We caught up with the British drum ‘n’ bass legend and influential graffiti artist to find out about his latest project.
After living between the UK and Phuket for seven years, British drum ‘n’ bass living legend and influential graffiti artist Clifford Joseph Price, a.k.a. Goldie, is gearing up to launch Aurum Gallery in Bangkok. We caught up with him to find out more.
What brought you to Thailand?
I just love Thailand, I love the culture. My wife’s ex-boss had a house in Phuket and we just started coming here. I also like being reinvented here. My whole life’s always been documented—I feel like “The Truman Show.” Here, I’m just Tong, Mr. Gold Teeth. I gave up [in the UK] when I started getting recognized at the cheese counter in Waitrose—people would go, [mocks posh accent] “That classical piece was amazing,” and I was like, I’ve gotta leave now. Phuket is a place of work for me, I’m left alone, family time. And time is really important to me at my age, I’m 54 now.
Why did you decide to open a gallery?
I didn’t want to open a gallery [at first] but people have been bothering me. It’s the next natural step, I guess, because I’ve got an eye for it and I love the arts… For me, [art is] therapy, it’s always been my therapy... Walking into a gallery space is still a very important ritual. Hard copy’s got a lot to do with it—art is the only thing that can’t be downloaded.
Why did you choose Charoenkrung?
I think this area is growing, it’s like Shoreditch [in London] before it blew up. This area felt right and this building [Warehouse 30] is pretty cool.
How did you curate the artwork?
Well I’ve got mates, fortunately! There’s a two-year waiting list for Vhils now, but I’m like “Hey, can you give me some art?” Some of them were really surprised when I called them up... they thought it was a prank!
What obstacles did you face in setting up a gallery in Thailand?
You’ve got to jump through the right hoops. It’s cost us a lot. If you want to open a contemporary gallery in this country, you’ve got to pay to import the leading artists.
How did you get into graffiti?
I went to New York really early in ‘85, ‘86 with [graffiti documentary] “Bombin’” and it really blew my mind. I always look at the New York train system as the first internet, like a real binary version of it, because you’d put the mark on a train and the train would travel, sending a message through the city like a smoke signal.
What’s the universal appeal of street art?
A lot of art comes from that urban environment because of the resilience of the soul. When people find hardship they find solace in art and music—I think urban art is responsible for a lot of change within a community. Whether you call it graffiti—or as we used to call it, “the dirty word”—street art is here whether you like it or not, it isn’t going away. Contemporary art and street art doesn’t lie, it’s people expressing themselves… voicing their opinion.
How has street art developed over the years?
I think technology has allowed artists to look at what's behind the sphere by moving it to create the idea—we just used hallucinogenics before! When I was working with [Thai artist] Jecks, he was adjusting the outline of his characters on the iPad before he was painting it, which is like “wow!” His virtual drawing was very clean, but when he applied his style physically, he brought so much more to the painting—it’s like anything, once you apply the soul to it.
Does the work change when it’s put in a gallery setting?
Street art will always remain on the street, it doesn’t mean it can’t adapt. Because a graffiti writer by default can adapt to any other type of art. You could give 100 cans of paint to a fine art student and they would struggle, but you could give the same amount of paintbrushes and oils to a street artist and they will adapt very quickly, because in its raw form, it doesn’t have the same rules. It’s just a medium expansion really. I think people can get influence from street art within all platforms, it just excites it. It’s like, why did jazz musicians like drum ‘n’ bass music? It’s because it’s got a raw energy and there’s something simple about [it], even though it was almost neanderthal. I've seen so many things that are influenced by it, so why shouldn’t it stand up as it’s own thing? There are a lot of people that buy high end art and I think contemporary street art deserves its place in that.
Talking about drum ‘n’ bass, how have attitudes changed over the years?
It’s been celebrated now, you know, drum ‘n’ bass is the Motown of electronic music, because it’s contributed so much. I’m getting awards for albums I made 25 years ago, which is like, finally! Because [back then] they all thought I was a nutter. You know Timeless is still a great album, because it simplified a coming of age time. When I moved to Phuket, I made Journey Man , there’s no descent in it, it’s actually more like the golden age—this is what music sounds like if you’re happy.
How does art influence your composing style?
I’ve always worked with the way that I can draw it out, I hear it and I see it in color; bass is very dark purple and blues, strings are very orangey yellows and their intensity becomes orange and you know, and then if they become softer, they become a little bit pink and effeminate and, you know, it’s weird how I see the sound as those colors.
Your music label often supports lesser known artists. Will you be doing the same at the gallery?
I like showing other people’s [work], I guess that’s what I want to do with the art. We’ve got an artist called Matt Adams, he’s from Bristol, unknown. I phoned him up and said “I love your work, I want to try and establish you as an artist.” He’s like, “Is this a joke?” I wish somebody showed me [that] when I was a kid... Instead of history repeating itself, try and make an effect. I [also] think the idea of working with local artists is good. [We have] a paint shop with extractor units to provide a platform for the street artists that we think are coming up who can’t afford the paint.
In “Bombin’,” the Handsworth riots of ‘85 are depicted. Does it feel like history repeating itself with the current George Floyd protests?
It just feels tired, it just feels like it’s fucking tired. It’s such an old wheel. I think that the government needs to change the way of thinking. It’s such an old fashioned idea that we’re not multicultural. You know, I trust the fireman, I trust the nurses, so I expect the policing to be the same. We’ve got to get this thing right now, we’re not here for that long.
Aurum Gallery officially opens on Jul 4 at Warehouse 30, 30 Charoenkrung Soi 30, 098-138-9844