The Salford artist behind the Alien Autopsy model is being featured in a Manchester art exhibition, celebrating the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

The artist, 67-year-old John Humphreys has created a distorted portrait sculpture of the Queen for ‘70 The Exhibition’, to honor HM Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee.

The group show curated by Monica Colussi has been commissioned to mark the launch of the ABC buildings in Enterprise City and will be hosted in the ABC gallery from June 17th to July 28th for public viewing.

In the video above, Humpreys introduces himself as a sculptor, adding “I was born in Salford and then attended Rochdale Art College and then Cheltenham (Art College).” 

“I’ve always been interested in figurative sculpture, painting.

When I went to art college, I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do, which was painting or sculpture. So I opted to paint sculptures.” 

He went on to say: “when I was a student, I didn’t have any money, no grants or anything like that.  So I used to work in the theater in the evenings. I used to do bronze casting in the afternoon at the weekends.” 

In 1980, during Humphreys’ final year at the Royal Academy Schools, he was commissioned by the designer of the 1981 romantic drama The French Lieutenant’s Woman, to make some sculptures for the set.

Max Headroom, by John Humphreys.

“Now the thing was for me personally, I didn’t particularly want to work in film or TV.

I wanted to do my own sculptures and things, but you have to make a living. 

So when I started working on films, my eye was always back to my own selfish things I wanted to make.” 

Another iconic sculpture created by John Humphreys is the character ‘Max Headroom’, which was advertised as “the first computer-generated TV presenter”, but little did the audience know that the only computer graphics were the lines in the background.

“I turned to my colleague, Peter Litten,  we worked together on it. I said, ‘oh, I think we’ve won the BAFTA award here’ 

It did get a BAFTA award, but we didn’t pick it up because it was sold as computer graphics.”

John also produced the original model for the 1995 black and white film ‘Alien Autopsy’, which went on to cause mass controversy throughout the late nineties”

“They showed me some degraded footage, but it was my interpretation of what was on it. But for me, it was a piece of my own sculpture work, as opposed to a special effect”,  John said as he spoke about the supposed 1947 Roswell Crash footage. 

John is known for his unusual, distorted sculpture work, which forces the viewer to resolve the hypnotic imagery before them.

“When you look at them, it’s almost like we are slightly traumatized. It’s a like bit like how we see things if we’ve had some kind of shock or trauma. 

“It’s this sense of alienation,  it’s hard for me to put into words. This is why I put it into sculpture, there’s this feeling of shock that something is not quite right.”

John said “the main theme of exhibition is celebrating the Queen’s reign. 

I know Monica Colussi, the curator, she’s Italian, but she’s always been a big, big, big fan of the queen and she just wanted to really celebrate her reign.

The Queen is a very unique person and she’s done an incredible job as the reigning Monarch and to do it for 70 years is incredible.

I’m looking forward to having this piece there and I think this exhibition is going to be really good.”

“I caught sight of the Queen as a six or seven-year-old”, John told Salford Now. 

“When I was a small boy in Manchester, I remember we were all given flags at school, little flags, to wave at the Queen when she was coming by. 

She came to Manchester and for some reason, she was driving through Collyhurst, the car slowed down, and we all waved.”

He paused before adding “I was trying to figure out when that was recently and it was when she came to Manchester to open Granada studios, which is right next to where the exhibition center is. So, it’s a really, really nice coincidence.”

Photo Credit: John Humphreys. John Humphreys’ portrait sculpture of the Queen.

When asked if he had considered changing his style to do the Queen’s portrait, John answered: “I have distorted the Queen, but it’s not a caricature.

Even though it’s a distorted thing, it’s a realistic portrait and I’ve spent so long doing just the hair alone.

I don’t think she would find offence in it, I think she’d find it quite amusing and fascinating.”

John had many challenges sculpting the Queen, but the most time-consuming issue was perfecting her majesty’s hair.

“I managed to get the portrait done pretty quickly. But I really struggled, really struggled with the hair. 

 It was sculpting all this kind of detail, and designing it, trying to understand the Queen’s hairstyle.

She wears her hair like a crown in itself.”

He continued: “It was worth it because when I did show the Royal Academy, I was astonished at how much attention was given by the general public to the hair because I’d forgotten the amount of effort I put into it.

I was just concentrating on the sculpture as a whole and the distortion.”

“I’m particularly excited because I’ve never exhibited before in Manchester, so close to my home town, Salford.

My sister who’s just been made the mayor of Salford, on my birthday, which is an honor for her. And we’re all very proud of her and she will be attending. So that will be very nice too.”

Artwork credit for video image above: Alison Aye

54-year-old Curator, Monica Colussi, has “The exhibition is unique and exceptional in each and every way. It’s a group show made of 28 international artists”

“I’ve been lucky to work again with some of the artists and they have accepted to be part of it.

So either they are completely crazy or perhaps they trust me.”

Besides from John Humphreys’ sculpture, Colussi says “photography, all techniques of painting, textile, non fungible tokens, photography, sculpture, literature, lenticular images and multimedia” will be at the exhibit.

Click here to explore more of John’s artwork, or here to find out more about the exhibition.

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