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Jim Moir, The Life and Times of An Amusing Artist

“People Think I’m A Comedian, But Art Comes First” - Vic Reeves, 2021

If one has never heard of Jim Moir, the artist, it is probably down to the fact that the man of mystery ordinarily goes by the stage name, Vic Reeves. If one still has no idea who the artist is, then it still is not that surprising. When Moir is being Vic, one can normally see the artist doing something on stage, tv, or radio and usually for comedic effect. And despite eventually making it as a household name in the comedy world, Moir's unique, offbeat, absurdist sense of humour is very niche. When Moir is not working as a comic, one can normally find him in his studio busy painting. Moir looks at the world through very peculiar eyes. To give the reader a sense of the man, a description given of himself as a child, in the cleverly entitled autobiography - Vic Reeves Me: Moir Volume one, Moir talks of being home alone and wandering around the house imagining himself as a fully-fledged martial artist. Moir goes on to say that there was much enjoyment by creeping around the rooms using the wonderful gift of tip-toeing. Moir was born in Leeds in 1959 but spent most of his childhood in the northeast of England in Darlington. Moir loved the outdoors and would spend many hours searching for pondlife, or climbing trees and collecting insects and such.

Vic reeves art. (n.d.). [Photograph]. Vic Reeves Art.

Coming from the northeast of England, most of the work was industrial and many had to live a life working in mines or factories. If one had even the slightest artistic bent, keeping it to themselves was probably the most sensible thing to do. The manly thing to do was to get a job in the local factory, earn an honest living to put food on the table for the family. Anyone in the Arts was viewed with suspicion. Naturally, Moir undertook an apprenticeship in mechanical engineering in a factory not far from home and settled on the idea of a life in the factories. However, the creative juices that were flowing from within Moir's psyche were just too powerful to hold back. Eventually, Moir got enrolled in art school when moving to South London during the 1980s. It would be the turning point in the artist's life. The big plan was to become a painter, however, after getting a job booking comedians and comparing at a comedy club, Moir soon had the foresight to pocket the money for himself and create comedy shows for friends and anyone else who came to the shows. Moir would enjoy painting and designing sets and making props for the show. On one particular night, Moir wore a cardboard box as a helmet for no apparent reason. Moir or Vic did not once refer to the cardboard box which left friends' guffawing and others bewildered. In an advert for another show, Vic proudly announced that there would be a magnificent prize for the 'Best Presented Cucumber'. It was here that Moir would meet long-term friend and comedy partner Bob Mortimer. The two continued to do shows and within months, people were queuing up to see the pair of them perform. Before the end of the decade, the comedy duo found themselves on radio and television. Moir and comedy partner, Mortimer went on to make several shows which became cult hits, especially among students. Most notably, Vic Reeves Big Night Out (1990), The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer (1993), and Shooting Stars (1993).

Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer on ‘House of Fools’, future tours and their influence on Ant and Dec. (n.d.). [Photograph]. Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer on ‘House of Fools’, Future Tours and Their Influence on Ant and Dec.

Even by Moir's own admission, going down the comedy route was a completely happy accident. It was never the intention. Moir saw comedy as just another branch of artwork. It also allowed the artist to sneak the artwork into the comedy, designing props, masks, and various outfits. In 1999, a collection of drawings and paintings were published in Moir's brilliantly fictitious diary, Vic Reeves Sun Boiled Onions. It is a collection of absurd, weird, and wonderful stories that accompany the artwork. As a continuing theme in Moir's artwork, the fascination for warped depictions of celebrities is skillfully eked out. The drawings and paintings of these celebrities are both accurate in appearance but decidedly odd, too. The heads are usually double the size or distorted in some way or too small for the bodies and the features are warped as if looking at one's own reflection in the back of a spoon. They are often captioned with a funny statement, for instance, an illustration of the legend crooner, Frank Sinatra with the caption: 'Buying fan heaters from Argos with Frank Sinatra and ironing his slacks in his bucolic cottage.' (Argos is an electrical goods store in the UK).

Superman at rest. (n.d.). [Illustration]. Superman at Rest.

In 2019, Moir won the Sky Arts series, Celebrity Portrait Artist Of The Year. This helped to propel his artistic persona into the consciousness of mainstream audiences. Moir has exhibited several pieces of artwork around the country including exhibiting work in Newcastle at The Biscuit Factory and, My Family and Other Freaks (2007) at the Eyestorm Gallery, London, to name just a few. Since the Pandemic began in 2020, Moir has been extremely fruitful in producing lots of drawings, paintings, and images in the studio at home. Moir has turned them into a collection of work to publish another book, Vic Reeves Art Book. It is essentially a follow-on from previous themes. What makes Jim Moir's work so compelling is that the funny man's anarchic sense of humour spills off the canvas for all comedy fans to enjoy as well as the art audiences. Recently, Moir was asked did he always want to be an artist, Moir answered by saying that the word 'want' is a dangerous thing. Moir's point was that creativity is either within you or not. Someone of Moir's creative talent would have naturally guided him into the creative industry whatever path the entertainer may have gone down, however, for argument's sake, if Moir had not been fortunate enough to earn a living from being an artist one gets the feeling that the funny man would have been just as happy having his passions as merely a hobby.



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Peter Terrence

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