“nobody’s any the wiser” — toneBack
TONE didn’t want it to be a big thing, even though it felt like a bit of a big thing, so he was trying not to acknowledge that it was quite a big thing.
The Eden Diaries, at the Gallery at Munro House in August, was TONE’s first solo gallery show.
“I get nervous if it feels like a big deal,” he said. “So I’m trying not to think of it as a big thing.”
He said he’d been feeling the nerves in his stomach all day, though, which kind of gave the game away. Another clue was when, on the short walk from his work at design agency Vapour on The Calls to the exhibition launch party, he nipped away to the off-licence on Kirkgate to get a couple of cans of Tennent’s Super- Strength lager.
The first one calmed him down. The next thing to calm him down was seeing how his work had been displayed by Ellie and Matt in the gallery. The third was being given licence to drink his second can in the gallery, and at one point TONE could be seen at the bar, holding on to his can with a stemmed glass of red wine balanced on top.
If you were at the launch but were wondering whether TONE was there, perhaps now you’ll recognise that image and work it out.
“I didn’t really want anybody here to know who I am,” he said at the end of the night, and he seemed to have got away with it. “I’ve just stood right here all night and talked with my mates. Not a single person has bothered me. It’s been great and they’ve all had a drink and a lovely time, but nobody’s any the wiser.”
He’s not Banksy; he’s not anonymous and he likes being recognised for the work he does. And he did say this before he had to stand in front of everybody and make a speech to introduce a screening of They Live, which pretty much blew his cover. He left once the film had started.
“I just don’t want to have to keep explaining why I’m painting that word in these colours on that bit of board,” he said, before he told us some of the reasons why he had painted certain words in particular colours on some of the bits of board hanging on the walls around the gallery.
TONE says his work is all from the heart, and maybe that’s why he doesn’t want to explain it; because he doesn’t want to have to explain what’s in his heart. And nobody should ever have to do that, especially not if they’ve already painted what’s in their heart on to a board and hung it in a gallery, or pasted it on a wall. How many times do people have to be told?
Besides, TONE might not feel like that anymore. Nobody feels the same way forever.
“I always want to produce new work,” he said. “I was asked if I could put this show together in about a month – three weeks. Of course I could. I was up ‘til three every night doing it, but it’s all done.”
Only one piece in The Eden Diaries was not brand new, and TONE only allowed that one because, although it was painted years ago, he only recently stumbled across it again and realised he’d never done anything with it.
Everything else in the show was an expression of the previous month; everything else only existed because Ellie and Matt had asked him to make it. “People had better buy it,” he said. “Because I won’t do anything with it. It’ll just gather dust in my house.”
Dust is a fact of life, but it doesn’t stay in the same place forever. Neither will TONE. Things changed in 2014; “I’m drinking a lot more red wine now,” he said. “But people
are so dainty with it. I get a large glass of the house red in Crowd of Favours, and I just hold it in my fist, neck it like that. It doesn’t make any difference.”
A year ago TONE’s front cover art for our 2013 Christmas issue, featuring Chevy Chase, didn’t exist; since just before the launch of The Eden Diaries a copy has existed, and been in TONE’s possession, signed by Chevy Chase himself.
“I wrote to him,” said TONE. “I worked out where he lived, did a person search for people named C. Chase in Chicago, found someone the right age, the right connections. Checked it on Google Street View and it just had to be his house.
“I sent him the cover of the paper with a letter. I told him I’d drawn it for a newspaper in Leeds, England; that I loved his films; that I’d visited Chicago just because of him. I didn’t expect anything. I just wanted him to see it, to know I’d done it.
“When this envelope arrived from America I was like… I didn’t know what it was at first. But now I look at it… He’s signed it, and sent a signed photo. Look at the envelope – Chevy Chase stuck that stamp on. I love that I have that.”
2014 hasn’t only been about acquisitions; what you discard can be as important as what you pick up. Some of TONE’s work this year seemed to be about adding significance to ephemera; posters for gigs that never happened, advertising performances by classic bands on important, impossible dates.
Dead ends were discarded in life and art, and what TONE doesn’t have now could end up being as significant as what he does. One of things he doesn’t have as 2014 ends, though, is all of his left ear.
“I chinned a bear,” he said. “I’m finding that people in pubs are always curious about it, and I don’t mind telling them the story. I chinned this bear, and it was going alright, I had the upper hand.
“But then he was backed up by this crazed chimp that just appeared out of nowhere and jumped on my back, and I was in trouble then. And yeah, it ripped part of my ear off. I won in the end of course, but it’s something I could have done without.”
That’s not how it happened to van Gogh, whatever really did happen to van Gogh; nobody really knows the truth of how Vincent lost his ear, but they do know that incident pushed him further along the road to endless retrospectives. TONE’s far from that.
“Looking back – looking back would be like Justin Bieber bringing his biography out when he’s only like twenty. What’s he done? He hasn’t done owt in his life.
“If someone said to me, get all your best work… I mean, I hate all my work after I’ve finished. My best work in the The Eden Diaries: I love the prints. The Fleetwood Mac and the Repo Man and the Joy Division. I can’t stop looking at them, and I look at them too much, and I’ll hate them next week.”
But next week, TONE says, “I’ll start something fresh.”
Originally published in The City Talking: Leeds, issue 18