Published on November 16th, 2012 | by PRESENCE0
A Necessary Evil
“Listen up! This is Reverend Bizarre with ‘They Used Dark Forces/Teutonic Witch’, and it’ll be taking care of you for the next 29 minutes.”
It’s nearly midnight on a Wednesday and Liam Gerrard is hosting Necessary Evil – his weekly metal radio show on 95bFM.
“‘Excoriating Abdominal Emanation’ by Carcass,” he says. “They pioneered grindcore in the early ‘90s. All vegetarians.”
Gerrard, 28, has just finished an unlikely collaboration with chef Mark Southon – a very non-vegetarian wall-to-table project called Art Dego.
“I made a pig-fish,” he says, referring to his new drawing of a pig’s head atop a fish skeleton. “[Southon] had seen one of my previous pig’s heads, and we did a pig-fish course – fish with cured pig’s cheek.”
Gerrard likes heads.
“I don’t like much other art. I prefer a big head that looks like it’s supposed to look like.”
He has been drawing portraits, on a large scale and almost exclusively with charcoal, since art school.
“I was in the print-making department and my enthusiasm was waning. They gave everyone a big roll of newsprint and some charcoal. I tried a big Keith Richards… and that was that.”
He spent three years after Elam touring and recording as keyboardist for The Veils, but after making what he describes as “an amicable departure”, he returned to his big heads.
At the moment, the art’s not paying the bills completely, but regular commissions are keeping Gerrard holed up in his Devonport studio – a room in his father’s house.
“It’s fucking filthy,” he says. Does his father mind?
“He may do, but he hasn’t raised any objections. I do feel slightly sorry for him – there are footprints leading from the studio to everywhere else.”
For part of his week at least, you can still find him writing ads in the corner of the bFM office. But after four years of struggling along as a semi full-time artist, the goal of making a living off art alone now seems within reach.
“Basically I haven’t been forced to go, ‘Oh well, this isn’t working’,” he says.
It takes him around a week to finish one of his impressively detailed drawings, and he says it’s generally people with a bit of money that end up buying them. He has no qualms about courting commercial success.
“I’m trying to sell my work,” he says.
His drawings are regularly on show at the Sanderson Gallery in Parnell. And, after one exhibition in Sydney, more international shows loom.
Some of the early attention he attracted, however, was not exactly what he’d hoped for.
“I was alerted to the New Zealand Portrait Awards, the Adam Awards, and I thought drawing Clayton Weatherston would be a good idea and would have a good chance of winning. It’s a $15,000 prize,” he says.
It was early 2010, and Weatherston had been convicted just months before of the murder of his girlfriend, Sophie Elliot.
The drawing became the focus of some media attention, although he says the phone calls soon stopped after journalists realised he wasn’t “a Clayton Weatherston fan”.
“It did just kind of highlight the small town-ness of New Zealand, which is a shame because it was an image that had been on every newspaper and on every TV screen in every household in the country. But stick it in an art gallery and – Whoa!”
The Weatherston portrait may be Gerrard’s most infamous, but is by no means remarkable among his other works. Skulls appear frequently in his drawings, and a design he submitted for a Mint Chicks t-shirt competition featured Helen Clark encircled by hairy breasts, the flesh on her cheeks torn out.
“I definitely have a dark sense of humour and a lot of gruesome stuff appeals, gruesome imagery,” he says.
“I guess there is that aspect to the metal culture – but metal is a lot more of a sonic thing for me.”
Along with building on his modest success with his charcoal drawings, he says he’s toyed with the idea of a graphic novel.
“And I would like to write,” he says. “There are a couple of film ideas. The gritty sports movie about darts is probably top of the list.”
Article by Will Pollard
Photography by Rabie Alburaiky
Artworks by Liam Gerrard
This article was sponsored by
The Golden Dawn Tavern of Power
This article was published in issue 11. of PRESENCE ZINE