Boy George is one of the most iconic and prolific artists of our time. The Grammy award-winning singer has sold over 50 million albums as a solo artist and as part of the 80’s super group Culture Club. A renowned DJ, an author of two best-selling autobiographies and of the award-winning musical «Taboo» on Broadway, Boy George also runs his own fashion label, B-Rude. Excelling at almost every artistic genre he has delved into, Boy George was thrilled to have his very first visual art exhibition here in Monaco.
«Scarman & Other Imperfections» was running with great success at Lady Tina Green’s G&M Design Gallery from the 15th of November until the 1st of February 2020. HelloMonaco caught up with Boy George at the exhibition’s premiere, located at 11, Princesse Grace Avenue. The artist talked about his influences, his inspirations, how his life changed when he saw David Bowie for the first time and how he has remained an iconic figure in the music, art and fashion world for over thirty years.
HelloMonaco: George, if I were to describe your music, I would probably use the words rhythm and blues and reggae. But how would you describe your visual art?
Boy George: The art is very much like music in the sense that when it ends up on the paper, it’s very dramatic. These are not subtle people, these are not understated people, these are colourful, provocative people. These are rockstars, actually. So yeah, it’s very similar.
HM: And where do you find the inspiration, where does it come from?
BG: It comes from observing, it comes from people that I’ve met in my life. Obviously, people like David Bowie have influenced me, people that I admire musically. But when I started to draw Prince, it really was an accident, I wasn’t sitting down to draw Prince, but as I started to work on the picture, it was like «Oh! It looks like Prince!» So I continued and I turned it into Prince. But it’s never a deliberate thing. I’m always trying to evoke the spirit of something, I’m not necessarily interested in doing things that are exact replicas of things that exist. When I do a flower, I always give it a twist. I do people, as you can see, with no faces, I exaggerate them. Everything’s exaggerated because I suppose the point I’m trying to make is that the most interesting people are often imperfect and flawed.
HM: I think that every piece of art has a story behind it. Would you tell us your favourite one?
BG: I feel like we live in the age of everything being over-explained. It’s like when you arrive at a premiere, some people say, «What are you wearing?» and I’m like, «Can’t you see?» (laughs). I mean, I think that it’s self-explanatory.
HM: If you had to prioritize, what would take first place for you right now: music or art?
BG: I feel like the two things, music, art, fashion, they all kind of go together. They’re very supportive of each other, so I never feel like I have to choose. I feel like I have the luxury to do all these different things. I DJ, I do fashion, I make art, I make music and I feel very, very privileged to have the chance to do that. I think creative people are always looking for applause, that’s really what we’re looking for. Whenever we do anything we want a reaction. Even in relationships, we want applause. So, nothing I do is ever understated, it’s all bold and provocative and humorous. I think, for me, humour is a hugely important thing. Things that make you laugh, things that make you think, things that kind of disturb you a little bit, I think that’s where I’m coming from.
HM: When you’re creating a song, music, or a piece of art, do you need harmony? Do you need to be in harmony with yourself and with the outside world, with reality? Or do you need chaos, for example?
BG: Nowadays, I don’t embrace chaos in the same way that I did when I was 19 (laughs). When I was 19, I think it was just part of my general demeanour. But as I got older, I feel less and less drawn towards the need for pointless chaos. I suppose, what I do is I put it into my work. If I have any questions or confusion, I put it into a song or I put it into a piece of art.
HM: If you had the ultimate power to change something in this world, what would you do?
BG: Well, one of the things that really bothers me is homelessness. The idea that somebody is living in the street and it’s raining and it’s cold, for me, is the worst thing ever, not to have somewhere to go. So, if I had the power to change anything, I would eradicate homelessness, no question, that would be the thing that would make me the most happy. If I could make sure that every single person had somewhere to go and not have to sleep in the streets or be hungry…
HM: Do you have a role model and should we have one?
BG: I think that there should always be people that inspire you, for different reasons. I think it’s really important that when you’re in a room full of people, you never know who the most interesting person is. And you can assume that it’s the best-dressed person or the most interesting-looking person, but sometimes the most interesting person is the most unassuming person in the room. Sometimes the little lady in the corner is the brain surgeon or the rocket scientist. And I think we do tend to judge people by the way they look or by status and I think sometimes you need to look beyond that. I’m always really careful when I meet people, to breathe and to make sure I know exactly who they are before I make a judgement. Because I think, for me, being in the public eye, you grow up with a lot of judgements. It’s quite normal to assume things about people in the public eye. So, I try to be really careful and measured when I meet people and just breathe a bit and work out who people are before I judge them.
HM: We’re in Monaco, in Monaco everything is super and mega. Super yachts, super cars, super art, billionaires…What is your relationship with money? For example, do you have enough or is it never enough? Does money bring you happiness?
BG: I think money brings comfort and I was talking earlier about the idea of homelessness, I think it would be wonderful if everybody could have it. It doesn’t make you happier, but it certainly makes things more comfortable, there’s no question. But it’s not everything.
HM: What is luxury to you?
BG: I mean listen, my job is the best job in the world. I get to do the thing I love; when I wake up every day I get to indulge my creativity. And people say to me, «You work hard». It’s not hard work. I don’t think of what I do as hard work. It can be mentally difficult sometimes with travelling. But when I think of people that have to do real jobs, get up and do something that they don’t really enjoy, then I can’t compare myself to that. So I think for me, I feel very privileged and lucky to do the things I do.
HM: Do you have a dream?
BG: Do I have a dream..? I have a dream (singing). I have lots of dreams. I think my main dream is really to continue doing the things I love and to express myself in a really clear way.
HM: When you’re creating art do you need to be in love?
BG: No. Definitely not. I think there are different types of love. I think I’m in love with my work. I think I’m in love with what I do, the ability to create things and to see them come to life is such a great thing. And I think there are some people in the world who, I call them «growers», they’re people that like to watch things grow. So when you make music, you’re watching something grow, it’s like watching a flower grow. And when you make art, you’re making something grow as well. I love that. And there are other people who don’t find stimulation in that. Some people, it just doesn’t interest them. I think art is really about: you have to do it, you have to be brave, you have to create it, you have to show it. And I think that’s the main message that you have to show up and do the work.
HM: Have you ever had a moment that changed your life, or have you met a person who changed your life?
BG: I’ve had many. One of my pictures here, which is called «Yamamoto» goes back to when I was eleven-and-a-half years old and I saw David Bowie for the first time as Ziggy Stardust and that was a really life-changing moment for me because it was a moment when I realized I wanna be a musician, I wanna sing, I wanna look like that, I wanna look that interesting. That was a life-changing moment… That was a really important one because that was the moment where I decided that I was gonna be true to who I wanted to be.
HM: Can I ask you to describe Monaco in a few words?
BG: Monaco is, ooh, it’s a lot! That’s a great one. Monaco is a lot. Yesterday I said, «Monaco or bust!» It’s a very glamorous place, and there’s a real energy here. And I like it.