bed as she slept is incorrect. She actually helped John and the others make the spiders from, of all things, potatoes with straws for legs. She was always very good at coming up with creative ideas as a mother too.However, none of them mentions how she vividly recalled the first time she was alone with John Lennon. This was at Gambier Terrace, waiting for the other flatmates to come in. She was little short of terrified as John was notorious around college for making sharp, witty put-downs whenever fellow students walked by and she dreaded the encounter one-to-one.It turned out John in private was actually quite shy and polite and he asked her would she like to read some of his writing. She did and she told him it reminded her of an author called J. D. Salinger. John didn't know of Salinger, so she leant him her copy of “The Catcher in the Rye,” which he later said he enjoyed a great deal.She later signed her paintings M. Chapman (her married surname) and was known as “Marg,” an eerie coincidence being as close a female name can be to John's assassin's name, who was, as we know, obsessed with the same book.John never did return her book. Maybe Yoko still has it?

What were her recollections of John and Stu as people and personalities? It seems like they were quite different in temperament, yet such good friends.She said Stuart was a lovely person, same height as she was at 5' 5'' and could be self-effacing and comical despite his talent, and as an art student was generous with advice, which she took on board and employed later in her own work. John was decidedly more all bravado in a group, a leader, but certainly with her seems to have always been fun and courteous, wearing the glasses he normally eschewed in public. John and Stuart got on she said, perhaps because they were the same age (Paul and George were younger) and had creativity in common beyond music.

Describe some of the inspirations behind your work. Obviously, the pop art prints are very 1960s inspired, with their bright colors and Roy Lichtenstein influence. Maps are another big influence.Pop art definitely is an obvious influence, yet surprisingly The Beatles and other famous people have not really been created in the traditional pop art style before, with speech bubbles and the Ben-Day dots integral to the work. The Beatles are so heavily associated with and so massively influenced the 1960s when pop art was at its height so it seemed logical to create them in this style.The map designs are absolutely true to the real roads of the area in question. They have been changed, stylized to a lesser or greater degree. Some real roads and landmarks remain too. Maps and diagrams have long made for interesting art. With the map prints, fans look for their favorite song in the designs.

What's the connection between music and your work? It's not just the Beatles, but you also have prints inspired by Hendrix and Dylan, as well as punk-era groups like The Clash and The Jam.Music plays a massive part in people's lives so creating music legends in art, with luck, is going to be popular. The map designs seem like a logical extension of the musician portraits, something not really seen before yet maintaining a pop art flavour.

You gave one of your Liverpool maps to Paul McCartney and got a very nice response. Can you tell a little bit about that?There was an interview with Paul from about a year or so ago and he was saying how he was so fond of and even nostalgic for Liverpool. The city, as we know, had a special effect on the band. We thought it was a nice idea to see if he would like to own the first print in the limited edition combining songs with the streets of his hometown. It turned out he was interested and was really delighted when he received it at his office in Soho, along with a note to say thanks for the songs!

Where do you see this going next? Do you think you'll do more in your current style of maps and pop prints, or get into other subjects and styles, too?
There will definitely be more map designs coming soon. They are proving very popular with fans. Currently being worked on are designs for David Bowie, Pink Floyd and another for The Sex Pistols, all maps based in London.
Youngerman prints are available online at www.youngerman-art.com and in various galleries in the U.K.