|October 2002 - my friend Michael Upton has died.
Originally from Birmingham, (born 1938) he studied painting at the Royal College of Art at the same time as David Hockney. Michael divided his activities between inexplicable performance work (sleeping in a 4 poster bed in Central Park) and small, quiet, beautiful gouaches in a time when everyone else seemed to be doing big messy paintings. He taught painting at the Royal Academy in London and proposed a quiet subversion within that extremely staid environment, among his students were David Crawforth and Naomi Siderfin, creators of Nosepaint and Beaconsfield.
Michael taught me at Maidstone in the 70s, alongside Stephen Partridge and many others and at that time introduced me to the music of Steve Reich (then fairly much unknown in England) through a casual remark about a concert I might like. Mike was an original member of The Flying Lizards, appearing on the first single 'Summertime Blues'. He was respected, sometimes derided and greatly loved for his intelligence, ideas, his sense of exploration, involvement, his concern that life should be fun and be intelligent in the same moment.
This is an inadequate tribute - others will be written which will be biographically stronger and include more of Mike's achievements and contributions to the world. His bizarre breadth of experience crosses so many boundaries that those who knew Mike can't complete all the connections he managed - on tour (again inexplicably) with Fats Domino, the swinging (and other) sixties connections that I don't know about, playing football with Bob Marley, the Art School demand that paint and easels be removed and art students all be given telephones and typewriters (a long time before the internet) - somehow all of this makes sense, it is a picture of the future, lived in the present.
There is more which others will write. Thank you Mike.
David Cunningham 22 October 2002