Victoria Topping Talks


We love Victoria Topping at RSN. Really. Her madly colourful, beautifully detailed creations make us swoon every time we see them. Wether designing record sleeves, decking out nightclubs or creating vastly complex collages – the spirit of her work always shines through and is evidenced by her growing legion of fans. We caught up with her for a quick post-festive chat on musical motifs, Bristol’s magic creative lay lines and developing a visual language…

It's clear from your work that you're obviously very much in love with music, would you say it's your greatest inspiration and if so, why? 
Yes. What started it off was reading about Kandinsky’s views on music and art, I became fascinated on how he saw harmony, form and rhythm represented in colour, texture and tone – this led to me becoming more and more interested in artists that were intertwined between music and art like Keith Haring for example and his relation to the NY disco scene and Paradise Garage.
Within the music references in your work there are recurring figures and motifs – Grace Jones and piano keys for example. Do you feel as though the different works you create are part of a greater whole, a developing visual language you're creating?
Definitely, I work in series' and each one builds on the next – the first was experiments into shape and interplanetary music  (as I mentioned above, this was most strongly influenced by Kandinsky) then I took what I learnt from that into an exploration into the origins of music, Africa and Voodoo in Black Orpheus and the Voodoo Funk, this is the stuff that Motion in Bristol use for their visuals – and I'm currently developing a new series called Medicine for Nightmares, which extends the theme further still.

You're the art director for The Garage in Leeds, recently crowned best small club by DJ magazine. Congratulations. It looks pretty special. How did that union come about?
Tristan Da Cunha approached me about doing a cover for his new record label, Throwing Shapes, and we got on like a house on fire. He ended up getting asked to get involved in a project with friends Stephen Hawkins and Iain French – transferring an empty basement space into a club and record shop – The Garage and Waxwerks as it became. It initially started with me being asked to do a small mural for the club, but as the project progressed I ended up doing it from top to bottom – including custom wallpaper, dj booths, rotating disco balls in the toilet cubicles and all that jazz. I loved doing it, they were a really great team and I'm still working with them now as the project evolves. 
As well as your art, you also DJ. What kind of stuff do you play and where can we catch you playing?
I play soul, funk and boogie and I'm part of a team -Ghettospheric – which I've been running with a couple of friends for five years now, initially out of Bristol but now we're all based in London we've started putting on parties down here. We have a strict policy of ony playing the music we love (none of that fashionable stuff) – which just happens to pretty much all be pre 1985. I also have a show on NTS radio with Mamiko Motto every 3rd Wednesday called Walrus System, where we play strictly smooth jams and I love the combination of Mamiko's more current tastes and my older stuff. We always wear red lipstick and drink champagne when we do it, tune in, it's great!
What projects have you got coming up in 2013?
I have a big joint exhibition with David Addison at Centrespace in Bristol, which opens on 1st February. I'm really looking forward to this as it's my return exhibition in Bristol, the place where I made my name. And also just more of everything else I’ve done so far, record sleeves, art direction, the whole lot. I plan to do Grace Jones' greatest hits sleeve. That'd be great.
You've already worked across quite a few mediums: printing, digital arts, collage, dabbling in 3D at Bristol street Art showcase ‘See No Evil’ this year – are there other areas of art that you'd like to pursue in the future?
Yeah, I'd really like to get into art directing music videos and more interior design. 
You've got a close bond with Bristol, having studied at UWE and lived there for years. The city's got a tangible creative energy, what is it about the place that makes it such fertile ground, do you think?
I think it's on a magical creative lay line. I also think the cost of living and rent is so much more realistic and allows you to nurture yourself as an artist – studio rents are really cheap for eg. The music scene is so strong with all the clubs and venues, st pauls carnival etc – its an inspirational, fertile creative zone where art is encouraged and living is affordable. 
Who are the artists who's work you most admire?
Chris Ophili, one of the big guns. Keith Haring, obviously. Killian Ing is great, check him out. Grayson Perry, Olof Haijak is great too. It's a real mix. 
Finally, if you could have your dream exhibition anywhere in the world where would you have it and who would you get to play the private view?
I'd do it on Saturn and Sun Ra would play the private view.