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UK rocker Doherty displays blood paintings in London

British rocker Peter Doherty has reinvented himself as an artist and is showing paintings drawn in his own blood at a London gallery this week.
/ Source: Reuters

British rocker Peter Doherty has reinvented himself as an artist and is showing paintings drawn in his own blood at a London gallery this week.

The show called "On Blood: A Portrait of the Artist" displays artwork produced for his 2009 solo album Grace/Wastelands, as well as a dozen canvases scattered around Camden's Cob Gallery.

There may be something gruesome or just plain morbid about painting with blood.

But the show's co-curator Rachel Chudley told Reuters: "If you look at art through the ages, the subject matter has always been life. We all die and painting in blood is a reminder of our mortality. It's a universal media. I don't think there is anything gory about it."

In a recent interview with The Independent newspaper, the turbulent Babyshambles frontman and former The Libertines co-leader referred to his unusual technique of squirting blood with a syringe onto a canvas as "arterial splatter".

Most of the paintings on display are quite spare, combining brownish blood streaks with collages, poems and song lyrics.

Doherty, 32, whose well-publicized drug abuse and shambolic lifestyle has often eclipsed his music, has included several collaborative pieces with his famous friends.

The late singer Amy Winehouse used her own blood to paint herself on a canvas alongside the word "ladylike".

French writer and artist Alize Meurisse, who did the cover artwork on Doherty's solo album, contributed a striking portrait of Doherty's friend and musician Peter Wolfe, known as "Wolfman".

French actress Charlotte Gainsbourg, with whom Doherty shot a movie last year about the 19th century French poet Alfred de Musset, helped create a painting called "Leet Strife", apparently a take on "Street Life".

Prices range from 4,500 pounds to 8,000 pounds ($7,100-$12,700) for original paintings and 500 pounds for limited edition prints.

Posters priced at 75 pounds apiece were selling briskly on Sunday while two original pieces had already been bought.

Curiosities hoarded by Doherty over the years, some brought over from his former house in Wiltshire, are also displayed in the lower rooms of the gallery, curated by Doherty himself and Guts For Garters, a gallery with whom The Cob collaborates.

To the sound of old Beatles song, visitors can sift through relics of Doherty's bohemian lifestyle -- entire collections of old typewriters, cameras, guitars, tobacco boxes, crucifixes, rosaries, skulls, small elephants, mannequins sporting red Libertines jackets, a stuffed swan, two ravens and heaps of records, ranging from jazz great Charlie Parker to the soundtrack of James Bond movie "Dr No".

"I like the bits and pieces. It's a pretty impressive collecting mania," said 30-year old Kaz, a hairdresser from London, who finds painting with blood "unusual" before adding "but he is quite unusual".

Suddenly, the man himself breezes in, looking quite relaxed in a tweed suit and Gavroche style leather cap, softly singing the old Beatles song "All you need is love".

He will not take questions but graciously signs prints and posters and poses for photographs with fans before dashing out.

"I like his inventiveness and the sensitive side of him. He's different from everybody," says Valery, a 63-year old from Devon, who says she has been a fan since early Libertines days.

This is the first time Doherty, who is better known as a musician and for once dating supermodel Kate Moss, has exhibited as an artist in Britain.

In 2008 he showed his work at the Chappe gallery in Paris, where he currently lives.

In May 2011, Doherty was sentenced in Britain to six months in jail for cocaine possession but released in July, in time to make solo appearances at the Leeds and Reading festivals.

He recently played a couple of solo gigs in London and is believed to be working on new music material.

On Blood: A Portrait of the Artist

The Cob Gallery

205 Royal College Street

London NW1 0SG

Feb 26-March 4

(Reporting By Dominique Vidalon, editing by Paul Casciato)