Superstar is the debut solo exhibition by celebrated British-American Pop artist Russell Young, at Halcyon Gallery. This brand new body of work is part of an ongoing exploration into the visual nature of fame and celebrity, as Young attempts to define the essence of what truly makes a ‘superstar’. With his trademark vividly-coloured, larger-than-life canvases, Young reinterprets iconic imagery featuring two of popular cultures most famous faces: contemporary catwalk heroine, Kate Moss and modern screen siren, Marilyn Monroe.
The exhibition features a controversial photograph of Kate Moss, first published in British Vogue in early 1990, capturing the Croydon-born supermodel aged just sixteen. Taken by British photographer Kate Garner at the cusp of the nineties, this photograph reflects the very beginning of Moss’s stellar career. By embellishing and expanding upon the outtakes, Young weaves the image into his continuing exploration of the fragile nature of celebrity and its impact on both society at large and our shared internal psyche. Whilst the original image presents a natural innocence and beauty, it is through Young’s manipulation that these paintings are elevated, transcending the restrictions of their original source material and providing a unique and very personal body of work which pays a powerful homage to one of our generation’s most celebrated icons.
Alongside the images of Kate Moss is Marilyn Monroe, whose instantly-recognisable features are rendered in both opulent platinum and dazzling gold and imbued with a sense of nostalgia and celebration. Following a decade of austerity in the United States, emerging from the Wall Street Crash and the ensuing Great Depression, Monroe’s rise to fame came to represent a new era of optimism that helped revive the spirits of a nation with her much publicised and often tumultuous love life, reflecting the cultural appetite of the age. Presidents, sporting heroes and writers all fell under her spell, but it was her inherent vulnerability and untimely death that maintains Monroe’s status as the first true superstar. These works set out to serve as both a celebration and an epitaph to the Great American Dream.
If Marilyn represents the beginning of a journey into the notion of what defines a superstar, then Kate must surely represent its closing chapter: these two icons of unparalleled global recognition, born five decades apart, both encapsulate the true meaning of what it is to be a superstar.