Grafix Knox – The Graphic Art of Chris Knox

Grafix Knox, a project to publish a volume of Chris Knox’s visual art, is currently seeking crowd-funding through Fundnation. Anyone familiar with Chris’s music – The Enemy, Toy Love, Tall Dwarfs, Friend (and other solo work), and latterly The Nothing – will know that his distinct visual art has always been integral with his music: cover art, posters, song videos (animation!), advertising etc.

I recall his first solo exhibition in Auckland’s Red Metro Gallery in the early 80’s, a lot of his canvasses were apple crates; if convention’s nose can be pulled, Chris is your man.

Chris has an expansive, half-a-dozen decades worth of eclectic work to select from: his Max Media strip, his illustrations and advertising art for Flying Nun Records, his own Jesus on a Stick comics, and his illustrations for Loose, Real Groove and The Listener magazines to name but a few. And as Gary Steele so rightly says in his Audio Culture profile of Chris, “Where to start with Chris Knox? He’s one hell of an entity”. Chris Mousdale, as editor of Graphix Knox has the enviable, but mammoth undertaking of selecting work for this book.

Chris has generations of music fans throughout the world, has been a movie reviewer for Real Groove and The Listener, a music reviewer for Rip It Up, host of a couple of art and film television shows, had that song voted as New Zealand’s 13th favourite song, has won an APRA Silver Scroll for ‘Best song of the year’, was made an Arts Laureate in 2009, and remarkably, since his stroke in 2009, has learnt to draw again with his left hand.

The aim of this post is to share some of Chris’s art that I am familiar with, in the hope it will encourage you to contribute – the reward will be well worth it; take a look at the links of Chris’s work posted above, and the images below (click for full image). The book will be an extraordinary collection.

2002’s Sound Design Exhibition included three Chris Knox album covers: the sublime Croaker, the auto-biographical Seizure, and the iconic Boodle Boodle Boodle for the Clean. The exhibition of UK and NZ album covers, presented by the British Council and AUT’s New Zealand Design Archive , was curated by Nick Bollinger; the exhibition designer, coincidently, was Grafix Knox editor Chris Mousdale.

Sound Design Croaker

Croaker, designer Chris Knox 1990

Sound Design - Seizure

Seizure, designer Chris Knox 1990

Boodle Boodle Boodle, designer, Chris Knox 1981

Design, Chris Knox 1981

Chris’s bold, neo-epileptic design for Seizure was utilized by Alec Bathgate for the Stroke album and associated artwork:

Stroke-Invite

In 1999 Chris was part of the Loose publishing collective as comix editor. The magazine’s masthead is his design:Loose-Fear

Loose Logo

Issue one featured a number of his cartoons, including a strip to accompany the issue’s ‘Fear’ theme:

Loose1-Cartoon4

Loose1-Cartoon1

Loose1-Cartoon3

Loose1-Comic

Issue two of Loose, with the theme ‘Colour’ featured a four page strip:

Loose2-Colour1

Loose2-Colour2

Loose2-Colour3

Loose2-Colour4

Next: Max Media, The Listener, Flying Nun and Forced Exposure

Chris began drawing his weekly strip, Max Media in 1987, he continued to do so for more than 20 years. In 2000 Max turned 40 – a few months before my own birthday – Chris kindly gave me the original art of Max’s birthday celebration (?!):

Max Media 40 envelope

Max Media 40 overlay

Max Media 40

Max Media from The New Zealand Herald 2009

Stroke-Max-Mediacd

For many years Chris reviewed DVDs for The Listener, his columns were always accompanied by an associated caricature:

Listener1

The Listener 2005

Listener2

The Listener 2004

Sunday Star Times illustration 2011, Flying Nun 30th Anniversary Issue (post stroke artwork):

SST FN30

Illustration for Real Groove 2006, Flying Nun 25th Anniversary issue:

Real Groove FN21

Forced Exposure, 1ssue 18, 1990, carried an opus 28 page interview with Chris, who also illustrated the cover and supplied a number of strips, including a Max Media (the interview, aside from its extent, has gained notoriety in regard to its copious footnotes; by the time the interview is over, the reader has been stuffed full of NZ music facts, obscure band family trees, nationhood and social mores, conspiracy theories…):

Forced Exposure Cover,

Forced Exposure Max Media

Forced Exposure Comic

It would be very difficult to quantify the support Chris has given over the years to folk within the New Zealand arts community; he has always been very generous with his time, equipment, knowledge, experience (and wit). I first meet Chris in 1980, bumping into him on Auckland’s Lorne Street, Toy Love had just returned from Australia for a brief New Zealand tour. I told him I was writing a review of Toy Love’s gig the previous night (at the time I was publishing a zine), asking “when do you go back to Australia?”; his reply that they weren’t consequently gave me a scoop before the press were able to publish the news. From that brief introduction we knew each other; he never forgot my name, always stopped to talk. Considering I was just one of many punters demanding a piece of him, I have always been impressed with his recall, his ability to communicate so freely with his fans. It wouldn’t surprise me to hear folk say they felt on wrong side of an acerbic wind-up from Chris, but never would they have felt that he wasn’t one of the muckers, who, along with themselves, swell the hoi polloi

It was Chris who recommended that Phantom Forth record for Flying Nun; who I turned to when I needed a two-track to master my first This is Heaven recording (spending two nights assaulting his family with the racket); who accompanied me to the Wellington pressing plant for my last This is Heaven recording – and this isn’t the half-of-it.

Please, join the Grafix Knox project, it’s a bargain ($60 per book). Here’s that link again.

Chris Knox, stills from Heavenly Pop Hits, Flying Nun documentary 2002

Chris Knox, stills from Heavenly Pop Hits, Flying Nun documentary 2002

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