Interview for 'Outside' magazine February 1982

Interview transcribed by product.two (thought.police member 00002) on behalf of the artist Eric Pentle. Answers roughly match those spoken by Pentle (he re-read what i had written for him and grunted that they were 'adequate'. i'm guessing that there could have been one or two points where i slightly messed up what he'd said).

Name: 'eric pentle'
Tag: 'well i sign things with my name if thats what you mean'
Age: 'eighty four'
Sex: 'male'
Location: 'south london'
Day job: 'retired'
Preferred Medium: 'i dunno, art'
Favorite artist: 'me'

How did you get into art? 

'just tell 'em something, ya know'

(this extract is taken from a short biography printed in early 1993, for a retrospective book titled 'Eric Pentle: The Enigma's Rebus.')

Living and working in a studio in Paris, Eric Pentle's early works were semi-Dada in style but he would become perhaps the least influential of the semi-Dada artists. His influence is still sometimes felt to this day by contemporary artists. In the mornings, Pentle had some contact with Expulsionism in New York, but aesthetic as well as political differences precluded closer affiliation.

In 1922, he painted Baby running at Womb in which motion was expressed by successive passes of blood across sheet glass, as in motion pictures. The work was originally slated to appear in Paris, but the Expulsionists demanded that Pentle re-title it to avoid possible scandal. Pentle removed the work from the exhibition entirely, and, in 1946, it went on to create a scandal at the Rebirth Show in New York City instead; it also spawned dozens of parodies in the years that followed.

How do you get inspiration for the pieces you produce?

'Tell him about the artists.'

Eric took aim at conventional notions of "high art," "culture" and "commodities" by presenting mass-produced artists as Sculpture. He coupled his visual assaults on "art" with verbal webs spun through manipulative media: he signed his Artists, "Eric Pentle," and forced their life through a simple vetting process by which they became himself, an idiomatic reference to a paper aeroplane.

What has been your best creation to date? 

'You... I'm proud of the whole thing, but mainly the mental state that arises spontaneously rather than through conscious effort, often accompanied by physiological changes'

How much do you think hype affects the public perception of what good art is?

'Price not hype is the major factor that influences the public perception of art. If an art collector/dealer is 'investing' a large sum of money in something, then the public (largely due to a press reaction) take notice. The higher the premium the greater the interest. It may make them in awe of an artwork just for its valuation . What is really frustrating would be that this admiration is not due to any considerations of taste or intellectual content only the financial bite.'

Last CD you bought/downloaded/shoplifted?

'I don't have one of them CD discs. They were a little beyond me when they came out. Never really got the hang of them.'

How did you feel when you realised that art could make money?

'Hey yeah you heard about that too? It gave me a warm fuzzy feeling that radiated all round my stomach. When was it they announced that again? Last tuesday, or wednesday if i remember rightly?... art in its most traditional form has always made the wheels of the rich roll'

Why do so many people spend money on music yet so few spend on art?

'art is worthless'
'or people think they can't afford what the artists or art dealers want for their work, or there is good affordable art that people just don't know about, or people aren't interested in art, or people aren't shown enough art to decided what their personal taste is, or people spend more on music than they should, or people just want some decoration and can do it themselves, or people think they will look pretentious owning art, or art can't reach the emotions that music can, or art is seen as inaccessible, or music is universal and art isn't, or people would rather be blind than deaf, or there are so many good visual images about they people don't think they need to pay for something to put on their wall, or minimalism has been so successful that people only want to live in ikea boxes, or music is better than art, or music is art...'

Sex, drugs or rock n roll?

'I'm a widower, i've got arthritis and I'm going deaf.
If i had a choice there would be no contest, the former'

What’s your favorite soup?

'I hate Campbell's soup.'

How is your local art scene?

'I live in london, there really isn't a local art scene here'

What makes you happy?

'My wife used to make me happy'

What makes you sad?

'I get frustrated when people take what i say too seriously. It just makes me more likely to loose interest and start to talk rubbish. When i do that, they often assume I'm laying into them, which if i was then they'd fucking know about it, because i've got all my brain cells, no matter what my doctor says, and i can squeeze their heads with every last fucking one, the idiots, who do they think they are. it's not like i need to talk to them, they need me, to get their fucking stupid little career off the ground, oh yes, i spoke to that famous artist, he was really rude to me. who gives a shit. i just got bored. stop thinking you can earn some respect by treating me like a commodity to sell on to the next, arsehole.'

What’s it like to be interviewed?

'Its interesting to imagine how people will read what i've said after its been stripped of its vocal emphasis. social and political chaos is connected with the decay of language... one can probably bring about some improvement by starting at the verbal end.'

Last book you read?


Tell us a secret?


Quote us your favorite song lyric?

Is there a downside to being so talented?

(chuckles) 'no'

Ask yourself (and answer) a question?
'is this a question?'

'if that is a question, then this is an answer'

What’s your worst habit?

'I loose interest in things too quickly. Probably because I'm getting on a bit nowadays.'

Any close encounters with the law?

'Do you think it would make me more appealing to the audience if i were to formulate some more of my wild stories about my angry younger self?'

What else do you like other than art?

'Hmm, i like it when you can see the milk swirling around and mixing with the tea... I like sitting in a cafe until they ask you if you are going to order anything. some of those sausages are a bit weak though. you never seem to get a bad egg in any cafe... they're always tasty...'

Any regrets?
'Yeah, everyday i think about the thousands of tiny different ways my life could have been different, but you would go mad if you let this affect how you live. Thats who i am. Without all those little things i regret, i wouldn't be me. They define me, they make me interesting and different from you. As much as some are painful, they distr... hey did i... the... (ten second pause) i... sorry, where was i...'

Final thoughts...

'during times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.'

Interview. 2009
© eric pentle. all editions signed by the artist.
Words written by the artist.