PUNK ART: Jimmy Willing with the print to be exhibited at The Night Of The Iguana at the Newsagency Gallery in Petersham Sydney. INSET: Jimmy Willing in his punk rock days.
PUNK ART: Jimmy Willing with the print to be exhibited at The Night Of The Iguana at the Newsagency Gallery in Petersham Sydney. INSET: Jimmy Willing in his punk rock days. Peter Briggs

Jimmy Willing returns to punk roots in big smoke

JIMMY Willing has collaborated with some of the biggest names in the Australian music industry such as The Whitlams, Mental As Anything, not to mention Richard Tognetti's Australian Chamber Orchestra but, with three daughters to raise, he has always called Lismore home.

His trademark lino-prints and local musical collaborations have made him one of the region's most colourful artists.

Jimmy has always remained loyal to the live music scene and his ability to make a living was rocked by the flood but a new opportunity has recently emerged leaving him genuinely "surprised”.

The passion for punk rock that saw him get into "so much trouble” as a young artist is now opening doors he never thought possible.

With the 70th birthday of Iggy Pop, he can now wear his punk rock credentials as "a badge of honour”.

Jimmy Willing in his Punk Rock days.
Jimmy Willing in his Punk Rock days.

AS it's 40 years since 1977, I'd already decided to work on a punk theme this year which fits in well with being invited to exhibit at The Night Of The Iguana in Sydney.

The exhibition is an East/West/Art/ Music cross over project involving musicians and artists celebrating the 70th birthday of James Newell Osterberg Jr, known to most of us as Iggy Pop.

It is also the 50th anniversary of his band The Stooges.

The project is produced by members of The Cambodian Space Project - Cambodia's best known international music export whom Iggy has championed on his own BBC6 radio show, Iggy Confidential - and is supported by the man himself.

Punk rock was a highly transformative experience for me. I encountered it for the first time in 1979 at age 15, one of the kids at boarding school had graffitied a locker with the words Sex Pistols, I thought it was very rude, naughty even.

At the time I liked Slim Dusty, The Beatles and Chuck Berry and was not attracted to punk in the slightest, but I desperately wanted to leave boarding school.

The Kings School, Australia's oldest, was not a great or nurturing environment for a young artist, sure it was great for footy players and toy soldiers, but I found it to be lacklustre, oppressive and quite frankly, highly abusive.

I had done eight years of boarding school by this time, having started at eight years old doing my primary at Tudor House, this was half my life and I wanted out!

Most of all I dreamt of going out and dancing with girls!

So I got into punk rock for the simple reason that punk rockers were asked to leave.

The Kings School had a zero tolerance to punk rock, so my friends and I cut our hair extra short, adopted fake cockney accents and set about punking the school uniform, adding bondage straps, zippers and a swastika on the school crest! My ploy worked and I was asked to leave.

I was lucky enough to continue my high school at Cranbrook (the poets school) which had a fantastic arts faculty.

I was now free and sought out the punk rock gangs of Sydney's inner city, hanging out with wild kids with lurid names like Cathy Corpse and Eager Penis.

I also found those girls I had dreamt about. To my father's horror I danced to ska bands in the city's front pubs at the docks.

Within a year I had interviewed The Clash and Madness for my music fanzine, A Toy Horse, and formed a band called Ragadoll.

Ragadoll played support for The Dead Kennedy's, The Gun Club, The Scientists and a host of others.

Punk rock gave me a great apprenticeship and set me on a trajectory towards the stage, the easel and a rich bohemian lifestyle.

And now I have been asked to take part in The Cambodian Space Project.

As Iggy said in support of these artists: "I am totally down with what you want to do, so please consider that a blessing from me”.