For those of us of a certain age, the music of Prince probably forms at least part of the soundtrack of our lives. I remember seeing him on Top of the Pops performing When Doves Cry, dancing with my best – and now longest-standing mate – to You’ve Got the Look at art college, the genius reference to ‘the big disease with a little name’ in Sign O’ The Times, but in 1994 I had my own small piece of Prince.
My then partner, John, got some scenic painting work at the first MTV Music Awards, at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. We shared a studio then and I was making a piece of work consisting of some phallic, carrot-like objects made from a burnt orange velvet with fur at the end where the greenery at the top of the carrot might be.
It was called 24 carat and the 24 sand-filled objects were arranged in a circle with a pawnbroker sign in the middle featuring three golden balls. There were more puns than ‘carrots’ in this piece.
For two young struggling and seriously cash-strapped artists, John’s work trip offered a window onto a glamorous new world. He returned with tales of bags of cocaine offered round at break times like chocolate digestives, photos of Tom Jones, the awards’ host, and a gift of a rabbit fur East German army hat which I treasured until it finally disintegrated and had to be laid to rest with the memory.
The other – and slightly more enduring thing he brought me – was a small piece of Prince. Seemingly bands routinely use cloths to protect their equipment while it’s on the stage between performances, but while for the all artists some form of black felt did the job, Prince used crushed gold velvet. Bingo!
24 carat was remade using the more eminently suitable and glamorous new cloth which I felt someone who demonstrated such raw sexuality in their art, would surely approve of. Over the years I have given a number of the ‘carrots’ away as gifts – to very special people. The sad news of Prince’s alarmingly premature death this week has prompted many memories, but above all served as a reminder of the joy of leading a creative life.