Grandson hopes to turn Liam Gallagher into conceptual art

Liam Gallagher with grandson Scottee

Liam Gallagher with grandson Scottee - Credit: Archant

In the 1990s, Liam Gallagher’s phone would not stop ringing, Japanese girls calling him at home, desperate to speak to him. This year, he hopes to try his hand at art, perhaps walk off with the Turner prize, but he needs a little help from the public.

The Liam in question is not the former lead singer of rock band Oasis but a 77-year-old ex-miner living on a Camden Council housing estate.

Now his grandson and carer Scottee wants to turn him into an internationally renowned artist for a project called Liam Gallagher is my Grandad.

“My grandad’s had quite an interesting life so I thought if I can turn anyone into an artist, it’s him,” says Scottee, an associate artist at The Roundhouse in Chalk Farm.

“I guess it will be a challenge because he’s illiterate, has to stay at home a lot, and doesn’t know what art is.

“When I’m with him, the world ignores him. We’ll be on the bus and people will think he’s crazy because he’s trying to have a conversation with them, people push past him quite a lot. Also when we go to the doctor, the doctor always tells me what the problem is rather than telling him.

“I want to produce this project to address the idea about identifying with older people. To say that just because they’re old doesn’t mean they’ve got any less great ideas or thoughts or interesting view points on the world.”

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Scottee walks his grandfather the short distance to his local chemist in Gospel Oak every week to collect the 122 tablets he must take to stay alive. He cares for him, takes him up to the Heath, the same way his grandad cared for him as a child, an Irish tradition bestowed on the first grandchild. “Once a man, twice a child,” is what he told me recently, which is him telling me he needs others around him now.”

Gallagher’s mother died in childbirth and he was “sold to the nearest farm” before emigrating to the UK in 1951.

“He was a miner, a manual labourer, a gardener, his body has taken a lot of battering over the years, he’s had heart operations, liver disease, depression, angina, high blood pressure, and he’s had cancer. He’s had it all but the beautiful thing is, through all of this, he has this boundless optimism.”

Scottee himself turned his life around thanks to the Roundhouse. Expelled from Bishop Douglass school, a workshop at the Chalk Farm venue 14 years ago started him down a path to becoming a conceptual artist.

His latest project is in inception stages but plans include video work, photography, some text-based pieces and a sound tour, which will tour libraries, Irish centres, and art spaces across the UK, Ireland and the US.

“We’re early in the development of what the Liam Gallagher sounding will be, but I think it might be an mp3 player and a strong cup of tea, because grandad loves really strong tea. So people will be drinking cups of tea with grandad while he is drinking a cup of tea.”

Not lying

The more money they can raise, the more his granddad will be able to achieve. Professional artists are asked to get involved, lend their expertise and the public can commission him to create art they want to see.

Gallagher is very aware of rock band Oasis. “In the phone book he’s listed as Liam Gallagher so Japanese girls used to call his house all the time and he’d pretend he was Liam Gallagher, which is kind of his sense of humour. Technically he’s not lying!”

Beady Eye frontman Liam Gallagher famously organised a star-studded fundraising event in 2011 for victims of the Japanese tsunami, raising more than £150,000. Can Gallagher and grandson reach the £5,800 they need to create the sound tour?

“We have to think creatively about how we’ll raise the money. I’m trying to get in touch with Liam to see if he’ll come forward. I don’t want to exploit people’s celebrity for their wealth, but if they can send something out on their Twitter which then reaches a new demographic of people, a new audience, it means people get to hear about the project.”

It could help Gallagher become the next Tracey Emin. “Our society is so obsessed with youth, especially the art world,” says Scottee. “Older artists fall off the radar. Do they stop making work? Do they stop existing? No, of course, they don’t. I want to put grandad on a platform, to be able to say yes to his ideas. His work is just as worthy as a tent or a pair of fried eggs or a shark in a fish tank. I think the work he will make brings up the same if not more exciting and worthy viewpoints on the world than the people who have won the Turner, so why can’t he?”

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