A fifties look, a Cockney accent, a contralto voice to reject rehab, Amy Winehouse was a modern rock' n' roll suffragette that died too young. Old enough though for her addictions, she was the queen of endless nights and the guardian of a dark side that nevertheless would welcome some rays of light. On stage or under a glass dome the singer would reveal herself entirely and give it all to the paparazzi. Unable to protect herself and to shout a clear "NO NO NO" to what would eventually kill her she has always refused to take on a set role. Her style signifier was her personality her vocab made her lyrics and her hairstyle her distinctive fashion statement. First recognized by the fashion crowd that praised her undeniable gift revealed by her first album Frank, she became the prey of the critics a couple of years later because too sleazy, too edgy and simply too much herself. We all know how red carpets can be slippery when one is not wearing the right shoes.
She fell and stood up but fell again. Cracks, flaws, she was the contrary of perfection and its antidote as showed by artist Bouke de Vries who dedicated one of his works to Amy. The NO NO NO sculpture is an exploded reconstruction of a damaged muse of music made of collectable French Samson porcelain from the 19th century that Bouke once found on Portobello road. The figurine went through a make over: lost her empire style hair and adopted a beehive, she discovered records and emulated the London star's Glastonbury look of that year. To Bouke, Amy was like his porcelain findings: broken but not less precious than when new. The traces left by previous dramas are the testimonials of a past that has to be explored and rendered. Talent is not perfect, talent enriches as much as it can destroy. Talent is neither lean nor even. It resists the test of time and the compressive power of Photoshop.
Cut too deep, Amy could not have hidden her wounds and Bouke de Vries' suggestion to celebrate them seems right. A bottle nearby, a syringe at hand, the artist understands "NO NO NO" as "don't do it" i.e. don't try to resist.
Let it go, let it invade you. Like the original crushed nineteen-century porcelain imbued with the skills that took to make it, Amy's lyrics bear the pain and the genius of their writer. Stronger than her, the devastating impulses pushed the fragile silhouette to its limits and left the body empty from the soul. The beautiful fifties doll was bound to weakness; even the acknowledgement of her defeat in her famous song Stronger than me did not stop the wheel of destiny. Meant to become a member of the-forever-27 tribe, in the like of Jim Morrison or Janis Joplin she has now reached eternal youth.
To perfection she has sung her melodies; if she might have accomplished to little to become a legend, she surely has done enough for us to refuse Rehab and to get Back to black. Dear Franck Sinatra, you were so right when saying, "The best revenge is massive success" and you Amy, you've hit it.
On display shortly after its creation, the NO NO NO sculpture was showed at the 2009 mumurART exhibit co-curated by Kay Saatchi at Selfridges. The milky white lady whispered her "NOs" to art collector Anita Zabludowicz who did listen to them and replied with a final "Yes". Since then Amy's miniature belongs to Anita. A private house view only shared with a few friends until recently. The figurine is currently showed to the public and Miss has accepted to perform in the shopping window of the Shizaru Gallery for a couple of weeks. Following, Simon Sakhai the manager of Shizaru, "Overlooking Mount Street, she's already caused quite the stir. In the three days she's been on display, we've already had a number of people come into the gallery to discuss the piece, and inevitably with such a strong work of art the conversations usually last for a while. Everyone has an anecdote to share.". Bouke who was pleased to see again his creation after two years, did not feel any nostalgia. Why should he? Mini Amy has lived a life of herself since she left him and quite frankly has survived. Was it the glass dome that rescued her? Was it the daily care and attention of Anita? Whatever has protected a frozen porcelain body could not have saved the real Amy.
She was born the way she died and decided to leave in order to live on.
No No No, 2009 by Bouke de Vries. 19th-century Samson porcelain figure, mixed media, 270 x 170 x 430 mm. The Zabludowicz Collection , London.
By Delphine Hervieu.
Source: Bouke de Vries.