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Ronnie Heeps Frankie's Scottish Bride


Frankie & Other Stories


Solo Show
14th January - 6th February 2005



~ Ronnie Heeps in conversation with Dr Ralph Deeson ~

Dr Ralph Deeson. What first attracted you to the notion of making work about the monster sometimes referred to as Frankenstein?

Ronnie Heeps. Firstly, let me say, I think Mary Shelley's book is the saddest thing I've ever read. I read it many years ago and was struck by its power, its originality. The book is sometimes thought to be a flawed masterpiece but for me its flaws are somewhat irrelevant. Rather than detracting from the story the flaws, seem to add to its humanity, it really is an extraordinary gothic fantasy, its scale is simple immense.

Ronnie Heeps
Frankie Sings the Blues

RD. There have been many interpretations of Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein the Modern Prometheus," do you think any come close to the gothic horror of the original?

RH. Your right Ralph, it has been covered many times, both in theatre and in the cinema. I personally think the early Hollywood versions where Boris Karloff played the monster were the most successful. His portrayal of the monster is the one we all think of as the archetype. Karloff's portrayal is an acting, tour-de-force; extremely frightening, with just the right amount of pathos, no mean feat. I first saw his performance when I was about eight or nine. Our local cinema was on its uppers and the manager turned a blind eye to letting children in to see X-rated horror films. He probably thought horror films were a bit of a laugh and wouldn't harm the robust mind of a young child. Of course this suited me down to the ground, I saw lots of freaky shit at the time and it doesn't seem to have done me any harm, Ha Ha Ha.

RD. As you say, the subject has been looked at many times. As a visual artist, do you think you have brought something fresh to the subject?

Ronnie Heeps
Come to Daddy

RH. That's a good question Ralph. I sometimes wonder if painting can ever really compete with theatre or cinema. One of the things in the book that surprised me was the fact that the monster was very articulate. Once he had learnt to read, which he managed to do in a very short period, he became an acute analytical, existential being. He was not the bumbling fool often portrayed in later manifestations. The best parts of the book, which really crackle with theatrical electricity, are the times when the monster is interacting with Dr Frankenstein. You must remember Frankie (that's the name I've chosen to call the monster), wasn't too pleased about being dropped into a world where its inhabitants considered him to be monstrous: Who would be pleased? His isolation turned him into an evil being. Dr Frankenstein did not intend him to be a bad person. It seems to me there is a lot of people who are not too pleased about being trapped in their own particular situation, within the real, big bad, world. Their frustration often turns into violence. I approached the paintings from that angle, the Frankenstein imagery was simply a way of looking at this problem through a magnifying glass.

You know Ralph on one level the show has very little to do with Mary Shelley's eponymous antihero, its actually more about the difficulties we all face, when trying to fit our own unique personalities into a preconceived fixed world order. It may seem obvious but I think the biggest problem facing any individual passing through this mortal coil is actually, how you as an individual, manage to fit into the domanent social structure. In the book, when Frankie came across this problem his situation was exasperated by the fact that he never had a childhood. He never learned what society expected from him. Of course, the fact that he actually looked like a monster slightly complicated matters. Monsters come in many forms Ralph but poor old Frankie was the Mother of them all.

RD. You seem to have divided the show into two definite halves by using lighting and the physical geography of the gallery. What was your thinking behind that division?

Installation View

RH. I suppose this show, like a lot of my work, is really about perceptions, the first room in the gallery is lit by candles and is consequently rather dark and sad, it could be read as depicting Frankie's perception of an uncaring world. A soft door, adorned by symbols depicting the requirements for entry, bars the passage leading into the second room. You could read the second room as a possible depiction of the illusionary collective perspective of the world we all inhabit, that is to say the collective perspective of everyone who is born of woman, everyone who does not have bolts through their neck. Frankie never managed to enter that second room, the world of human society, as he could not figure out the requirements to do so. His ghost managed to make an appearance but poor old Frankie never really had a chance, like many lost-souls, he was dealt a bum deal from the start. There just ain't no place in our lovely world for monsters. If you are a monster and want to survive in the sun-kissed domain, which is nature's garden, you are required to adopt a damned good disguise.

RD. It has been a pleasure talking to you Ronnie, and I look forward to your next project, what can the public expect from you next?

RH. Well Ralph, I have enjoyed talking to you; as for the public they can expect whatever they like. I'm currently finishing off a commission for the government of Jersey which consists of six history paintings and an animated film about the life and times of Sir Walter Raleigh which will be installed in October 2005. I am also involved with the redevelopment of the seaside town of Blackpool , where that will lead me is, at the moment, in the lap of the gods. As for my next painting project, I am currently looking into the possibilities of illustrating the oceanic behaviour of the alien planet "Solaris" described by Stanislaw Lem in his book of the same name. What form that illustration will take remains, at this time, unresolved.

Ronnie Heeps
Installation View


Ronnie Heeps