What a load of Poppy Cock!

This August the Weavers Factory in Uppermill is launching the UK’s first exhibition of London Pop Artist and DJ Sina Sparrow.

Born in Iran, Sina’s family fled the Iranian revolution and settled in England in 1979. Always an outsider, Sina sought escapism through drawing Zines before becoming a Pop Artist and illustrator. Last year he designed a perfume range with Bella Freud and Liberty and since 2010 has run London’s infamous “Debbie” nightclub.

The Saddleworth Independent met Sina and asked him about his upcoming exhibition ‘PoppyCock!’

“My career has been quite diverse over the last 20-years so for my first UK exhibition I’ve concentrated on three of my most popular works; ‘Divas’, ‘Zines’ and ‘Dead Gay Porn Stars’.

I’ve been a big fan of female pop stars since I was a small boy, and when I came out aged of sixteen I discovered the concept of the ‘Diva’, a pop and film Goddess worshipped by gay men for her strength and beauty. 

Of course ‘Divas’ aren’t just idolised by gay men, from the Virgin Mary in the Catholic church to ancient Goddesses, the symbol of a a strong independent woman is central to many cultures. For this exhibition I’ve drawn a brand new portrait of Ariana Grande, who for many young gay men is as popular as Madonna was for me back in the 1980s.

‘Divas’ remains central to my life as both an artist and DJ, particularly at “Debbie”, my London nightclub devoted to female vocalists (it’s named after Debbie Harry, naturally). And art is very much a part of “Debbie” too – I love seeing people at the club wearing my art on their bodies.

The New York artist Keith Haring was a huge inspiration to me, by putting his collectable art onto t-shirts he became the first gay artist to make his work both accessible and affordable.

As well as Divas I’ve also spent 20-years drawing Zines, which are hand-made graphic comics. At school I was bullied for being an outsider so I quickly found that making Zines gave me an outlet to create a gay world I could only dream of.

I’d always loved superhero comics, especially Marvel and DC, so I created my own fantasy world. Whether I’m drawing Atash (my gay superhero) or creating more autobiographical stories and images for my comic ‘Art Fag’, it’s a way of sharing something both gay and personal with my audience.

And finally I wanted to include a series of drawings I made of gay porn stars from the 1980s. It was a difficult time for gay men working in the adult industry and many died from AIDs or HIV-related illnesses. 30-years on it remains a dangerous profession only nowadays many die from accidental drug overdoses or by taking their own lives.

So I wanted to look back at my youth and celebrate the gay porn stars of my day by revealing the real lives behind the sultry scowls. And by drawing them in soft pastel shades it evokes the spirit of the 1980s ‘Athena-style’ art and reveals a tender side hidden behind their macho exteriors. 

Sina Sparrow’s exhibition ‘PoppyCock!’ opens on Saturday 3rd August and runs until Sunday 1st September at the Weavers Factory, Uppermill.

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