On the eve of unveiling my new ‘Saliva Tree’, I thought I’d take a moment to re-post a video clip of version 1, showing it featured on ITV’s Loose Women in 2007, sandwiched between an interview with Patsy Palmer and a discussion about flatulence.
The original ‘Carol McGiffin Saliva Tree’ was created for a group exhibition at Nolias gallery in south London, featuring fellow illustrators Natsko Seki, Mr. Bingo, Emily Forgot, Ruth Bartlett and Alice Stevenson.
The show was curated by Guardian art director Gina Cross, at whose behest we decided to choose a theme around which to produce work. At a rather haphazard brainstorm meeting in Charing Cross, Alice suggested we use a Lewis Carroll quote - ‘Sometimes I’ve Believed Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast.’ Over time this got shortened to ‘The Six Exhibition’ (well, there were six of us).It wasn’t a gigantic earth-shattering leap for me to start thinking about the old ‘six degrees of separation’ theory. Quickly I started work a series of A4 ‘six degrees’ pencil sketches.
The challenge was to see how quickly you could go from a reality TV person to an unexpectedly impressive end result. My original victims were, in no particular order, Rebecca Loos, Faria Alam, Jade Goody and Jodie Marsh. Faria Alam was my favourite. She’d appeared on Big Brother with MP George Galloway. Galloway had visited Iraq and met Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz. Aziz, a Catholic, had been treated to an audience with the Pope. The Pope had also met with the Dalai Lama on many occasions. The Dalai Lama is believed to be the living incarnation of Avalokitesvara, Bodhisattva of compassion. So there you go… six degrees separate a Buddhist deity from a woman whose fame rests upon nowt more than dropping her drawers for a football manager.I also needed a larger piece for the wall, so I started work on a big ‘relationship tree’, connecting celebrities via their various marriages and dalliances. The original idea came from my friend Sarah, who’d once told me that at her school she and her mates would scribble little ‘saliva tree’ diagrams connecting themselves to one another via the boys they’d snogged. This made me smile and I decided to have a try making one.
The A1 poster-sized piece would only, I knew, have any impact if you could follow the path from a UK TV celebrity down to the golden greats of Hollywood. I decided to top the chart with Chris Evans’ ex-wife Carol McGiffin for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, the very fact she was on my radar seemed to say something about my life as a freelance artist working from home. Munching Super Noodles and watching Loose Women on my lunch break seemed a statement of my own isolation at that particular moment. Only a certain demographic can ever be lucky enough (would ‘luck’ be the word?) to experience the pain and pleasure that is Loose Women.
Secondly, I wanted to top the chart off with someone I genuinely like. I wouldn’t mind sharing a pint or two with Carol, and I didn’t think she’d mind me putting her atop my artwork. There was nothing snide or ironic going on.
My fellow exhibitor Mr. Bingo suggested I send a copy of the finished tree into Loose Women. I eventually sent the image to Carol, care of the show, with a rather apologetic letter urging her not to be freaked out. (Let’s be realistic – I’d placed her at the head of a 100 person fuck-tree – the potential for offence was difficult to deny)
One morning I received a call from an ITV producer to tell me that my work was scheduled to feature on the show that day. It was an average work day, I had a magazine deadline later that afternoon. Fantasy car-crashed with reality in the most odd fashion. After spending a couple of years watching Loose Women every day, today they were going to discuss me while I ate my regulation Super Noodles.
I panicked (for me, you understand, an unsurprising response to any given scenario). Would they mock me publicly, would they cackle at my folly and tear up my artwork in front of the nation, before publicly shitting on the shreds?
The result, as you can see from the clip, is one minute of rather awkward segue between two items – spotlighting in particular Denise Welch’s lack of acumen in art criticism. 7 likes and 2 dislikes on youtube. Woohoo.