Entertainment & Arts

Bill Wyman: Reworked photos in new art exhibition

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Media captionPhotos by former Rolling Stone Bill Wyman are given an artistic twist

The photographic work of former Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman is being given an artistic twist for a new show at a London gallery.

Wyman, whose photographs were first exhibited in 2011, has handed over some of his prints to artists including the great cartoonist Gerald Scarfe who will rework and use them as the basis for new pieces.

Another is the young artist James Mylne, who produces photorealistic work using ballpoint pens.

Image caption Wyman captures guitarist Keith Richards in a playful mood...

"I gave Gerald Scarfe a few choices and and he chose the Keith Richard boxer pose, which is a mad one," he says.

"He's a lovely natural man and we seem to bump into each other and we always have a chat. It's nice to have that close relationship which I don't have with the other artists."

Image caption ... to which Scarfe adds his trademark wit

Scarfe - whose work includes illustrations for the film of Pink Floyd's classic album The Wall and Disney's animated Hercules movie - recently found himself at the centre of a row over a cartoon of Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu in The Sunday Times.

Wyman admits he never saw the offending cartoon, for which Scarfe apologised, but added he is a huge fan of the illustrator, whose career has spanned five decades.

"He gave me two cartoons he did of Mick in the '80s which are hilarious and he signed them for me," he says.

"They have this great huge mouth with a little body behind it with skinny legs."

Wyman, 76, who has been taking pictures since childhood, says it is only in recent years that he has thought about exhibiting them.

"They do say I have a better eye than the average person, I always call them snaps but people say they're a bit better than snaps so that's a nice compliment.

"But I mustn't get big-headed about it."

Backstage access

Wyman's photos cover landscapes and wildlife but it is his cataloguing of his former bandmates which naturally generates the most interest.

His four decades with the band have afforded him the type of access that other photographers can only dream about.

Image caption Wyman's 1969 shot of Mick Jagger is here reworked by the artist Penny

But, he admits, it was the boredom of life on the road, rather than the glamour of fame, which led to most of his great shots.

Particularly enlightening is a portrait of drummer Charlie Watts, who - some time ago - described 25 years of being in the Stones as "five years of work and 20 years of waiting around".

"It can be a boring life in the music business and I imagine the film business," says Wyman. "It gets boring when you're locked up in a hotel room and I'd be taking pictures out of a hotel room and people below."

The Watts picture - which shows the great sticksman resting his chin on his hand with a weary, benign smile - is one of just a few where Wyman's subject is looking directly at the camera.

"If you look at photos of people, celebrities, friends, 90% of them are not looking at the camera," says Wyman.

"If people start looking at a camera, they start posing and pulling silly faces. So you wait and engage them when they're looking the other way, distracted and then you get good shots."

Since leaving The Rolling Stones in 1993, Wyman's activities have included amateur archaeology and gastronomy - he has owned several restaurants. He has also written several books and is touring with his band The Rhythm Kings.

Image caption Stones drummer Watts has been reworked by stencil artist Penny

Wyman reunited with his former band briefly for their 50th anniversary show at the O2 Arena in London.

"Very briefly, short and sweet. I thought it was going to be heavily involved but in the end they only wanted me to do two songs, they chose them," says Wyman.

"I didn't know which ones until the day before, good job I'd rehearsed them. I said, 'Do you want me to come to rehearsals?' and they said, 'You know 'em all!'

"I didn't go to America for two minutes on stage, I had more important things to do in my life.

"It was nice to do the two songs though at the O2 and the fans went mad and my daughter saw me for the first time with the Stones, so that was special.

Image caption Wyman (in foreground), who was several years older than Jagger and Richards, played bass in The Rolling Stones between 1963 and 1993

"It was worth doing it for that reason alone."

With rumours rampant about the Stones possibly playing at this year's Glastonbury festival, would Wyman consider reuniting with them again?

"There's an old saying, once bitten twice shy," he smiles.

Bill Wyman: Reworked is at the Rook & Raven gallery in London from 27 February until 31 March.

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