“Music has been my constant companion – ‘my wife and my life’ – and whilst the formats have changed, the message has stayed the same. A keenly struck guitar declaring all that’s rock ’n’ roll – sex, drugs, love and death – has guided me on my journey.”
Stephen Palmer

Stephen Palmer’s recent paintings have catalogued his collection of free, found and received objects as a means of auditing and archiving his life through everyday mementos. For his latest project, Palmer has turned his attention to his own record collection. ‘The Dead and Alive Songs’ is a limited edition 7 inch vinyl single and accompanying screenprint making reference to all the songs in Palmer’s record collection that include in their titles the words ‘dead’, ‘death’, ‘die’ and ‘dying’, ‘alive’, ‘life’, ‘live’ and ‘living’. The vinyl single features two compositions demonstrating that in popular song optimistic proclamation is equally countered by dire pessimism: the alive side is a celebration of all the songs about existence while the dead side includes an arrangement based on all the songs about expiration. Both songs have been written and recorded by Palmer, who spent his teenage years expecting worldwide adulation for his musical efforts to be forthcoming at any time and who attended art school in order to follow in the footsteps of so many erstwhile art school rock stars before him. Worldwide adulation not forthcoming, he eventually gave up to concentrate on making art instead. ‘The Dead and Alive Songs’, Palmer’s first single release, is packaged in a full-colour sleeve accompanied by a 7 inch square screenprint featuring an image of the Chinn and Chapman penned 1973 single of the same name by Sharpen Temple.

Vinyl records have an interesting quality in that they are a kind of defunct technology that refuses to go away. The advent of MP3s has seemingly made vinyl more popular – if you’ve downloaded a track to listen to on your iPod but also want an object to add to your collection, vinyl records are somehow much more interesting and tactile than CDs, the artwork more appealing and the record itself a warmer and more fulfilling listening experience.

The release of ‘The Dead and Alive Songs’ is accompanied by an exhibition of related works including a new series of paintings featuring images of charity shop purchased 7 inch singles. Each of the records’ sleeves, all of which are the paper variety rather than picture sleeves, have been customised in some way by their former owners – sometimes simply by the addition of the song title or band’s name in a youthful scrawl, or in one case an attempt to recreate an entire picture sleeve, by hand, using felt-tip pens.

Read Roy Exley’s essay Recycling with a difference, written for Palmer’s previous Vane exhibition ‘Worthless little tokens’.

The Dead and Alive Songs
7 inch vinyl record and 2 colour screen print in full colour spined sleeve
Limited edition of 175 plus 25 artist’s proofs
£45 + postage & packing
Available from Vane's shop