Ronnie Wood’s renowned musical career has sometimes overshadowed the fact that he is a trained, highly talented and successful artist and a skilled draughtsman. World-renowned art historian Brian Sewell has called him ‘an accomplished and respectable artist,’ an opinion also echoed in Marvin Bragg’s prestigious Southbank show in 2004, which dedicated a one-hour special to celebrating Wood as an artist. Edward Lucie-Smith, the internationally acclaimed art historian has remarked, “Who says you have to be good at only one thing? Ronnie is in the top flight as a musician, but he’s also a fully trained artist and it shows. Wood’s trained eye has led to a series of well-observed sketches of some of the world’s greatest icons that are illustrative of close, personal relationships.” Symbolic collection boasts studies of fellow legends such as Jimmy Page (1983), founder of rock and roll band Led Zeppelin, and also Eric Clapton. The collection would of course be incomplete without Wood’s dynamic studies of The Rolling Stones, such as his 1979 drawing of Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and himself jamming on stage when touring with their 1975 album, Black and Blue. Also included within the collection are sketched portraits of Charlie Watts, Fats Waller, Blondie and Jerry Hall, depicted not as icons, but as friends Wood made throughout his career. The carefully selected works act as a pictorial biography of Wood’s thrilling life experiences, guiding us through half a century’s worth of rock and roll. Beginning the collection is a self-portrait of Wood (1962), from when he was receiving formal art instruction at Ealing College, looking serene and neatly presented. As well as offering us insight into Wood’s personal experiences, the works also presents us with an insider’s view into Ronnie’s celebrated music career. It is fitting that one of the latest works in the exhibition (Essential Crossexion, Album Cover study 2005) is Wood’s personal attempt at recording his journey, illustrating his musical milestones with The Faces, The Creation, The Jeff Beck Group, The Rolling Stones, and his many solo efforts. Also included within the retrospective are original set lists and handwritten working lyrics for The Rolling Stones, The Faces, The Birds and The Jeff Beck Group dating back to 1968, which Wood sketched throughout his career. Symbolic’s remarkable collection also possesses a deft satirical caricature of notorious Peter Grant, the manager of Jeff Beck as well as The Yardbirds and Led Zeppelin, who was famed for being “the shrewdest and most ruthless manager in rock history.”
Images such as these highlight how Symbolic provides a rare and privileged invitation to contemplate a rock and roll star’s personal and exhilarating experiences from an otherwise restricted viewpoint.