Miami Trip and the Next Generation of Fairground Art
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The 1980s - a Recap
As we saw from the first part of this article, the progressive
dynamic of fairground art went through a 'phase change' in the 1980s.
The traditional school of artwork was split in terms of how it functioned
- traditional 'canvases' remained for a very ornate, although static,
form of fairground art, with the continued success of rides such as Gallopers,
or the need to decorate panels on round stalls. However, the more fluid
end of traditional fairground art had to work with new themes using an
old technique. Most of this work took place on the Arks and Waltzers -
rides which were struggling to maintain the huge popularity they enjoyed
up until the 1980s. A traditional approach to decorating an Ark or Waltzer
would be a theme portrayed with a lettered front section - the words themselves
being the main focus. The lettering would then be augmented with images
or geometric patterns. The rest of the ride utilised a repeating pattern
on the shutters and rounding boards - scrolls or imaginative interlocking
shapes. Artists such as Pete Tei developed new 'worms' and shape systems,
and introduced a more futuristic blend of metallic colours and effects.
Figurative artwork on these rides was less common and often applied unsuccessfully.
Two patterns were developing that would later converge.
Firstly there was a move towards faster and more intricate rides, as the
fairground both renewed its own thrill factor and attempted to live up
to the fast and futuristic rhetoric of the popular culture. It is easy
to see this period as a 'dead zone' for fairground art, but it is perhaps
better to think of fairground art in a more expansive construct - a fairground
aesthetics that encompasses architecture, motion, effect, etc. A good
example would be the Sizzler Twist, seen by many purists as the epitome
of the death of fairground art. But previous to this mid-80s invention,
the Twist had been decorated with a traditional approach of repeating
patterns on the cars and handrails. The Sizzler was a statement of progression,
an old ride updated to appear more slick and hi-tech. The public needed
to be convinced that it was something wholly new and progressive, and
painting it traditionally was not the answer. Instead, the designers went
for a new aesthetic of massed lights, jagged and angular flash, ultra-functional
colour schemes using black and another colour only, heavy emphasis on
fibre glass and shimmering metal.
Secondly, a new form of artwork began to emerge, addressing
the dominant cultural themes of the day (films such as Ghostbusters, Alien,
Nightmare on Elm Street and Terminator, or Michael Jackson's film/music
crossover 'Thriller') with a more narrative approach to design. Popular
1980s rides such as Matterhorns and Super Bobs, as well as the next generation
of multiple deck Ghost Trains, were not suited to traditional styles of
repeating patterns, and only worked with an explosive highly focussed
narrative. For this to be expressed at its best the airbrush technique
was required, and suddenly this form of artwork was catapulted into the
Eventually these patterns converged. The rapid development
of hi-tech rides began to look towards airbrush art as something to complement
its ultra modern aesthetic. By the 1990s airbrush art was appearing on
many rides, but it wasnt quite holding the status it deserved. That was
until the impact of the Miami...
The Miami can be truly described as 100% flash. The
ride is a huge backflash with a single bench, and initially was only individualised
through its expressive and dynamic artwork and themes. Its position on
the sidegrounds also created another level of function - the rides were
'sounding boards' for up to date themes, enclosing the fairground and
magnifying the attention back onto the crowd in the same way that the
forward facing bench of seats fuses a bond between riders and spectators.
The Miami was now mirroring the huge shows at the turn of the century,
whose own intricate designs hepled 'trap' the feeling of elation and wondrous
displacement that the fairground provides.
In turn the builders of the rides, and the showmen themselves,
began to explore new themes of decoration and, more importantly, new artists.
Innovators like Paul Wright had been painting side stuff, shows, and some
larger rides (Albert Evans' Waltzer a famous example) for many years.
It was only with the rise of the Miami that Paul gained the huge respect
he deserves. Paul encompasses everything about a good airbrush artist
working with a huge blank canvas. Unlike the traditionalists, he cannot
resort to repeating designs to create a finished job. A good Miami artwork
requires three stages of completion: the idea for the theme, its representation
on the actual ride (use of shape, space, narrative, etc), and finally
its technical execution. Each component of the process is equally important
if the ride is to have the visual impact it requires. It took some of
our own artists many years to knit together the three processes successfully,
with some strange themes and even stranger artworks emerging along the
way. But by the late 1990s the rest of Europe was taking a keen interest
in the UK built and painted Miami.
The name Miami stuck by pure coincidence - the KMG ride
bought by Stephen Hill happened to bear that theme, and the rest is history.
But another history tells us a deeper significance of the name, and gives
us a first opening in categorising the myriad forms of Miami themes.
The cultural theme of Miami had already surfaced back
in the 1960s with a 'Miami' Twist and the Miami Beach amusement park at
Aberavon, so its connection to the fair is a deeper cultural link than
the pure coincidence suggested by the 1990s phenomenom. The city of Miami
has a shimmering multitude of portrayals within popular culture, underpinned
by thoughts of sleaze, seduction, glamour and intense heat. The place
exists as a playground for the rich, from both the USA and South America,
with connotations of exiled dictators and flash-living gangsters punctuating
any narrative. The image is one of blazing sunshine, wealth, glamourous
clothes and cars, narcotics, and of course pumping music. Televison series
fixed on the city (Miami Vice in the 80s and CSI Miami in recent years)
portray the city in a highly stylised context, going to excess in all
areas of representation, whilst the 'Miami Bass' sound has always persisted
amongst other city-specific music scenes (Detroit, Chicago, etc). The
Miami sound of course extends beyond sonic significations, through to
its mode of operation - a portable sound played out by souped-up cars
cruising the strips and beachfronts. This portable, bass-heavy sound continued
through with the 'sound-clash' concept, lending itself to the fairground.
A throbbing bass is experienced at gut level, lending itself to the gut
level experiences created by the fairground ride itself - the bass, in
effect, becomes a movement with the ride, meshing in and intensifying
Charlie Horne's DC Slater decorated Miami - a Paul Wright design with a Miami harbour-scene.
The theme Miami stuck with the ride, with innovative
showmen and artists always managing to return to the concept and create
something new. Stephen Hill purchased a new Miami from Nottingham UK in
2000 and a third machine in 2005 - both of these utilised explosive designs
by Paul Wright with a seering Miami beach scene depicting glamourous women
and lavish jewellry. Perhaps the most innovative of the Miami themed Miamis
belongs to Billy Crow, a showman who is always respected for 'thinking
outside of the box' when it comes to presenting a ride. Crow's 'Exposure'
captures the frisson of the concept, with a gigolo-esque male figure in
tight fitting leather trousers sprawled across the bonnet of a flash car
- a bold attempt to move away from the ideally proportioned but ubiquitous
The theme of the beach emerged from the Miami concept,
but needs to be separated since its has its own trail of cultural implications,
and it also generated its own school of artwork. Certainly, those artists
who shied away from producing human faces and forms in their artworks
were safer producing a huge backflash split between the yellow of the
sand and the blue of the sea/sky, with a few dolphins or sunbathers to
complete the picture.
Webb's early Emmett machine with artist unknown - most of the early Emmett artworks are now painted out.
Harry McFadden's Miami Surf - repainted but still retaining the surf scene.
Many of the Emmett rides utilised beach scenes, as did
the Fairmatt and Eurofab rides, but Nottingham UK tended to dispatch with
the concept, possibly because it started to look unimaginative (William
Percival's 'Crazy Wave' being the exception). The Emmett machines were
titled with an obvious reference to the 'big wave' motion of the ride
- Mayne's 'Wipe Out' being a good example, but subtler ramifications of
the beach lingered in other rides. Futuristic author J.G. Ballard had
a profound interest in the beach as a kind of transitional zone for the
human species. He studied human behaviour on the beach, and became fascinated
by our own fascination to the beach - linking it to a desire to return
to a former state of living as sea creatures with the beach figured as a marginal zone: 'I think the psychological role of the beach is more interesting. The tide-line is a particularly significant area, a penumbral zone that is both of the sea and above it, forever half-immersed in the great time-womb. If you accept the sea as an image of the unconscious, then this beachward urge might be seen as an attempt from the existential role of ordinary life and return to the universal time-sea'.
Other writers have suggested
the fairground is another transitional zone for humans and human behaviour
- a time and place to step outside of yourself and the norms of society
- to let go and emerge yourself in rawer emotions. In this regard it is
perhaps possible to consider Harry Jones' 'City Limits' Miami in this
category - a strangely themed ride that (in its original decor) depicted
a virtual world on the edges of society, but close enough to draw you
in. The banner line read 'Better Than the Real Thing'. The ride has since
been sold on and repainted, but it is interesting to note that Harry Jones'
next Miami was the highly original and significant 'Hysteria' - another
showmen, like Billy Crow, who is prepared to push the boundaries.
Terminator and the Decline of Civilisation
James Cameron's Terminator proved an influential film
in many quarters, not least on the fairground. The original film stood
apart as a classic piece of sci-fi noir, utilising a clever storyline,
fast action, driving soundtrack (in the John Carpernter style) as well
as hundreds of cool reference points - from the Nike hi-tops and raincoat,
to the cleverly titled Tech-Noir nightclub that Sarah Connor seeks refuge
in. The second film, T2, succeeded the first and managed to use a big
budget without appearing obviously overblown. The strong influences from
the film were appearing on the fairground throughout the 1990s, particularly
on Matterhorns, but the film was well represented on Miami rides. The
Terminator concept is part of a wider family of films that forecast the
downfall of civilisation through a variety of consequences - dependence
on 'intelligent' machines, ecological devastation, war and instability,
etc. Miami rides have utilised the Terminator theme throughout the reign
of all three films - the early Emmett Miamis were named after the film,
though the artworks were more influenced by Paul Wright's groundbreaking
Spritzer design and made no explicit visual references to the film. Dean
Deakin's 1994 Fairmatt Miami proved to be the first actual reference to
the film through its artwork - a montage of scenes from 'Terminator 2
- Judgement Day' - and the somewhat crude artwork was totally revamped
by Paul Wright a few years later. Paul created 2 of the best Terminator
themed Miamis for Nottingham UK in 2003 - machines for Elmer Bell and
Dean Deakin (again) tied in with the third film in the Terminator franchise,
with Bell's Miami utilising the highly appropriate advertising phrase
for the film itself - "Rising Scream Machine".
Elmer Bell's superb Terminator - based on the third film.
Mad Max proved another popular choice for Miami owners,
and this film belonged to the same dystopian strand as Terminator but
proved less effective. For Mad Max the backdrop of city grime and ever
present tension was replaced by the open desert of a post apocalyptic
Australia, the film focussing on the hero Mel Gibson as more of an iconic
biker style figure. For Terminator there is no discernible star, the film
runs through tension and sheer cool.
Miami owners and artists developed their own genre of
dystopian, apocalyptic backflashes. Crucial in this development was the
second Emmett Miami delivered to Billy Crow. Crow's first machine was
the second Miami off the Emmett production line, and went by the name
of Spritzer - the artwork was in the standard vein of beach scenes by
an artist unknown. The ride was quickly sold and the same year saw Billy
Crow receive a second Spritzer (named after the exotic drink) - however
this ride had a groundbreaking artwork by Paul Wright. The beach scene
was replaced by a bleak future landscape as Paul began to define the methods
in utilising the space of a backflash through clever arrangement and topology
of figures. The artwork was flanked by 2 imposing figures in metallic
head-dresses, a centre figure in close-up provided a main focus, and the
background was filled with winged-humanoids descending from a dramatic
storm-filled sky. This artwork was copied to a lesser standard on many
of the early Emmett 'Terminator' Miamis, and the emaciated cityscapes
and cyborgs became a standard feature on many of these rides.
Bell's first Terminator - a direct reference to Paul Wright's Spritzer design.
DeVey's Terminator - the banner line refers to the second film, but the artwork is again derived from Spritzer.
The Music Trip
The music scene has always been an influence on the
fairground, however direct references to the music scene were proving
difficult throughout the 1980s for reasons discussed in our article describing
the rise of the Miami ride. Also, as stated, the Miami ride tapped into
the growing dance music and rave scene throughout the 1990s, but not all
early examples of the ride were directly referencing rave culture in their
artwork. The rise of the 'super-club' and the huge corporate structure
of clubbing was set to follow, and the later Miami artworks developed
this imagery to an intense degree (see specific section below). The early
Miami rides referenced music scenes in a variety of ways, creating an
interesting bunch of artworks.
Fairmatt's second and sixth Miami rides (both 1992)
were themed as 'Music Trip', a concept already in use in Europe. The name
Music Trip makes a direct reference to the motion of the Miami - a sweep
and swing through the music genres past and present. This concept of naming
rides with reference to their motion was popular in Europe since the artworks
were not generally good enough to define the ride in itself, however the
UK Miamis quickly developed such strong artwork that the actual names
of the rides stopped bearing relevence to the motion itself. But these
two early Music Trips were both good examples by the artist Mark Gill.
The layout of the artwork was a simple quartering of the last four decades
with an exploding jukebox in the centre - the whole colour scheme being
based on a deep red. The 60s was represented by Buddy Holly, the 70s by
Jimi Hendrix and references to Tamla Motown, the 80s by a provocative
Madonna flanked by 2-Tone imagery, and the 90s (even though the decade
was only 2 years old) by Seal and KLF. Of course, both of these artists
were quickly forgotten as the 90s became famous for 'faceless' dance music.
Cullen's Music Trip - spot the references to pop culture.
Many of the genres of Miami art crossed over into each
other, and early references to music were based on the cityscapes developed
with the Terminator Miamis (see above). Naturally these occured on Emmett
machines with cyborgs replaced by dancing figures set against an often
deserted city scene - these figures of people 'raving' preclipsed the
actual rave scene, with early figures clad in more traditional clothing
than the feather-bikini and foam brigades who emerged at the end of the
1990s. All of these artworks presented a strange juxtaposition - a hedonistic
pursuit amidst the crumbling structures of modern society - decadence
and excess at the edges and in the cracks.
Paybox from Rock City - the night-time city as playground...
Other early Emmett machines were themed with direct
musical references - the rock'n'roll years were depicted on Shake It and
Rock On, however, tellingly, both of these rides have been repainted with
modern rave scenes, perhaps as the ownership of rides pass down from father
to son? John Codona's Emmett built 'Rocker' provides a link between music
themed Miamis and Americana (see section below), whilst early Fairmatt
Miamis bridged a link between the beach and the dance with concepts such
as 'La Bamba' or 'Caribbean Dancer'.
Paul Wright's repaint of Limbo Dancer - sun, sea and excess.
Shake-It referring to the 1950s - repainted in 2005 to reference the rave scene.
The only other notable theme to emerge (aside from rave
music) was a brief celebration of 'brit pop' towards the end of the 1990s.
Paul Wright produced artworks for both Harris' 'Scream' and Clark's 'Ultimate',
whilst an earlier Miami ('Megadance') painted by Andi featured a huge
spread of the Spice Girls.
Hard Rock and Americana
The emergence of Americana as a theme for Miamis was
again borrowed from the European machines, and first featured on Keith
Stanworth's Fairmatt ride in 1992. These early Mark Gill designs were
all executed with a similar layout, the concepts just spead about across
the canvas, images and phrases all in the mix. Both Yankee Flyer and John
Simons' Yankee Trip (produced the following year) harked back to an almost
mythical American culture - days of eagles, broad shoulders, Harley bikes
and choppers, huge trucks and even huger centre-backs. Other Miamis tapped
into the 'Hard Rock' concept - whereby clever franchising had created
a chain of cafes supposedly frequented by movie stars such that you experience
the 'reality' of idyllic American idealism - the 1950s and the era of
the 'jumping joint' through to Bruce Springsten's clean living all conquering
rock heroism. The Hard Rock influence persisted on the fairground for
a few years, well beyond its limited sell by date, whilst other Miamis
influenced American culture in a less bombastic fashion. A handful of
rides referenced the 1950s era of film and music (Arthur Silcock's Reach
for the Stars') whilst Roger Tuby's Emmett built ride depicted images
from Hollywood. Harry McFadden took the decision to revisit this theme
in 2004, giving the chance for Paul Wright to produce his only artwork
(so far) that depicts American culture as an excess, but with the political
climate as it stands it is interesting see whether this theme will be
continued as a popular choice.
Simons' Yankee Trip - American mythology from all decades.
Tuby's Hollywood Sensation - lights, camera, action!
Paul Wright's work on Harry McFadden's American Trip - stars and stripes across Ireland.
Sports and the Extreme
The recent predeliction for extreme sports emerged at
the tail-end of an agressive lifestyle marketing campaign whereby certain
desireable lifestyles can be 'purchased' through appearance. The 1980s
saw surfer styles available in the high streets such that it was possible
to see fully fledged 'radical' surfers, many of whom had never dipped
a toe in the sea, in some of the most land-locked cities. Other 'looks'
canme later as a natural progression - skating, climbing, etc - only to
be followed an actual rise in appreciation and participation of the sports
themselves. This 'life imitating art' (or fashion) was partly stoked by
a surplus of men's lifestyle magazines and an abundance of satellite TV
channels reaching into the most specialist of interest domains. By the
mid 1990s we were a nation obsessed with bungee jumping, extreme skateboarding,
BASE jumping, skydiving, high-speed motor sports and a whole host of more
obscure pursuits, right down to a recent fascination with 'extreme' stunts
and behaviour inspired by a wave of 'Jackass' style TV broadcasts.
Miami owners initially plugged into this current, however
the Miami artists took some time to get to grips with the subject. Outside
of the surfing references previously discussed, early Miamis utilised
a catchy name that linked with an extreme way of living, but initial artworks
veered towards the standardised scenes of Americana outlined in the previous
section. Both Perrin Mott's 1992 Fairmatt Miami 'Pure Adrenalin' and the
only Freddy Mattia manufactured Miami (for Irish showman John Mohan) 'Live
To Ride' featured biker lifestyle themes, even though the name of the
ride expressed something more.
Pure Adrenalin - but the artwork sticks with Americana
Live To Ride - easy rider and the US style
Possibly the reason for the lack of adequate artworks
boiled down to the challenge of creating something wholly new, and incorporating
human figure work in to the design. These challenges, however, were not
a problem for Paul Wright, and his work in the middle period for Nottingham
UK began to establish new levels of perfection. William Wood's 1998 Miami
'Rollover' was titled after the experimental nature of using tipping 'pod
cars' rather than a bench (a method soon abandoned), but Paul's artwork
drew from extreme sports, particularly the 'rollover' associated with
skydiving or vertical ramp rollerblading. Slowly a new level of expression
began to emerge...
Extreme sports debut on William Wood's Rollover
Paul's next venture into this subject came with two
his best early work's - the 2000 manufactured 'Drop Zone' for Alan Gillaine
and 'Xtreme' for David Taylor. Both of these rides featured a cross-genre
of artworks - branching out towards Paul's other themes of large sensual
figure works from the rave scene and dynamic images from current films.
These rides marked a new appreciation of the topology of the art, the
space acting in a more narrative way, with detailed background blends
of exploding colours and flame bursts. Xtreme is actually based around
wrestling figures, a concept that was remarkably underused given the 1990s
fascination for American wrestling - again a clever re-packaging of a
Drop Zone - a class apart in terms of artwork...
...continued onto David Taylor's X-Treme
This confidence in using large scale human figures led
paul to produce a variety of artworks featuring close details of climbers
and other sports-people. His work on Gooch's 'Cliffhanger' (discussed
in the section below) featured some incredible climbing scenes, whilst
his revisiting of the surf theme for William Percival's 'Crazy Wave' showed
his ability to detail body shape and skin tones. These were combined for
Corrigan's 2001 Miami 'Extreme' - the first machine dedicated totally
to all aspects of extreme sports. More recent works include DC Slater's
art for Michael Stirling's 'Freefall' - this featuring self-referencing
artwork such that the figures on the back-flash include screaming women
on extreme fairground rides - and Gooch's 'Avalanche' - an original concept
devoted entirely to alpine sports.
Whitewater rafting and mountain biking on Corrigan's Extreme
Fire, Ice and Dynamite - sub-zero activity on Gooch's Avalanche
Fairground art is known for its immediacy - grabbing
and running with cultural themes as and when they are relevent. With an
accelerated culture such as today this creates cultural anomalies and
singularities, themes that date within a few years. Miami artwork is no
exception, and this section can be split between specific themes from
films outside of the highly influential Terminator, specific influences
drawn from other media, and finally a few Miamis that have a deliberate
theme but seemingly no concrete reference point.
Jim Carey's slickly animated Mask films spawned 2 Miami
artworks by artist Matt in 1998, the film throwing up a batch of slogans
ideally suitable for the Miami ride. The green and yellow colour themes
made both of these rides vibrant and distinctive, though it is debateable
how long they will survive without recourse to a modernisation of theme,
even with a largely unnoticed third Mask film appearing in 2005.
Lets Rock This Joint - madcap behaviour on Wilkinson's Mask...
...while the film references the film - Do You Feel Lucky, Punk - on Dowse's Mask
As previously stated, Paul Wright produced an incredible
artwork based on Cliffhanger, a high-octane mountain rescue drama with
the musclebound Slyvester Stallone performing various solo and shirtless
climbs amongst the snowy peaks. The film once again produces a great strap-line
for the ride - Don't Look Down - and scenes from the movie are put together
with the flow of space that Paul was developing at the time.
DON'T LOOK DOWN! - Cliffhanger's staggering artwork
Action movie figures had been incorporated into various
artworks, though Stanley Thurston's 'Daredevil' provided the first Miami
to be themed entirely on this concept. Again the ride represents a superior
piece by Paul Wright. Other film dedicated Miamis include Noble's 'Indiana',
Derek Codona's 'Lethal Weapon' and Brinley Gore's 'Mega Motion' - the
latter featuring an array of movie references. The hugely successful X-Files
series existed primarily on the TV, and featured on John Scarrott's Energiser,
though the Energiser name also occured on other rides.
Daredevil works with many action movies - The Matrix included
Mega Motion draws from Indiana and Cliffhanger - both later used as indivual themes
The ubiquitous spread of computer games influenced a
handful of Miami artworks, though increasingly the lines between game
and film became blurred with movies for most of the major games emerging
in the later years. John Murphy's 1998 Miami existed for many years without
a name, but was marked by a strong Matt artwork based around various computer
game heroes. In recent years the ride has been themed as 'The Edge' and
has been repainted in the generic rave / dance music style (see next section).
John Silcock had the honour of taking the first Nottingham UK Miami, and
this featured a Matt artwork themed around Mortal Combat, reflecting the
huge popularity in the fighting genre.
Playstation makes it large
John Silcock's Side Kick - before Kylie made the film version of Mortal
From the Rave to the Future Dance
Dance music took a back seat in the early 1980s, with
the UK still producing a fractured music scene following the post-punk
fall-out. Synthesisers, drum machines and samplers were starting to emerge
in the popular music scenes, creating a dynamic, bass-heavy and futuristic
style that equipped itself well to the modern fairground. Music journalist
Simon Reynolds documents the dynamic of the 1980s through his 2 books
- 'Energy Flash' describes the origins of the rave scene from the late
1980s, whilst his more recent work 'Rip It Up and Start Again' documents
the prolific experimentalism spurred by the post-punk and new-wave movements
of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Reynolds manages to fix on an absent
period, 1985/86, where one scene dies away and another is yet to emerge,
and references to music cultural themes on the fairground were indeed
difficult to come by in this period - with a few rides referencing the
somewhat underground 'electro' scene.
The rave scene emerged from this two year musical wilderness,
the youth of the country desparate for something fresh and exciting. Various
scenes collided in the mix - the 'Balaeric' sound of sophisticated Londoners
on holiday, the 'Acid House' of the educated underground seeking raw sound
effects, the 'bleep' scene of Northern England with a sparse industrial
dance music, and the 'baggy' scene fostered in Manchester clubs and on
football terraces. It was a whirlwind phenomena - raves pounded through
the night, extending into illegal spaces and permeating strange areas
such as motorway service station car parks. The movement was obviously
castigated in the media, not least for its connection to the rise of new
drugs, but it was obvious that as a cultural force it would not go away.
Gradually it began to be co-opted into the mainstream, at the same time
evolving at an alarming rate with a music-specific diversity. New micro-genres
emerged - hardcore, garage, jungle, drum and bass, breakbeat, big-beat,
speed garage, etc. Of course the sounds from the scenes were quickly adopted
on the fairground, but the actual imagery from the scenes took a while
to take root. After a few years the airbrush artists decorating the Miamis
began to converge on an agreed set of icons - club emblems from the likes
of Cream and Ministry of Sound combined with scenes of hedonism from the
dancefloor shot through with cascading lights and lasers. One possible
reason for the late take-up of this theme is the need to get the glamour
and details perfect - the artworks were seen solely through the blown
up faces and twisting forms, and so everything needed to look just right.
Appleton's Hi-Energy - the UK's first rave-themed Miami
The first example of a rave music themed Miami occured
in 1993 with Charles Appleton's 'Hi Energy' - artwork painted by Emmett's
in-house artist Pat Doonan. The execution might have been rather crude
(it was later repainted to a high standard by Matt), but the artwork included
key references to an 'Energy Rush' and 'Trip'. Conscious of the fact that
the theme did not quite work, it took a few more years for dedicated rave
themed Miamis to take precedence - Booth and Studt's 1996 Emmett built
machine included another experimental take by Matt, and a few repaints
of Emmett machines followed suit. However, rave themes did not feature
as a dominant choice until the mid-period of Nottingham UK's output (circa
1999), with artists Paul Wright and Matt proving more than capable of
translating the required narrative, and attaining the desired effect and
quality of finishing. The long wait proved worth it - both Matt's work
on Henry Evans' 'Over-Rider' and Paul's work on Harry Jones' 'Hysteria'
are landmark pieces of artwork. The sensuality and use of deep red and
blue colour themes makes both of these rides stand out - the artworks
resonating with highly-charged activity. Over-Rider is typically outrageous,
the figures engaged in sleazy embraces, some looking out from the artwork,
some totally oblivious - voyeurism translated on all levels. Hysteria
is a different story - this brings to bear Paul Wright's sheer ability
to create sweeping narratives and etch out intense attention to detail.
Watching you watching me... Matt's portrayal of extreme voyeurism on Evans' Over-Rider...
...versus Paul Wright's sublime clubland imagery on Jones' Hysteria
Hysteria marked a period of activity for Paul Wright
as artist of choice for Nottingham UK. Throughout 2000 and most of 2001
Paul worked on some classic Miami artworks, tending to develop figurative
aspects across various themes rather than focussing on dance and rave
music as a specific. Ironically the next rave dedicated Miami came at
a time of temporary (forced) retirement for Paul due to ill health. Robert
Perks' 'Mega Dance' worked with a Paul Wright design but used artist DC
Slater. The finished work proved to be one of DC's best efforts, with
the theming caught between scenes of dancefloor delirium and DC's own
preferred choice for glamour.
Perks' Mega-Dance provides a glimpse into artist DC Slater's vivid imagination
Subsequent Miami artworks were now split between DC
and Dutch artist Wul, with a rave theme adopted as a standard. As expected,
DC's works tended to veer towards female figures, whereas Wul's work represented
a bolder spread of figures - DJs, freestyle dancers, suave cocktail drinkers...
Wul produced works for Keith Stanworth (a mixture of pop and dance references),
Roger Tuby (the innovatively shaped 'Disco Fever'), Denzil Danter and
Joe Cullen - arguably Wul's best artwork during this short residency.
Stanworth's Remix sees Wul deliver a musical mix of themes...
...whilst his work for Cullens was probably his best so far
During this period Paul Wright's ideas were evident
in the background, working as a design consultant for the artworks, sharpening
up his computer graphics skills by developing software packages to pre-create
an artwork (or series of possible artworks). Paul, however, returned to
work at the end of 2002 with innovative artworks for both John Bugg ('Moondancer')
and John Simons ('The Buzz'). Once again the bar had been raised as Paul
created fresh designs and arrangements of figures, developing new colour
schemes and forging new 'background elements' to cement the flow of narrative
in the artwork. As well as working on other subjects, Paul continued the
rave theme with works for Joe White ('Freestyle') and a second Miami for
Henry Evans. As with Evans' previous artwork (the influential Over-Rider)
this pushed the limits of figure work with another highly charged, hedonistic
'Ibiza foam party'.
Moondancer indicated the increased attention to detail developed at Nottingham UK
John Simons' 'The Buzz' followed, with a newly focussed Paul Wright design
The period instigated by these influential artworks
created a flood of repaints based on rave themes. Dutch artists Wul and
Swen were prevalent here, working a machine with incredible speed. Matt
returned to work with a repaint for Bert Holland ('Chill Out'), and new
artists began to push through (Darren Smallwood, Fraser Day, Tony Rae).
However, 2004 opened with yet another incredible step forward by Paul
Wright with Alan Gillaine's 'Future Dance'. For this work Paul utilised
a more futuristic approach, despatching the customary 'blonde' rave figure,
for a short-cropped, dark haired, strong female central figure surrounded
by futuristic elements blending freestyle dancing and 'data shard' background
elements. This was part in response to the changing music scenes - the
heavily coporatised era of rave (superclubs brands established throughout
the late 1990s) had started to create an inevitable backlash as youth
culture searched for something less overtly packaged and more 'underground'.
Electro-pop influences emerged once again, followed by a rock-dance crossover
- these scenes starting to jostle for position as we progress through
the first decade of the third millennium. Whether the rave theme has reached
its limit is a tough question to call - by the end of 2005 it remained
a popular (and obvious) choice for Miami owners and artists - the mix
of exploding colours and glamour appealling to many sections of the crowd.
Future Dance signals a new era...?