The Verse’s Jake Francis attended Mr. Bingo’s artist talk on Thursday, 21st February 2019.
This nickname – ‘Baghdad’ – is a work of genius, ladies and gentleman. I still know this man, he is 43 years of age, he is a father of three children and he is still called Baghdad. And you’re probably thinking ‘Well, Gregg – there must be some sort of clever connection with the middle east as to why he was called Baghdad’. No, he has been called this for all these years because once he came into school with a new bag that his dad had bought him. 30 years I’ve been laughing at that. And here’s the best bit – his kids call him Baghdad. -Greg Davies.
Whether we like it or not, the nickname will darken the doorway of everybody’s ego at some point in their lives. Typically speaking, this often occurs at school. Its triviality matched only by its creativity (or lack thereof). These can, of course, be as endearing as they are snide, but regardless of their intention, they are awfully hard to shake. I should know – my long hair and prepubescent stature landing me with a label of biblical proportions. (‘Fat Jesus’, nice to meet you.)
The host of tonight’s talk has certainly embraced this right of passage with an unrivalled level of commitment. Dubbed Mr. Bingo from the age of 19, our guest of honour received his Tarantino-esque nickname from an impressive haul at a, you guessed it, local bingo hall. (£191.27, for those who are interested) Most notably recognised for his incredibly popular ‘Hate Mail’ campaigns, the freelance illustrator is here in Guildford’s Boiler Room as part of the Artist Talk 2019 series.
Presenting us with an insight into his impressive and varied career, Mr. Bingo constructs an entertaining narrative. Peppered with the expected trimmings of any lecture; statistical graphs, professional advice, and of course…rapping. For those who follow Mr. Bingo’s career, it will be no surprise that this trip down ‘memory f*cking lane’ is no brief affair. The following review will do him no justice; so, Mr. Bingo, please accept your overweight saviour’s humble apologies.
The talk starts with a fitting depiction of Mr. Bingo’s blunt humour and endearing tom-foolery, all centred on our introduction to the infamous Martin Olley. Perpetuated from a once scathing review of Mr. Bingo’s work from Olley in dot.net magazine, a toing and froing of mutual resentment have fuelled humorous expressions on both sides. A ‘muse’ of sorts, Olley has cropped up time and time again in Mr. Bingo’s works as a result of this penned criticism- taking the form of commissions for national businesses, local murals, or his personal publications. For every ‘Martin Olley is a c*nt’ in each new exploit, there is an amusingly British 2/5 star Amazon review in response; it is clear that our host is one who enjoys a cantankerous challenge. Entertainingly skimming through initial successes as an illustrator for hire, it is not long until we catch a glimpse into Mr. Bingo’s creative priorities: enjoyment.
Meandering through the trials and tribulations of fitting a corporate brief or pitch, Mr. Bingo earnestly pins down the universal dissatisfaction of any artist working today. Whether it’s being asked to emulate another’s style, to reign in one’s ‘edge’, or a complete apathy for the product in question, Mr. Bingo soon realised that this was not going to work for him. Cue the drunken tweet that changed it all. On one fateful night, this social media post promised a soon to be internationally celebrated agreement – pay a fee, and receive a bespoke slanderous artwork. Christened with a slur towards Mr Jonathan Hopkins ‘sh*t legs’, Hate Mail was officially born. Centred on three distinct rules (‘no requests’, ‘can be sent to anyone’, and ‘it’s not my fault’), Hate Mail soon buckled under its incredible popularity, leading Mr. Bingo to close the campaign after just 3 days of open submission.
Since it’s conception, the campaign has been opened on numerous occasions for short periods of time, leaving people scrawling in desperation to be ironically venerated on the artist’s own personal collection of obscure postcards. The series has attracted numerous forms of attention on a global scale, with international media coverage spanning as far as Spain, Germany, and (ready the Trump impression) China. Most notably, Hate Mail supported Mr. Bingo in creating a refreshing Kickstarter campaign, aiming to rewrite past resentments with the self-publishing of a definitive collection.
Devoid of the usual absurdity and vapid showmanship, Mr. Bingo’s campaign took the well-earned clichés on the chin – resulting in a heavily watered down introductory 3 minute rap (originally 23) Depending on your level of monetary support, you could ‘get sh*tfaced on a train’ with the author, meet for a beer with him in 2020, be trolled for a week, or even receive a verbal kicking to the phone number of your choice on Christmas day. The project was funded in full within 9 hours, and in the end, exceeded its targets to 386% by day 28.
Since this overwhelming support, Mr. Bingo has fully relinquished his ‘whoring’ to companies in favour of his own projects. Each being developed in a state of the self-motivated ‘f*ck it’. The talk continues in relishing Bingo’s different avenues, including a Brexit tea towel (49% of customers liked it), eroticising the queen via postage stamps, and even forays into sculpture.
Arguably, the biggest contender to Hate Mail in terms of its social reach and popularity is the artist’s annual advent calendar, continuing since 2016. Although lacking the traditional chocolates, these advent calendars boast visual delectation as an alternative. Consisting of ‘scratch it’ paint, the calendar allows its owner to strip one of the 25 individuals bare to their liking on each given day within the Christmas season. Each year brings new scenarios and concepts to the formula, with Mr. Bingo sourcing real people through international open calls as they sip a pint, dance to their favourite song, or bond with their pet – all in the buff.
Simply put, Mr. Bingo represents a much-needed palette cleanser in the creative industries. Celebrating the mere joy of connecting with people through one’s output, the artist/musician/ socialite reminds us that there is a lot to be said for making it up as you go on. Whether it’s subverting the zeitgeist of Black Friday with a 25% price increase, travelling to Ipswich to provide one of your followers a certificate of support, or creating a Valentine’s singles party for those who bought a sardonic print, Mr. Bingo serves as the example of uncompromising productivity. Self-doubt and cynicism is all too easily a crippling weight on those who have something to offer, it exacerbated further by the pain of a vicarious career. Perhaps we all need a bit more ‘f*ck it’
Thank You’s :
Mr.Bingo, The Boiler Room, Andrew
No thank you’s:
Mr Bingo’s lecture is a part of ‘Artist Talks 2019’, a non-profit series of events hosted by The Boiler Room Guildford. The next talk will be illustrator Liv Bargman on Thursday the 21st March.
For more information, please visit: www.artisttalks.co.uk