Elusive, pop-culture amalgamist and brainchild of London’s Aubin gallery, Stuart Semple (known as “Nancyboy” in the early noughties) agreed to dish the dirt on his work ahead of his newest exhibition, “Post Adolescent Idealistic Phase”, from the 31st, and reveals a few ambitious plans for October.

Who is Nancyboy? Is he still alive?

Sadly not! It’s a case of who was Nancyboy. He passed away at the end of 2009. But he’s left a lot of work behind and although I miss him dearly he’s still in my thoughts and remains a very strong influence. It was well over a decade ago that he started using the internet in a way it hadn’t really been used before and really
made art democratic. It was like an early social network around art before such things existed.

When do you feel your art started to deveop its own voice?

When I was 19, I had a really terrifying thing happen to me – I ended up in hospital and I had a really weird near death experience, I actually died for a bit. I was left in a real mess with way too many questions about how everything worked and how I felt. So I found myself really leaning on my art and painting. Immediately after that experience those pictures became really personal and for me had an important function in making me feel alright about the world. So I think looking back those things were really me trying to find my way of describing what I was going through to myself. So that’s when it started, but it doesn’t end.

Are you surprised/delighted/upset/all of the above that celebrities such as Gaga are fans of your work?

It really depends – if people connect with what I make, that’s amazing. I mean one of my first ever proper canvases I made when I was a teenager Debbie Harry bought, and that was absolutely unbelievable because I am a huge fan. I still can’t believe it. When it’s a hero of yours that’s amazing, otherwise I’m not that bothered. It means more to me most of the time when a teenager comes to the show, and spends hours in there drawing everything and really connecting with it. I make the work for people and it doesn’t matter who they are. It means the world to me when people understand what I’m talking about in the work; that means I’ve done my job right.

The Aubin Gallery is one of London’s most regarded independent arts spaces – when did you first develop it? Any plans to expand the project further?

Oh wow, thank you! I’m glad it’s got that reputation, it’s not really me though. I suppose I kicked it off and steered it, but an awful lot of people have contributed in one way or another. We are all so proud of it, it’s one of those true DIY labour of love things. To be honest, I don’t know where it’s going to go next. I’ve just actually stepped back from it, because I feel like it’s on the right course and it’s set up. It’s at the point I wanted it to get to. It took over 2 years of hard work to get it where it is but in a lot of ways the job is done.

What are you planning on exhibiting in October? What projects are you currently working on?

The London show, War in a Babylon at The Fine Art Society Contemporary is the main focus, it’s been a while since I’ve shown here – so I’m excited about October. Otherwise, there’s some collaborations on the horizon. A few more bits and bobs with Officers, the band I do the arty stuff for, working on a music video with them and Gary Numan. I did one of the BT ArtBoxes that will be all over London this summer and mine’s going to be at Speakers Corner. But really it’s going to be a long summer ahead of painting and making I hope.

Post Adolescent Idealistic Phase: Stuart Semple + Nathan James runs from 31st June – 11th August 2012. Neubacher Shor Contemporary, 5 Brock Avenue, Toronto.

Words: Jack Mills


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