‘More From the Heart And the Brain Than for the Eye’: Legendary Songwriter Bernie Taupin on His Soho Painting Show
"Ragged Glory" at Chase Contemporary coincides with Taupin's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Talk about a week of honors. Legendary songwriter and longtime Elton John writing partner Bernie Taupin is in New York this week for his induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame at Barclays Center, alongside other superstars such as Kate Bush, Sheryl Crow, and Missy Elliot.
However, amid those career-capping festivities, Taupin also found the time to add another accolade to his busy schedule: the opening last night in Soho of his solo art show at Chase Contemporary. The show, titled “Bernie Taupin: Ragged Glory,” features a selection of compositions centering on the American flag, a motif that emerges from his reflections on family history—his father fought in WWII—and patriotism (“you would be hard pressed to find one having a more far-reaching effect on the psyche of the world than our own Stars and Stripes,” he writes in the press release.)
This is not the first time Taupin has shown such works. Previously, his flag-inspired canvasses were featured in a show called “American Anthem” at the Museum of Biblical Art in Dallas. And, while painting is not what he is best known for, it has been a lifelong passion for Taupin. “My inspiration for the visual arts started at a very young age looking through picture books with my mother of works by J.M.W. Turner—especially the heroic battle scenes—and the works of Van Gogh,” he explained via email.
He first began painting in earnest at his ranch some 20 years ago. While Taupin says that there is not a real relationship between his songwriting and his visual art, they are connected in at least one way: It was the international success he had with Elton John that allowed him to have the exposure to art that inspired him to paint.
“During our travels in the music world, I frequented most of the major museums, refining my eye and my taste,” Taupin said. “On our first trip to America in 1970, I had the opportunity to visit the Museum of Modern Art in New York where I discovered and was amazed by the Abstract Expressionists, particularly De Kooning and Hans Hoffman.”
Other figures that impressed Taupin include Jean-Michel Basquiat, Wassily Kandinsky, Anselm Kiefer, and Robert Rauschenberg. Some of these influences you see in canvasses featuring guitars stuck to the surface, vibrant colors, and scrawled text. He appreciates art, he said, that is “more from the heart and the brain than for the eye.”
Taupin said that he appreciated that the audience would probably come to “Ragged Glory” based on his celebrity—he is literally in the pantheon of Rock and Roll now, after all—but hoped they would find something deeper in the paintings. “I suspect most visitors to the exhibition may arrive with our songs and even with Elton’s melodies playing in their heads,” he wrote. “I hope people will experience another form of expression—a most personal statement from me.”
“Bernie Taupin: Ragged Glory” is on view at Chase Contemporary, 413 West Broadway, New York, through November 19, 2023.
Follow Artnet News on Facebook:
Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.