“The stylistic stamp of Bitterkomix in the work of younger artists is not necessarily a good thing, we (Konradski, Joe Dog and I) were looking at diverse strips such as crumb, s. Clay wilson, mark beyer and gary panther, drawing our version of what they were doing. Students using Bitterkomix as an influence may end up merely copying, it may be worth their while to dig deeper.”
INTERVIEW: RICK DE LA RAY
PHOTOGRAPHY: LINGO RODRIGUES
Do you realise that when you search for ‘Lorcan White’ on Google, one of the first links goes to a young boy’s Facebook page, he lives in the town of Armagh in Ireland? How did you come up with the name ‘Lorcan White’ as a pseudonym for your work?
I am aware of a second Lorcan White from Ireland, yes. I have not Googled myself though. Lorcan White was a name invented by Joe Dog for a subversive character in Bitterkomix 1. This was inspired by my friend’s name, Lorcan O’Byrne, with whom I shared a studio in Berlin.
Does most of your work go under the name or is it only your Illustration work?
All of the artwork I’ve made since 1995 goes under the Lorcan White pseudonym.
Whenever the seminal South African comic ‘Bittercomix’ pops up in a conversation, the names of Anton Kannemeyer ‘Joe Dog’ and Conrad Botes ‘Konradski’ gets mentioned in the same breath. You also seem to have been involved with the comic and its publications, since day one – how do you see your role in the Bittercomix saga?
Well, not exactly day one. I started contributing from Bitterkomix 3 onward, and brought a subversive and undermining element to the magazine. At first, this came in the form of sexually explicit scenes. I also drew Jan Brand and Uys en Buys (in collaboration with Joe Dog), these were very well received.
One of your early stories in the Bittercomix was one named ‘King Lizard’ that I gathered was inspired by the comic drawn by one of the characters in the fictional novel ‘Beertjie en sy Boytjies’ by RR Ryger. The style of the drawings was very different to your usual illustrations. Did you try and interpret the drawing style of the character in the book?
I tend to draw almost every story in a different style. The cartoony style of Uys en Buys would not have suited the King Lizard story. I specifically chose a ‘bad art’ style for the Gif sex stories. Beertjie en sy boytjies was a revelation. It was literally the first contemporary Afrikaans novel I read that was ‘punk’. Michael Green (RR Ryger) also wrote ‘Spoed van die Lewe’, well worth seeking out.
In 2008, you published a very rare and limited comic by the name of ‘Zombie’ that came out and then disappeared into the ether. Are there plans to make an issue 2 and if so, when can we expect any more developments from Zombie?
The idea was to continue and do a few more magazines but the response to Zombie, or rather lack of response, stopped that idea in its tracks. To date, I have received around R200 from sales…
Are you still teaching? A lot of young designers and illustrators are carrying a direct Kannemeyer and Botes stamp in a lot of their work. Do you recognise a lot of your students or disciples work out there and how do you feel about being such a major influence on so man young creatives?
I still teach, yes. The stylistic stamp of Bitterkomix in the work of younger artists is not necessarily a good thing, we (Konradski, Joe Dog and I) were looking at diverse strips such as Crumb, S. Clay Wilson, Mark Beyer and Gary Panther, drawing our version of what they were doing. Students using Bitterkomix as an influence may end up merely copying, it may be worth their while to dig deeper.
I attended the Unseen Works exhibition at the Rooke gallery in 2009, including unseen abstract paintings by yourself and photographs by Roger Ballen. Your work was from a period when you were studying at the Hochschule der Kenste in Berlin, during the late 80s and early 90s. What was the story behind the work and why have you not continued working as a painter?
I spent a decade exhibiting and trying to sell these paintings, without success. When I started selling illustrations and silkscreens for a lot more than I was asking for the paintings, I stopped painting.
After not having seen the paintings for so long, what was your initial reaction and emotion when you viewed them in a gallery for the first time?
I never ‘liked’ my paintings. I kept those rolled up in my garage. When I saw them again, I suppose that I remembered a certain desperation.
I read a quote, “Kannemeyer’s art was a bit out of sync with what his generation was producing…” but personally, I was very drawn to that work. Even though these were in a sense student pieces, does it really matter in art whether you are in sync with a movement?
Bitterkomix was not in sync either, we had to create a scene. I would suggest that should one’s art be in sync with a movement, it’s probably meaningless.
You have some recurring themes in your illustrations – are there particular reasons for this or is it mainly because you get comfortable with certain figures and their behaviour within the landscapes you create for them?
I do not ‘conceptualize’ themes, and literally started seeing certain themes after all the work is on the wall. Running, drowning or burning figures are not very comfortable…
Your brother Anton’s work has much more of a political and social commentary side to it. How would you describe the situations within your illustrations and how do you feel they should be observed?
His works have a strong literal element. They comment on specific time and space. Mine is much more emotive and generalised. A student described my work as absurdist, which I though was apt.
I’m aware that you have a massive record collection – how long have you been collecting and how many do you have at the moment? Do you consider it a bit of an obsession?
I have not counted recently, but I suspect it’s around 20 000+ by now. I have collected vinyl since I had money to buy them, which in my case would be from 15 years old. At the time, in the late 70s, this was the only way one would be able to hear real music, i.e. music not played on the radio in South Africa. Obsession would imply something out of control. It may seem like an obsession to outsiders…
What do you consider to be your most rare and favourite albums in your collection?
I have a few collectables…PIL’s Metal Box, Jay Reatard’s Terror Visions Picture Disc, Led Zeppelin III with the “do what thou wilt” inscription, Their Satanic Majesties Request with 3D cover, the complete Man or Astroman on vinyl…but then I do not have Suck or Cocksucker Blues on vinyl…can’t have them all!
There has been a massive rise in secondhand LP sales, collecting and new bands releasing their albums on this format again – do you think it’s just a passing phase at the moment or do you feel it’s come full circle and that it’s here to stay now?
Vinyl never disappeared. Even in the late 80s and early 90s, young guitar bands did ‘vinyl only’ releases. I think a certain guitar / rock ’n’ roll / garage type of sound lends itself to vinyl rather than cd. The whole music industry is going through a re-inventing phase and the time for large corporations seems over. Music belongs to the people again. The music industry is synonymous with fashion, which will influence whatever medium carries it.
You recently did one of the album covers for the Pretoria noise band ‘Make Overs’ and they have contributed to one of your animated pieces a while back. What is your relationship with the band?
They live close by and we share an affinity for the Melvins, Babes in Toyland and Sonic Youth as well as horror movies, weird comics and literature.
Give us 5 of the albums you have been listening to the most, in the last 5 months?
BEST 5 MONTHS
Young Reckless Hearts
Castle Face Records
The Severed Tongue Speaks For Everyone
Boom Pow Awesome Wow
Castle Face Records
Love At A Psychedelic Velocity
Pack Your Troubles In Dreams
Blast Of Silence