Art that pops

Josh Pennell
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Bill Rose takes iconic images and makes his own statement

It’s fair to say that rock and roll struck a chord with Bill Rose at a very early age

“I was 11 when the Beatles came to North America and appeared on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show.’ I watched it that night and it changed my life. I got a guitar. Music has been a big part of my life,” he says.

And it’s not just the music that influences him, but the images that come from the iconic artists like the Beatles and Rolling Stones. Rose is a visual artist who uses iconic images of such pop culture icons to make his own art. A new piece of his is of Rolling Stones founder Brian Jones, who was found dead in his pool in 1969. The image of Jones is actually made up of about 20,000 tiny rubber stamps that have an image of John Lennon on them. Rose picked the Lennon shot and worked with it in Photoshop and had the rubber stamps made up. The Jones piece took him about five weeks whereby he broke the picture down into a grid and worked one block at a time with the stamps and an ink pad and roller.

“It’s a long process, but fairly controlled doing it that way,” says Rose.

He’s been painting for 35 years and started with landscapes and flowers like many people. But it was pop culture that jumped out at him.

“They say in writing, write about what ya know. And I guess in painting, paint about what ya know,” he says.

He has an exhibit now called “Rock and Roll ... Anything Worth Doing Is Worth Overdoing!” that’s filled with pieces like one he created of Brian Jones. He’s been working toward the show for about 2 1/2 years, but also has some pieces in it from before that time.

“The thing with doing pop culture stuff is most people don’t have access to these people. Most of them are dead,” Rose says.

So that involves taking something that already exists and making something else out of it. He has one of Michael Jackson that’s done in the same manner as the Brian Jones piece, but it’s filled with rubber stamps that have a picture of Mickey Mouse ears on them. He titled it “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.”

Rose also does things with classic album covers.

“I took my Abbey Road album, which I bought in 1969 when it came out, and I put Justin Bieber on there. It seemed to piss a lot of people off. I don’t know how the Bieber people feel about it,” Rose says.

His work isn’t just fan art in which he recreates images of people he admires.

“I’m more interested in making some sociopolitical comment,” he says.

One such statement that strikes close to home is an image of Paul McCartney that Rose made out of dollar sign rubber stamps on a section of a sealskin coat. It was made after McCartney debated then premier Danny Williams over the morality of the seal hunt. Rose calls the piece, “The Walrus was Paul.”

That piece won’t be in this show, but there are plenty of others. The pieces are for sale and people can get a look at them Friday, May 30, at the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre from 5-8 p.m.

Organizations: Beatles, Rolling Stones

Geographic location: North America, Photoshop, Abbey Road

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