This article originally appeared on VICE UK.
Cult British artist Chemical X has donated his £50,000 [$67,000] artwork "Rush" to a competition for the drugs harm reduction charity The Loop, as they raise funds for their life-saving drug-testing labs. The Loop is VICE's partner in our Safe Sesh campaign, which seeks to promote the idea that people are going to use drugs no matter what, so should know how to use them as safely as possible—something The Loop's services enable them to do.
For just £2 [$2.70], you can enter the contest, support The Loop's work, and have a chance to adorn your walls with an artwork made of 4,111 Yin-Yang pills. It's a woozy piece that—if you watch it for long enough—actually feels a bit like being on ecstasy; your vision turning soft focus at the peripheries as you trace new shades and forms in a swirling sea.
Chemical X is most famous for designing the iconic Ministry of Sound logo, and over three decades has produced a body of work that deals with the romance and relevance of drug culture. He is anonymous and rarely gives interviews, but invited us to meet his assistant, Marc, at his Brighton workshop before we conducted an interview over WhatsApp.
VICE: Why did you get involved with The Loop?
Chemical X: I'm pro informed-choice. No one can tell a grown person what they can and can't do to themselves. The Loop deal with reality. They are not about legalization, but they are also not about encouragement. As Fiona Measham [co-founder of The Loop] says: "They are the last line of defense—a practical solution to a real problem." What your pill or powder contains is a total mystery that you are only going to solve by taking it. That is not the best plan of action. I have witnessed The Loop’s process firsthand, and I'm an evangelical supporter of everything Fiona and her amazing volunteers do.
How did ecstasy affect your development as an artist?
It's affected my development as a person, and so has affected my development as an artist. I wanted my recent series of works to reflect the cultural impact that ecstasy has had on this country over the last 30 years. I don't know what kind of place the UK would be without its influence. I'm old enough to remember how shit everything was at clubs and pubs before it became mainstream [in the mid-1980s]. You'd expect to be involved in violence before the night was out, at the hands of some drunk cunt who hated the look of your haircut. The youth were very fragmented at that time, and tribal. You needed to be one thing or the other. Ecstasy broke down some of those barriers and we started to interact with people who we would never have before. How can that be a bad thing?
Do you think there's a romance in taking ecstasy?
There is so much romance in taking ecstasy. Your everyday inhibitions fall away and you're left with such a feeling of love, warmth, and empathy. When I first had a pill, in the 80s, I thought it was the perfect drug. I shared some beautiful moments with friends and lovers that I would never have experienced without it.
"Rush" seems to show the mellow side to ecstasy. Not all the bright colors and smiley faces.
There is a very relaxing and meditative side to MDMA that you don't focus on, unless you happen to be lying in a field instead of dancing like a demon. Rush is meant to be more representative of water, balance of motion, and purpose. That's why they are all Yin-Yang pills, and a mixture of dark and light. You have a sense of being drawn into something—a portal to pleasure or pain.
Have you looked at your pictures on ecstasy or had other people do so?
I haven't, but I'd love to put them in a room full of people who were on it. It's more difficult for me to divorce myself from the image and how I perceive it. I love when people see something [in my work] that I hadn't intended. It gives them some ownership over it. Seeing the work through spangled eyes would create a whole new piece that would only exist in that moment, in their mind's eye... never to be seen again. It's a nice concept.
Have you thought about who might win the picture?
I'm really looking forward to seeing who wins it. It's quite a large and imposing piece, and I can't wait to see if it ends up on some kid's bedroom wall in Walsall, or a swanky pad in Padstow. I’d probably prefer the former, but I just want as many people as possible to enter, as all proceeds go to The Loop. I also hope that, whoever wins it, they don't try to open it.
Are they real pills?
No, we have had to make those as replica pills; otherwise, we'd get The Loop in serious trouble. However, we do make private commissions.
It costs just £2 [$2.70] to enter the competition to win this £50,000 [$67,000] artwork, and all that money will be going straight to The Loop's crowdfund campaign. For full entry details click here.
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