Born in Norwich in 1941, Colin Self came to prominence with the pop art scene of the 1960s and is now recognised as an important and innovative artist. He attended the Slade School from 1961 to 1963 and at this time, got to know David Hockney and Peter Blake, who began to collect his work. By 1964 he was showing at the cutting edge Robert Fraser Gallery, and by 1968 was producing technically groundbreaking prints with Editions Alecto. His engagement with Cold War politics and the nuclear threat gave his work a sinister mood and political edge that was distinct from the mainstream of pop art.
"The Senate of Anglia Polytechnic University has great pleasure in recommending the award of an Honorary Doctor of Letters Degree to Colin Self, internationally respected artist and a leading figure of British Pop Art, who has been associated with the University for 42 years!
Today we honour Colin, who is an alumnus of this University. He is a graduate of Norwich School of Art and Design and was subsequently a Tutor in Painting. His international standing as an artist is a significant factor in the public perception of Norfolk as a focus for contemporary art.
'War Baby' Colin was born and educated in Norwich, describes himself as a country person, not agricultural, not rural, not county but citizen of a no-mans-land between city and country which no longer exists. He has lived most of his life here and his work shows a particularly strong and individual response to the culture, landscape and history of this region. From Sprowston Junior School, he gained a place at Wymondham College Co-Educational Boarding School, before going on to Norwich Art School (where he seems to have been marked by CND) and then the famous Slade School of Fine Art in London. Here, in the early sixties, Colin was categorized at one point as being among the School's "worst three students," he befriended David Hockney and believes that this may have influenced his receiving a pass mark in his exams. Through the Cuban Missile Crisis ending with the anti-climax of a smiling Kennedy and Kruschev signing a peace agreement, Colin found creative release for the "logjam in his blocked psyche" and his career as a most gifted artist began to unfold in drawing, water colour, collage, oil painting, ceramics, sculpture and print media.
At the age of 22, the outstandingly best early 60s art gallery, Kasmin, was buying and selling his art, leaving Colin "to be an artist." Then, in 1965, after a travelling and drawing expedition of 12,000 miles criss-crossing the USA, he produced 36 coloured shaded drawings for his first One-Man Exhibition at the Piccadilly Gallery, London. He next became a gallery artist with the Robert Fraser Gallery and exhibited in all of their shows with a range of famous international artists, including John Lennon, David Hockney and Andy Warhol. Later, during the times of the apocalyptic social changes of the 60s, Colin remembers a curious dinner meeting with Robert Fraser who advised him somewhat cryptically that "...artists do not need dealers, they need artists," so Colin decided to become an "independent art maker" and to represent himself. He moved back to Norwich, then to Germany where he spent two years in creative 'together work' with ceramics Master Potter Mathies Schwarze.
Following the break-up of his marriage, Colin went to live in remote Galloway, Scotland, where he broke away from his creative past and lived 'wild', at one with nature and his transportable water colours, before returning to Norwich 'by stages.'
During the 80s and 90s Colin's art work was taken up by Royal Collections, the Institute of Contemporary Arts, the Royal Academy and The Tate in London and received national critical acclaim from Bill Feaver of the Observer and John Russell-Taylor of The Times, he travelled with his work to major museums in Cologne, Madrid and Montreal and his works are numerous in the Tate Gallery's Permanent Collection. To describe his outstandingly successful career to date, as comprehensive, would be an understatement. His biography lists 17 Known One-Man Exhibitions in the UK as well as Paris, Hamburg and Cologne; two Collaborative Two-Man Exhibitions of Ceramics in Germany; 200 Known Major Group Exhibitions of a variety of art forms in towns and cities throughout the world from London to Ljubljana and from Paris to Peking, including a Four-Man Exhibition in the Museum of Modern Art, in New York which toured the USA for 2 years; inclusion in Royal Collections: drawing of "The Tethered Mare" in the Collection of HM Queen Elizabeth II and a pastel on paper entitled "Nesting Canaries" in the Collection of HRH Prince of Wales; an enormous range of over 100 Fine Arts Prints Publications and various Exhibitions Posters, Postcard Publications, and Film, Television, Video and Home Movie, Record Covers and his works being cited in over 150 published references. Colin has also donated works to charities and good causes from Christian Aid to Children in Need and has been honoured himself by several awards, including, in 1992, The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition Koch-Ferry Award. Finally, Colin was invited to exhibit in the opening display of the Tate Modern (the refurbished Bankside Power Station, across the Thames from St Paul's Cathedral) two works, the most famous being Leopard Skin Nuclear Bomber.
This outstanding alumnus has achieved a very high public profile, is the most influential living artist in the region, one of the most important in the post-war period, consistently original and an inspiration to innumerable arts students and artists around the world.
It is for these reasons, therefore, that I invite you, Vice-Chancellor, to confer on Mr Colin Self, an Honorary Doctor of Letters degree of this University."