Elton John’s songwriter to unveil new visual art at exhibit

Bernie Taupin, left, is portrayed as Elton John's, right, friend in the biopic “Rocketman.” (File/AFP)
Updated 06 June 2019
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Elton John’s songwriter to unveil new visual art at exhibit

  • The exhibit will feature 20 sculptures and artworks constructed from barbed wire, shattered guitars and several US flags
  • The artist is credited with co-writing Elton’s “Rocketman” and “Bennie and The Jets” songs

BEVERLY HILLS, California: Bernie Taupin is known for his longtime musical work with Elton John, but the British songwriter’s visual artistry is stepping into the spotlight through an art exhibit.

Taupin’s artwork called “Bernie Taupin: The Artist, The Raconteur & His Blowtorch” will be unveiled at the Galerie Michael on Friday. The exhibit will feature 20 unseen, life-size sculptures and artwork made from barbed wire, shattered guitars and various American flags.

The exhibit runs until June 30.

“This is inspired by things that inspire me,” said Taupin, who is credited for co-writing an array of songs with John including “Rocket Man,” “Bennie and The Jets,” “Tiny Dancer” and “Candle in the Wind.” He is portrayed in John’s new biopic “Rocketman.” He’s also written for Alice Cooper and Willie Nelson, and released three solo albums and two others with a band called With Farm Dogs.

Taupin has been creating visual art since the age of 17, and he says his work has appeared in museums and exhibits throughout the US The 69-year-old said his visual artwork is an extension of what he spent his life creating through words.

“This is a comprehensive overview of my work,” he said. “It’s certainly one of the largest that I’ve ever presented. This is very much me in the moment.”

Taupin said veterans and family members of veterans who were killed in action donated the flags to him. The flags include images of Captain America and Johnny Cash along with chicken wire.

Some of the flag artwork on display has a clean or weathered look. He intentionally burned pieces of the flag during his creation process to show the different elements of American patriotism.

Taupin said using the flag was an obvious choice, calling it an “iconic” artifact. The British-born songwriter said he is fascinated with the American flag because it is a “thrilling representation of the drama that this country is built upon. The good and the bad.”

“It’s got so much history attached to it,” he said. “For me, it’s a very heroic symbol. I always say it’s been battered and burned, but it has this ability to come back and unify people. Inspire people. Hopefully within the framework of my work, that’s what it’s doing.”

Taupin also created visual art with thought-provoking messages without the flag. He has a piece of artwork with Woody Guthrie’s “This Machine Kills Fascists” famous line, while another piece read “I Don’t Play Rock ‘n’ Roll” with an assembly of broken guitars underneath the message.

Michael Schwartz, founder of the Galerie Michael, called Taupin one of those “rare creative geniuses.”

“I thought to myself, ‘How will his art compare to the level of his genius and his writing music and poetry?’ But I was shocked,” said Schwartz, whose 40-year-old-plus fine art gallery has featured works from Rembrandt including originals from Picasso and Renoir.

“(Taupin’s work) has the same vibration,” he continued. “It has this unique quality of somehow being able to communicate on an inner basis. A visual basis to people.”

Taupin said his approach toward writing songs and creating visual art is totally different.

“One is visual, one is sonic,” he said. “One is created in a much more visceral atmosphere than the other. The art is very loud and noisy. When I write songs, it’s very quiet and tranquil. It’s as simple as that.”


Jeddah's Kanz Al-Balad, Al-Ozwa Street Performance enthrall visitors

Updated 16 June 2019
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Jeddah's Kanz Al-Balad, Al-Ozwa Street Performance enthrall visitors

  • Kanz Al-Balad takes visitors on a historical journey through Jeddah’s Al-Balad, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Al-Ozwa Street Performance is an interactive play about a young man who is preparing for his engagement ceremony

JEDDAH: The 40-day Jeddah Season festival is currently underway, with the launch of a schedule of international shows and plays being presented for the first time in Saudi Arabia.

The festival, which began on June 8 and runs until July 18, forms part of a major drive to boost tourism in the Kingdom.

Most of the festival’s events are taking place at King Abdullah Sports City, Jeddah’s historical area, Al-Hamra Corniche and the Jeddah Waterfront.

Among the events is the Kanz Al-Balad scavenger hunt for families and children, with 41 shows lined up for the duration of the festival. 

Kanz Al-Balad is organized daily at Bab Jadeed from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., and is aimed at helping participants learn more about Jeddah, interact with businesses, and improve their creativity and problem-solving skills.

Participants are split into teams, and are tasked with finding hidden objects or places with the help of clues.

Kanz Al-Balad takes visitors on a historical journey through Jeddah’s Al-Balad, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

For comedy and history lovers, Al-Ozwa Street Performance is a must. There are four 45-minute shows daily until the end of the festival.

The interactive play, set 100 years ago, is about a young man named Omar who is preparing for his engagement ceremony, and encounters a dilemma unrelated to his engagement.

He needs the audience’s help to get him out of the trouble he is in, and to have a problem-free engagement ceremony. Show timings are 6:15 p.m., 7:30 p.m., 8:45 p.m. and 10 p. m.

Raed Abuzinada, general supervisor of Jeddah Season, said the festival is part of a national initiative to promote the tourism sector, which is a major contributor to the Saudi economy.

Visitors buying tickets online for any of the festival’s events can secure an e-tourism visa at the same time, he added. The visa will be issued within three minutes, he said. Details are at www.sharek.com.sa.