Originally published by Sorika on the occasion of the exhibition Smiler: Photographs of London by Mark Cawson, 12 Oct – 29 Nov 2015, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London. Curated by Gareth McConnell and Matt Williams. Second edition, reprinted March 2016. Third edition, reprinted August 2020. Featuring revised text by Neal Brown.
Third edition 400 copies
52 pages of photos
28.7 x 21.4 cm
Photographs: Mark Cawson
20 pages of text
21 x 15 cm
Words: Neal Brown
Art direction: Gareth McConnell
Type: Kieron Livingston
CAMERA SQUAT ART SMILER
Go Smiler’s. Kings Cross. Tenement squats. Full scenic Oliver Twist look. Smiler and camera. I stay my girlfriend’s squat. Sex.
Smiler photographs staff at an early London McDonalds, High Street Kensington.
Seamus Luttman-Johnson dead. Mark Greaves dead. Sean Cooke dead. Mark Golding dead. Little Kevin dead. Soph Berens dead. Dan-I and I help carry Chris Cowen’s coffin. I go to funeral of Dan-I. Dan-I’s and my old friend Jake le Mesurier dead. Jake’s mother is Hattie Jacques. Sunday lunch roast with Jake, Hattie Jacques and drugs.
Age thirteen/fourteen I take LSD, Kensington Market, LSD lost soul horror.
Seamus, Schoolhouse Squat, Shepherds Bush Road (circa 1981-1985). ‘Seamus glancing back over his shoulder. . . like a farewell’. Smiler, 2015.
1976. I go Hornsey Art College. I start buying Art Monthly. Smiler goes Hornsey 1978. George Younson head of Fine Art. Used to teach John Lennon in Liverpool.
Thatcher, Shirley Porter, 1970’s feminism. Space Invaders. Stupid table tennis game in pubs. TV adverts for Hofmeister and Carlsberg lager. Pre-HIV/condoms.
Thatcher heroin less a sub-culture, more and more on the streets.
I spend time with Little Steve, truant. Hippies. Frendz, Oz, International Times, Portobello Road and Ladbroke Grove. Kensington market. Biba. Black or Moroccan hashish. Older hippy women. I go visit him his children’s home. Staff very kind to me. Nice building nice furniture. They give me lunch. A roast. I cannot believe the warmth and comfort, compared with own home. My father drunk, raging. Girl invites me in cupboard, lifts up skirt, flashes herself at me.
Natalya Citkowitz dead. Paparazi photographers.
Diane. Smiler took pic of her to show her. Diane (Two Weeks Before Her Overdose and Death), Kings Cross (circa 1983).
Children. Kids in Kings Cross Alley (circa 1983).
Eric and I arrested election night Hornsey College Art. Graffiti. In police station I surrender all property. Over 130 paintbrushes bought clearance cheap from college shop. Paintbrushes individually counted in, signed for. Released after 25 minutes. Paintbrushes individually counted out, signed for.
Smiler born Kenya. Called a white wog. Poshboy. Scum.
Gallery House. Marc Camille Smiler’s tutor for a year at Hornsey.
I saw (unless it was a dream, which it might have been) the 1972 Celebration? at Gallery House as a lone sixteen-year-old truant, wandering around London, probably stoned. Gallery House was situated in a grand building, temporarily available for art exhibitions courtesy of the German Institute, but which felt more like a squat. It had a trashed interior, in which the exhibiting artists – in this case Chaimowicz, Stuart Brisley and Gustav Metzger – enjoyed 24-hour occupancy. My experience of the art and the gallery was as an exciting, anarchic trespass. The house implied wealth, power and exclusivity, and the art implied impoverishment, reempowerment and inclusivity.
Neal Brown writing about Marc Camille Chaimowicz. ArtReview magazine. Issue 52, September 2011
After Gallery House finished, the building become a squat. I visit.
Tower blocks. Dixon House. Dixon House, Squat (16th Floor), Latimer Road (1980). Dan, Dixon House, Latimer Road (1980). Travellers help Smiler move from Dixon House to squat opposite Knightsbridge Barracks.
Little shops, pre-globalisation.
Rock Against Racism. IRA. Blair Peach. Ted Heath. Three day week. Candles. ATM machines. Miner’s strike. Wall’s ice cream made from deodorised fat taken from the pigs they use for their sausages.
Methodone. DF 118s. Codeine linctus. Studio International.
Hornsey College of Art 1970’s. Alexandra Palace. Smiler and camera. Punk. Slits, Raincoats. Smiler liked Eric Watson’s work. Eric worked with Petshop Boys. Eric and I smashed on pastis. Smiler and camera.
Smiler worked for Dick Jewell. Dick large squat RCA. I buy remaindered copy Found Photos.
Slits, Raincoats, Bodysnatchers, Modettes. Red Rizla. Blue Rizla. Green Rizla. Liquorice Rizla. Swan Vestas.
Smiler: Stiff Little Fingers, X-Ray Spex, Voidoids, Buzzcocks.
Neal: 101’ers, Pistols, Clash, Subway Sect, Slits, Raincoats.
1970’s. At Eastham College of Technology. Jon Bird: ‘Neal, we can see you can draw really well. Here we’re going to teach you how notto draw’. Peter Webb shows paedophile pornography during lecture on erotic arts. Black and white photograph of adult male having sex extremely small child. Looks like made with large format plate camera. Fine grain. Webb is a loathed man. I enter the fine world of drinking culture in East London with my friend Chris Burnham.
Smiler tells me hearing Ray’s voice, walking around the tenements shouting Topper’s name – ‘Topper, Topper, Topper’. Topper has disappeared.
Smiler introduced to Acid House by Michael Clarke.
Mark Lebon. Charlotte Owen.
Notting Hill Riots. Sus laws.
Acklam Hall. Smiler: ‘We were warned that an impending attack from bikers at the Alexandria was imminent. Security were supposedly from some martial art club. As it turned out we were attacked by Ladbroke Grove skins instead. I was with Eric at the front door at the bar as they charged in with broken bottles, almost took Eric’s eye out but luckily he just got nicked above the eye. Security were nowhere to be seen but we managed to see them out.’
Smiler mother adopted 1939 kinder transport. Her biological parents killed in Riga extermination camps. Her father fought in First World War for Austro-Hungarians.
I got a place Hornsey lacking qualifications ‘exceptional talent clause’. I get a third. Smiler fails his degree. Shortly after last day of my last term Alexandra Palace and Fine Art Department destroyed in fire. My thesis ‘Painting and Context’ destroyed. No copy, only early draft. Big squat Cranley Dene. Donkey in garden. Drunkenness. Smiler and camera.
Barry Flanagan is drunk rude to me. I am drunk rude to William Burroughs. Drunk Scot woman intensely vicious says to me: ‘Everyone loves you Neal, but I hate you’. She is offensive to two feral men in Henekey’s. They snap pool cues, jab at our faces with them. Police called, caller gets name of pub wrong. I see policeturn up at wrong pub, Finches, further down Portobello Road.
I go Derek Jarman’s with Slits and punks. Drunk.Jarman seems frightened.
Deeply, passionately in love, variously requited, unrequited,obsessional-compulsive. Depression.
‘. . . and on one great occasion [Billy Childish’s] group The Milkshakes played at a house party next to the British Museum where all us students had paintings hanging in the back garden.’ Peter Doig: introduction to Billy Childish A Short Study by Neal Brown (Aquarium/L-13, 2008)
Parties, art gallery openings, clubs, shebeens. Wrecking Crew Party (circa 1985). Guests at drug addiction recovery party, Chelsea (circa 1986). Untitled 1. Sam and Maggie’s Engagement, South London (circa 1979).
Marc Einzig staying Monmouth Road. Asleep bitten on ear by rat.We come back pub drunk, do a Lord of the Flies on the rat.
Smiler in on punk in Torquay. Saw Ramones, Clash, Talking Heads, Ford Cortinas, Buzzcocks. Sex Pistols got cancelled.
Smiler left at Nigerian boarding school. When Smiler’s stepfather went to visit him, he could not understand a word Smiler said.
I have studio in squat above ‘Gay’s the Word’ bookshop. I never use it. I go sit in it, be sad. Smiler squats it, some other period.
Big squat Warren Street. 3.00 am someone points to attractive woman says it’s a man.
I leave brand new 1’’ Ampex reel to reel tape at dealer’s. Never go back to get it. I leave some recovery literature with dealer. Dealer bans Smiler going around. Smiler bans someone going round to his. I ban someone going round to mine. Smiler takes a photograph. Dickey lends car (old Ford) to some dealers, deposit, forgets tell them brakes don’t work, crashes at first corner. I am in Blue Sky cafe with Strummer and Gillian. I notice Strummer is wearing my blue coat that I left at Gillian’s. Strummer’s hair all soft and clean. Looks wrong. Cyril who owns the New Born bans me and Inigo after a police inspector comes in after us because Inigo has winked at him in Westbourne Grove. Police inspector walks around our table, dark theatrical menace.
At age 21 coming of age Smiler inherited £2000 from his father’s drowning. Bought camera equipment. Lent Keith Allen £500. Later, Keith lends me money. I lend other people money.
Mark Greaves impassioned tells me how good heroin is good for his schizophrenia. Yvonne Philpotts dead. Yvonne wants go bed with me, I say no. Mick Jagger tries pick up Yvonne, he is on moped, she is in taxi, her window open, she tells him to fuck off. We all cheer. Yvonne gives me huge speed black bomber which I do not take. Eddy Payne dead. Charlie Kelly dead. Tom Woods dead. Nick Korner dead. Sappho Korner dead. Damien Korner dead.
Smiler’s father worked with Maasai and settlers. Smiler’s family spend much time under canvas.
Leaving Smiler’s Judd Street I see a man knocked over by a car. The impact sends him high in the air. He gets up, I say we must get ambulance, he says no he is alright, I try insist, but he walks off. Chris has story someone dies on sofa, bad drugs, they put body on street, throw away drugs. Turns out man died because of internal injuries due car accident couple days before, not the drugs. Sadness. Chris laughs.
Simon Bramley’s posters. Cryptic One Club, Acklam Hall.
Cyril puts big proud sign on wall of his caff, the New Born. Says: ‘This restaurant will feature in [name of programme] on TV tonight.’ In the programme a character eats a mouthful of food, spits it out, says, ‘this is the worst food I’ve ever tasted’.
I see elderly man fall down pub pavement delivery hatch in Portobello Road. Staff come out of pub, shout at him for being so stupid.
Keith Allen on a roll lends state of the art recording equipment squat Fulham. Jim and Sara use it most. Amos and Sara Go Pop. When squat ends Jim takes Keith’s studio equipment. I drink two litres of Campari, turn red.
Cherry tree in garden of squat. I think ‘those cherries will taste astringent and horrible’. I eat one, disappointment, it is delicious.
Sex, sex, sex.
Smiler photographs me and Boogie. Boogie photographs me and Smiler. Boogie’s photos of Lydon, Vicious, Paul Cook etc are great. Eric photographs me. I photograph Eric. Sunken squat, off Harrow Road. Deep in a void left by Westway.
Mad Jane lives at Strummer’s squat Daventry Street. Or is it Strummer at Mad Jane’s? Or was it Boogie’s? Sid Vicious being filmed there and I am not let in as they do not want to be disturbed. Smiler and Mad Jane live in my place for a while. When Smiler and Jane leave mine there are Kentucky Fried Chicken boxes and bones everywhere. Jehovah’s Witnesses, Wedding, Monmouth Road (circa 1981)
Joe lives in Monmouth Road for a few weeks, at Richard and Esp’s.
Children threatened, told not to talk to the police.
Do laundry at Porchester baths. Huge old fashioned washing machines, brass and copper and steam. See Dudanski, Esp, Paloma, Joe going in, I shyly say hello.
Smiler pic Spotty Pete. Nice flowery shirt. Looks like it might be from Liberty’s. But not quite flower power. Art historically pleasing if the pattern was William Morris, but I don’t think it is. If we’re lucky it’s a Burne-Jones detail. The drug is most likely heroin. Brown Persian heroin? Spotty Pete, Lulworth House, Camden (1991).
When I live in All Saints Road the drugs always in Kings Cross. When I live in Kings Cross drugs always in All Saints Road. Man in Psychosis, All Saints Road (1979).
My dad works on dustcarts Portobello Road. I am proud of him. Better than his two bottles of gin a day rage stuff. Dustmen drink in the Warwick, Saturday. One day one dustman insults another dustman’s dog. Big fight, broken windows, smashing, punching. Dog barking, dustmen swearing. Blood on glass. My dad gets me out. I am a little disappointed to leave.
My mother reads Guardian, father reads Telegraph, stepmother reads Mail, stepfather reads Morning Star. Stepmother on sedatives, picks her face. Every night for forty years my stepfather drinks heavily, but not so much as to be incapable of speech. But after my mother goes to bed he drinks much more, goes to bed late shitface. All next day hungover, rolling cigarettes, spitting bits tobacco waste out of his mouth. Until evening, starts again.
Waiting to score Kings Cross. Wandering I find long, eviscerated spine of some unknown creature in middle of quiet side road.
Buy heroin. Buy Kit-Kat. Go public toilet, wrap Kit-Kat in toilet paper put in pocket. Use foil of Kit-Kat to smoke heroin off. When home put Kit-Kat in drawer along with 25 other toilet paper wrapped Kit-Kats. Once a month go on health kick and eat the 25 Kit-Kats. Once every nine months deliver a bonnie, seven pound, opiated baby Kit-Kat turd, put its name down for Eton. Joke.
Children. Travellers Site, Post-Eviction, Camden Town (1985). Narrative signage, record, expression and communication to others.
In the Blue Sky cafe in Westbourne Grove. Someone leaves food. Derek picks up uneaten pizza, wraps it in napkin, takes his hat off, his eyes wild, puts pizza on his head, puts his hat back on. He’s been sleeping rough.
Will Self kindly gives character reference for Smiler in court. Smiler bound over to keep the peace.
Friend drunk story, goes back with woman for shag. Drunken incontinence shits himself, throws pants out window. In morning they are having breakfast woman looks out says: ‘What are those underpants doing in tree?’
Heathcote Williams opens squat in Castellain Road. Opposite my mother’s. I stand on marble fireplace and orate in a focal-point-of-the room-centre-of-attention kind of way.
I do life drawings in betting shops, including Lucien Freud. I invite Freud to my squat studio he agrees come look at my paintings. I give him wrong address in an excited mistake.
Lucien Freud paints Lisa.
I panic and give heroin to Dickey for safekeeping. He uses it all. Dickey beautiful girlfriend said what do you expect daahling. Later Dickey gave me whole unopened box Subway Sect singles. Dickey did not know they were rarities. Once a week I sell one for £20 at Record and Tape. Each one gets a quarter gram.
Chris amuses us by going to an early (1980’s) NA meeting in Kings Cross. We laugh and laugh and laugh.
Mark Golding repeatedly trying to get me to go to Taboo Club. I unfailingly refuse. Mark in very straight, neat women’s clothing. Sitting on edge sofa, back prim and straight, hands clasped, good posture, eyeing me.
Children. Take clothes to launderette. Nice and clean.
Camden Town squat. Junkies all shooting up round a dark table like Van Gogh Potato Eaters. A lemon centre stage for citric. The lemon pulsates a small yellow glow of pure life. My painting of this lemon used on cover of Julian Barnes book. Barnes and publisher unaware of course that it is a ‘heroin’ lemon. Not that it matters. Gina from the Raincoats buys the painting.
Ben Langlands in studio squat next door to my mother’s in Castellain Road. Ben is tidy, hardworking and gets things done.
I spend many nights in Old Schoolhouse squat Shepherds Bush. Mario’s dog pisses everywhere. Takes it to dog healer/dog psychiatrist. Healer/psychiatrist says: ‘This dog should be put down’.
Smiler taking photographs at Monmouth Road, Alexander Street, Paddington. I acquire Smiler photograph of the old Bishop’s Bridge. Years later looking closely at print I notice torn poster on bridge. It’s the poster I designed for Pigbag.
Laughter. Haley, Lulworth House, Camden (1991). Haley, Immac Stockings, Lulworth House, Camden (1985).
Smiler ex-partner Lisa died. Drowned in bath. Boxing day. Valium and heroin overdose. Absolute dismay, sorrow, sadness. Louis has lost his mother.
I drink pure, clear water. In a pint glass. I hold it up to admire its transparency. After I finish drinking it I accidentally drop glass. Surprisingly it breaks with an implosion many small pieces. Safety glass. So as to prevent use as weapon in 85,000 incidents of pub violence.
Smiler pic Ramona in Princess Royal. Her face bleached out by overexposure acetylene flash. Good cheekbones, cheekbones also in shadow. Anaglypta wallpaper behind her head. Swiss-French. A certain confident propriety in Ramona’s posture. Ramona, Princess Royal, nr Monmouth Road (Circa 1979-1982).
I come back from hospital, raw. I stand in my flat, amazed that junkies have not stripped it. Before I even sit down phone rings, police. Son of famous person, stayed in my flat, used my telephone number, ended up in address book of poor prostitute murdered in Bayswater Road. Police asked if I knew anything about the murder. I politely say no. They politely eliminate me from their enquiries. Let’s hope the murderer politely admits his crime, when they call him up.
Children born. Plants grow. Sun shines. People sing. We all write songs, sing, dance, cook. Start housing Co-ops. Drink tea.
Smiler pic of Aaron under bedclothes Alexander Street. Leopard head. Aaron (with Leopard’s Head) (1978). Nice continuity between leopard’s spots and Aaron’s pattern woolly top. Socks on floor. Leopard reappears in the pubic hair nude with film poster over her face. Jane, with Sophia Loren, Earls Court (1980). The leopard doing its best impression of a forensic science photograph. It’s like the leopard is the real head, partially obscured under the filmic one. Heads are obscured, masked or bleached out in Smiler’s work. Also sometimes in Gareth’s.
Mark Golding and I go to try and score. He has been up all night, Taboo, in some kind of drag, high heeled shoes. Red silk material, flowing trouser suit outfit. Looks absurd in daylight. We meet 11.00 am. Go around and around and around London all morning, all afternoon, all evening, pubs, dealers, backstreets. Fifteen hours later 2.00 am score old junkies somewhere miles and miies away end Finchley Road. The whole fifteen hours trying to score I have no money on me. Mark voids expressive sigh when I announce this, gives me small quantity. I walk all way home, treasuring my £4 worth of heroin.
Sean Oliver hassled by police. Sean kind to me. Woman slashes arms can see subcutaneous fat. Notting Hill Carnival in 1970’s was great.
My stepfather drives me to Springfield mental hospital to see my dad. Drops me at gate. Stepfather does not want to see my dad. Father hates working classes, stepfather a working class trade unionist. Both of them drunks. A very long, curving road from entrance gate to hospital lobby. I walk, a painfully hot summer day, no shade. In lobby my father greets me pointing to lino floor says someone slashed their wrists there last night: ‘Rivers of blood, rivers of blood’. Lino looks nice and clean to me. Blue and shiny. In room nurse brings him baked beans in which float little cubes of spam. Lukewarm. Unbreakable stainless steel plate. Nice nurse. She says: ‘Do you promise to eat your dinner Mr Brown?’. He says: ‘Yes, I promise.’ She says: ‘Do you really promise, Mr Brown?’. He says: ‘Yes nurse, I really promise’. She closes door. He passes lukewarm beans and floating spam to me. Deep commanding voice: ‘Eat this, son.’ I eat.
Spencer in silly blazer and cravat at the Princess Royal. Collecting dead glasses for Mrs Moss and Clive. Spencer was nice man. Spencer dead. They scatter his ashes in the tiny pub garden. Smiler with camera in pub. Staff mostly Irish. They do not sell draft Guinness so as ‘to stop the Irish coming in’. Aaron looks good. So does Little Sean. Josephine is great. Mrs Moss, the landlady, always kind.
This Heat. Amos and Sarah. L Voag.
Viv Stanshall drunk and stoned. Susie Honeyman tearful. Viv tellsme he does not like Ivor Cutler.
Smiler never went to his dad’s funeral. In Kenya. Smiler’s Father got washed off bridge, banged head. Drowned.
Son of famous person hits his girlfriend in front of me. Repeats over and over: ‘My hand slipped, my hand slipped, my hand slipped’. His girlfriend tries to get me to fuck her, I politely refuse. My friend immediately fucks her when she tells him she has shaved all her pubic hair off.
Smiler sings with my band at Porchester Hall. With Raincoats and Tymon Dogg. We sing Gary Glitter song ‘Rock and Roll (Part1)’. When Vincents make single for Y Records I choose song on incorrect basis it has most chords in it so must be the best. When Tesco Bombers play Comedy Club notice sound bit weak, look around, two band members picking up cases lager walking out off stage with them, drummer so drunk he has knocked snare off rolling across stage, he is failing to catch it.
Children born. Food cooked and shared. Art made. Songs writtensongs sung.
Smiler loses camera on tube. Assumes it to be completely lost. Months later, coincidentally walking past Lost Property at Baker Street, drops in, cynical, there it is.
I make drawing of gauching out mother and child. The mother uncomfortable when I remind her of this, years later. Drawing quite good. Drawings of Palmolive, Joe Strummer, David Batterham, Soph Berens, Fan Berens, Sera Furneaux.
I even take some photographs, myself.
Anthea Leeds dead. Matthew Ashton in treatment. Matthew dead. Mole dead AIDS. Fat Anthony steals my letter runs off, I fight him in Monmouth road.
I begin make a little film and interview of Robin Banks. Robin is articulate and funny.
Fuck off, fuck
Fuck off you fucking cunt
I used to think you were alright
But now I think you’re not
Fuck off, Fuck off. Lyrics by Neal Brown. C 1977
Fires. Arson Attack (1985)
Smiler not allowed to bring his girlfriend, Sera, home. They squat a derelict garage Torquay for the summer.
My friend drunk driving. Her boyfriend beside her. I am in back seat, with huge, stupid, dark rhinoceros skull beside me. My friend hysteric drunk laughter drives at speed wrong way up one-way street. I beg her to stop. Police come up behind, stop us, make get us out of vehicle. I offer grateful thanks to them for saving me. Back home, have a nice sleep.
1980’s. Heroin £80 gram. Amphetamine sulphate £8 gram. I laugh when I buy my first amphetamine because of low cost. Ray the dealer hurt, says: ‘Do you think it too expensive?’ Heroin purity excellent. Little Roy was crying when he found out you could cut heroin.
Smiler pic Seamus basement of Old Schoolhouse squat. Dansette. Quite an achievement for Seamus to get a TV signal down there. And he’s got not one, but two light bulbs.
At the Warwick I am flattered and elated when Seamus the landlord does not pause but immediately accepts my cheque.
Smiler knows Peter Doig at tenements. Peter remembers me. Smiler has early drawing by Peter. Peter kindly writes introduction to book I write about Billy Childish. Smiler helps me when I curate Billy’s show at L-13. Billy wrote poem about sex in garden at Bloomsbury squat where I played supporting the Homosexuals. Smiler at gig. Years later I identify name of female subject Billy writing about. She has a great singing voice.
Heathcote Rough Tough squat estate agency. I go with them when they break into vicar’s house. Appears premises not actually vacated.
Prostitute known as ‘Blow Job’, and addressed as ‘Blow’. I am never sure if this unfortunate title is part of a slightly straining, calculated theatrical effect.
Septicaemia. Angela, Kings Cross (1983).
Patrice black Mohican hair style. French. Beautiful face. I can’t remember if he was onstage when we supported the Clash. Probably. When we played Paris I had damaged hand. Had lost temper, smashed a cute little teapot, cut a tendon. Patrice did not return money I put up for his airfare. Years later gave me old bicycle, instead. Patrice, Ladbroke Grove (circa 1980).
Ladbroke Grove. Sophie, Ladbroke Grove (1981).
Psychosis, psychosis, psychosis.
Camden, Camden, Camden.
London sunsets. Laughter. Loving embraces. Sincerity. Children. Childbirth.
I go see Liverpool vs someone else. With James Moores and Angus Fairhurst and others. Huge crowd, singing. Angus Fairhurst dead suicide. Philippe Bradshaw dead.
Olly Olly Olly Olly Hollywood
Olly Olly Olly Olly Hollywood
Olly this, and Olly that,
And what a lot of bollocks
And what a lot of crap
I went there with my girlfriend
We took some beer and crisps
We fell asleep and missed the ending –
Because we were pissed
Olly Olly Olly Olly Hollywood
Olly Olly Olly Olly Hollywood
Balls in a trolley
Tits in a biscuit tin
Sitting in the dark
With a knife up your arse
Olly Olly Olly’s the king
Olly Olly Olly Olly Hollywood
Olly Olly Olly Olly Hollywood
Olly Olly Olly
Music by Neal Brown. Lyrics by Neal Brown, Aaron Batterham, Mark Smiler Cawson.
I lived above shebeen in Talbot Road. No, I do not mean the Globe. Open until 5.00 am. Corner shop across the road would open at 6.00 and sell alcohol. This hour between 5.00 and 6.00 am is a curious time.
Chris Courtney finds twenty bags wrapped heroin in pub toilet in All Saints Road. He uses it all. I go round to Keith’s in All Saints Road. With Fan, after Soph’s death. Keith opens the door completely naked cheeky chappy. Fan silent.
Smiler and I on long tube journey together from Hornsey College of Art. After some kind of event. We have been drinking. Smiler sitting beside a woman with a broken arm. Her arm is held in extension in some kind of metal apparatus, in front of her chest. Smiler chats her up, they depart, and next day Smiler tells me they had sex. I experience a confused admiration for them, in respect of the swiftness of Smiler’s charismatic courtship, and of the mechanics of their achievement.
I am mugged underneath Anthea’s flat All Saints Road. Takeaway. Mugger puts hand in my pocket, pulls out my UB40. Looks at it, carefully puts it back in my pocket. Disdain and disgust for me.
Jago Elliot dead.
I am on telephone with Smiler. He starts raging loudly. ‘ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT ME? ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT ME?’ He gives great emphasis to each word. After much difficulty I find out he is not addressing me, but is paranoid about two people in the road outside his flat, who he knows, and is shouting at them from the great height of his balcony.
Smiler pic of Jehovah’s Witness at Kingdom Hall, end of Monmouth Road. Smiler stands behind official photographer. Tymon Dogg squatted in the church for a while, before Jehovah’s moved in. Sold to Jehovah’s for £20,000 I think.
I am given all the lost property at the Groucho. Three big black bin bags each hugely full. Fine quality hats, coats, scarves, gloves. But I look like a twat from a consequences/ exquisite corpse game. Never mind. All lost again within three months.
Smiler mentions Scallywag magazine. Rent boys. Top of the Pops.
Working with Gareth and Smiler. The two maddest dogs. Camera vs camera. Things improved.
Smiler self-portrait beaten up face. Can’t remember what happened there. Oh yes, beating, NF. Slight Keith Moon haircut look. Beyond just physical pain. Shallow depth of field. Vest. Other NF man stubbed out cigarette in Aaron’s ear. Smiler, Self Portrait after NF Beating (1980).
Tom Bantock dead. David Perdigue dead. Mike Evans dead. Roger Pomphrey dead. Sebastian Horsley dead. Chris Courtney dead.
Adam Green dead. Alex Baxter dead. Jay Gaubert dead. Mickey Waldorf dead.
Liam Carson dead. Groucho had been a paradise. Complimentary membership – thank you Liam.
Smiler comes to my studio. He calmly turns the pages of a book of paintings by Lucien Freud and authoritatively advises me of each instance of incest, drug addiction, alcoholism, overdose, infidelity, and other misfortunes that afflicted Freud’s sitters. Years later I ask Ray Jones to do the same with his book but in this instance I ask him to write on the pages with a large black felt tip pen.
Topper Headon kindly buys me and his friends lunch. In Whitstable. I have gone there with Jock Scott and Robin Banks. We go to Johnny Green’s house first. Jock is dryly humorous, but very unwell. When we leave, Topper suggests he and I embrace. I am very moved. Now both many years clean.
Smiler asks that I put the focus on me, rather than him, in this text.
Property prices go up. Squatting criminalised.
Children. Joy upon joy of intensity of love. Drinking lots of water.
Smiler doing new work. Camera. Gareth. ICA. Matt, Gregor, and Rosalie.
Smiler ICA show, Smiler and I hug.
Postscript 1: Smiler calls. He says he is clearing out old archives and offers me Vincent Units and Tesco Bombers material. I gratefully accept. We meet. We spend time together, walk across park, twilight, plants and animals, go to a recovery gathering. An adrenilised man causes a scene. Smiler knows who he is. The man has just come from a fascist demonstration and upsets the meeting everyone by describing being in favour of it, which is considered unnecessary information – there is unhappiness and uproar. Smiler and I silent.
Postscript 2: Smiler calls and asks for a photo back, from the archive. I say yes, I will return it. Then after searching realise I was never given it. Smiler upset, does not believe me, becomes abusive. For first time ever I express anger to him. We make up. After I learn that Smiler has terminal illness. He was giving archives to me and others in quiet anticipation of his death. I telephone him and express imperfect love. He dies. Not a greatly comfortable death. He is honoured by his friends at a memorial service. I see a revered girlfriend for the first time in thirty-five years. I give her my email address, thinking of perhaps adding to my previous apologies, but never hear from her. Peter Doig in touch from abroad. Gareth speaks. I have persistent fear I was wrong and that Smiler’s photo will turn up, from amongst the boxes, but to date this is not the case.
Neal Brown is the author of A New Concise Reference Dictionary (Sorika, 2014), Meditations on Art Hate (L-13, 2010), Tracey Emin (Tate Publishing, 2006), Mat Collishaw (Other Criteria, 2006) and Billy Childish: A Short Study (L-13, 2008). He has written about art for ArtReview, Flash Art, Frieze, Art Monthly, Modern Painters, Parkett, Tate Etc, Cheap Date, and the Independent on Sunday.