Interview with Andrew Liles



Michele Howarth Rashman is an artist specialising in figurative mixed media sculpture. Born in Liverpool she now lives in Yorkshire. She has developed a process of work meticulously hand stitching larger than life-size sculptures. Her work has been shown both nationally and internationally alongside many of her more celebrated contemporaries, however Rashman remains an elusive figure, working alone and exhibiting rarely. She describes her art as a ‘defiantly unmanly method of working in a persistently macho art world’.


1.) WHICH RECORD HAS HAD THE MOST PROFOUND INFLUENCE ON YOU? I can vividly remember being in my childhood home in Liverpool when ‘Michelle’ by the Beatles first played on the radio, and my mother telling me it was ‘MY’ song. Thing is I took this to mean literally, believing it to be written about and for me. I’d have been about three years old at the time. It was at that exact moment that megalomania set in.


2.) HOW MANY HOURS DO YOU SPEND A WEEK RECORDING/PLAYING/CREATING? It entirely depends on the weather, my mood, nuisance friends and the health of my cats.


3.) WHICH OF YOUR OWN CREATIONS IS YOUR FAVOURITE? A large piece I did in 2011 called ‘She Still Calls Herself Mrs’. It must be good because like all of my best works it remains unsold, in my living room.


She Still Calls Herself Mrs’ held by Michele.

4.) WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST REGRET? Not looking after my teeth in childhood. (Same is true for posture).


5.) WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELAX? Avoid my fellow man.


6.) OTHER THAN FRIENDS AND FAMILY WHAT IS YOUR MOST CHERISHED POSSESSION? A magazine I wrote when I was seven or eight. It was for a competition at school and the prize was a tin of toffees in the shape of a London bus. My entry was 40 pages long and I remember slapping it down on the teacher’s table knowing I’d blown all the competition out of the water. I found it recently and it’s page upon page of death and destruction. I won the toffees though*.


*Probably the last fair and just decision of my professional life.


7.) TELL ME THREE OF YOUR HEROES/HEROINES? Whistleblowers, the Hillsborough families and the woman who runs Yorkshire Cat Rescue.


8.) WHERE IS YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE IN THE WORLD? Until about three weeks ago**, my studio.

**Long story.


9.) IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE YOUR ART WHAT OCCUPATION DO YOU THINK YOU WOULD BE DOING? I worked at a dating agency for nine years. I quite enjoyed prying into people’s lives, so it would have to be something with an element of intrusiveness.





Muse Music list – Michele Howarth Rashman’s Muse Music

Publication: Phaidon Press


The sculptor and creator of ‘psychiatric knitwear’ on the music that gets her in a creative mood.

The Phaidon hour glass tells us that it’s Friday again and time for another Muse Music playlist. This week we have been speaking to British sculptor and maker of ‘psychiatric knitwear’ Michele Howarth Rashman about the music that inspires her art.

Michele Howarth Rashman first exhibited at the ICA’s Young Contemporaries show in 1982 alongside Grayson Perry before before dropping out of the arts world and keeping a low profile for some years. She came back on to the scene in 2008 when she participated in a group show at the White Cube alongside Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin and Jake And Dinos Chapman in an Edgar Allen Poe-themed exhibition and has recently had a very successful first solo show at The Outside World Gallery in London.

Her sad-eyed, occasionally repulsive hand stitched sculptures (each taking between 3-12 months to make) largely take women as their subject. Saggy-breasted with bad hair and bad posture, these women are those who according to the artist “somehow miss the mark” despite their best efforts.

Rashman has said of her work – “I don’t consider myself an outsider artist, but to be honest any artist who lives outside of zone 1 is considered an outsider artist. If you live in Glenrothes you’re outside of the picture, and with the medium I work in I don’t feel part of any scene.”

Her sculptures, like her knitwear – emblazoned with slogans such as ‘EMOTIONAL CRIPPLE’ and ‘JUST AN OLD HIPPY’ – were inspired by people’s reactions to her husband (former Simply Red and Happy Monday manager Elliot Rashman) when he fell prey to mental illness. They explore, in her own words “what we call ourselves and how we see ourselves – and how other people perceive us.”

You can listen to Michele’s playlist on Spotify and iTunes but before you do, this is what she said about music and its influence on her life.

“I listen to a great deal of music in my studio. I appear to be drawn to dark subjects that would struggle to make it on to a radio playlist, and with the exception of Mordechai Hershman, technically proficient voices just don’t do it for me. There’s something so moving about hearing an untrained voice belting it out, not with perfection, but with joy, passion or despair. It’s so much more authentic than all of that post Dion / Carey / Houston – why sing one note when 10 will do – fake emotional bilge that’s peddled by those suckers of Satan’s cock on Saturday night TV.”

Baby Dee When I Get Home – I’ve only been aware of (transgender musician and performance artist) Baby Dee for about 18 months, but there’s rarely a day that goes by I don’t listen to her music. About a year ago I was taken backstage at the Liverpool Philharmonic to meet her. I couldn’t think of anything sensible to say so I just did a very very deep curtsey. It seemed like the right thing to do and she took it in her stride. Anyway, picking one track by Baby Dee is really hard, but this is one I’m listening to a lot lately. I don’t know if she had a poor relationship with her father, but this song suggests violence. It has such menace. It’s all about a kid playing outside, losing track of time and knowing that they’re ‘going to get it’ when they get home. There’s a line ‘I know you must have held me once, I saw a photograph, safe and happy in your arms, a smiling God of Wrath’ that just rips your heart out.

Gillian Welsh Revelator – Sometimes I put this track on when I’m driving home from my studio. Played three times it takes me door to door. I love David Rawlings’ guitar work – it sounds kind of wrong, like he can’t play properly, when in fact he’s hitting exactly the right notes. This is a hard trick to pull off but it’s always the sign of a great artist, whatever the medium.

Elliott Smith Somebody That I Used to Know – My husband Elliot introduced me to the work of this particular Elliot. We both love this track as it so perfectly sums up our thoughts with regards to all the gobshites we’ve fallen out with in recent years. We used to get really upset if a friendship broke down, but it’s happened so often now that we can recover completely in the 2.09 minutes it takes to listen to this song.

CocoRosie with Antony Hegarty Beautiful Boyz – CocoRosie are sisters – I believe one is a classically trained opera singer, harpist and pianist, and the other is a moustachioed lesbian who makes noises with children’s toys. Turns out this is a great combo! Beautiful Boyz reads like a film treatment – about an orphaned boy ‘born illegitimately to a whore most likely’ who ‘got caught stealing from a nun’. And so the plot pans out to reveal incarceration, which he loved, (‘how awfully lovely was prison’) because of ‘all those beautiful boyz, pimps and queens and criminal queers, tattoos of ships and tattoos of tears.’ What’s not to like?

Mordechai Hershman Mitraze Berachamin – My ex-boyfriend had an LP of Jewish Cantor music he’d inherited from his grandfather. Not normally my cup of tea but this guy hits and holds a note at the end of this song that almost has me converting.

Sufjan Stevens John Wayne Gacy Jr – Sufjan Stevens is some kind of banjo playing musical genius and devilishly handsome to boot. He’s got an extraordinary catalogue of work, but if you like listening to songs about serial killers, and I surely do, then this is the track for you.

Shearwater So Bad – I love Shearwater, so when they covered this Baby Dee song it was doubly joyful. Baby Dee has a lot of Catholic references in her songwriting, and the first line – ‘Jesus got my mom in there, he beat her up so bad, who can save us now that God’s gone mad’ is poetry. Shearwater often experiment with strange metallic sounds, and the grinding at the end of this track has always conjured up some kind of industrial noise emanating from a docklands warehouse. I’m not sure if this was their intention, but it works for me.

Marta Sebestyen Istenem – I was once slightly infatuated with all things Hungarian, possibly because at the time I was slightly infatuated with a Hungarian actor who introduced me to this beautiful song. I never learnt Hungarian beyond a few swear words, but as someone pointed out at the time, all I really needed to know was the Hungarian for ‘yes’.

The Antlers Wake – I suppose a track called ‘Wake’ from an album called ‘Hospice’ is never going to be a right old knees up, but this is an extraordinary piece of work. Apparently the album follows an emotionally abusive relationship told through the analogy of a terminally ill patient and their carer. The vocals are backed with laboured breathing which is brave, beautiful and affecting.

Yves Montand Les Feuilles Mortes – I listen to a lot of French music in a desperate attempt to haul myself out of the beginners French class I’ve been in for about the last five years. You can watch this track, recorded live at l’Olympia, on YouTube. You see Yves, standing bolt upright in a nasty shirt, just delivering the song. Straightforward, with no histrionics. He’s no great singer, but this just adds poignancy to the performance. This is a guy who’s lived and loved. He just finishes the song, turns and walks off stage. It’s heartbreaking.

Listen to Michele Howarth Rashman’s playlist on Spotify or in iTunes.

4 Apr—10 May 2008

White Cube Gallery


White Cube Hoxton Square was pleased to present ‘You Dig the Tunnel, I’ll Hide the Soil’, curated by the artist and writer Harland Miller in collaboration with Irene Bradbury. In anticipation of the bicentenary of Edgar Allan Poe’s birth (1809), the exhibition explored the enduring legacy and cult status of the American writer.

‘You Dig the Tunnel, I’ll Hide the Soil’ featured the work of Fergus Bremner, Jake & Dinos Chapman, John Cooper Clarke, Liz Craft, Tracey Emin, Angus Fairhurst, Katharina Fritsch, Paul Fryer, Barnaby Furnas, Douglas Gordon, Rodney Graham, Marcus Harvey, Anton Henning, Damien Hirst, Anselm Kiefer, Abigail Lane, Christian Marclay, Kris Martin, Harland Miller, Polly Morgan, Mike Nelson, Magnus Plessen, Michele Howarth Rashman, Julian Schnabel, Gregor Schneider, Norbert Schoerner, George Shaw, Cindy Sherman, Jason Shulman, Dirk Skreber, Paul Steinitz, Fred Tomaselli, Jane & Louise Wilson and Cerith Wyn Evans.

Harland Miller discovered Poe as a child while recovering from a bungled appendix operation in York County Hospital, where he found an early-learner edition of Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher and Other Writings, which he remembers as having alleviated much of the misery of this time. Using crayons and a drawing pad he began writing and illustrating his own versions of these stories, and he has always cited Poe as his first literary influence. When Miller was writer in residence at the ICA, he began thinking about a project that would consider not only the abiding appeal of Poe but also some of the more diverse responses to his work. This exhibition was the result of that initial idea.

Poe is now recognised as an artist far ahead of his time, particularly for the charged psychological facets of his work, which seemed to foretell psychoanalysis, pre-dating Freud by more than half a century. His famous detective, Dupin, became the blueprint for many future detectives, including Sherlock Holmes, Poirot and Miss Marple, and he is also a pioneer of what we now know as science fiction, influencing such writers as Jules Verne and H. G. Wells. However, Miller felt that Poe had become synonymous with whatever is merely gothic or dark, a misconception that he wanted to address by curating this exhibition. ‘There’s a real distinction here’, says Miller. ‘It was really telling when we’d approach people and they’d say, “Oh yeah, I’ve got this painting which is nearly all black!” That was really disappointing.’ Miller sought to address this glib association by selecting a dozen of Poe’s stories that seemed to lend themselves most to a more contemporary interpretation. Wherever he noticed a connection to an artist’s existing work, life or practice, he approached them to read the stories and asked them to respond in any manner they saw fit and to interpret the story with a new work.

‘Some of the ways in which I went about this were very tenuous,’ Miller explains. ‘It didn’t always have to be about this great debt to Poe or some kind of extravagant mystery bound up in a cipher. With Damien Hirst, for instance, I did actually think he’d really love the story, but what really made me think of him was Poe’s title The Startling Effects of Mesmerism on a Dying Man, which reminded me so much of the rhythm in one of Hirst’s own titles, which I really love.’

This exhibition brought together a broad range of these responses, from 34 artists, ranging from painting and sculpture to installation, digital media and performance, as well as existing works such as Douglas Gordon’s Sleeper (Portrait to Edgar Allan Poe) (2002) and Mike Nelson’s installation Melnais Kakis (The Black Cat) (1999).

The exhibition was staged in both White Cube Hoxton Square and Shoreditch Town Hall.

A fully illustrated exhibition guide with a short story by Harland Miller was produced to accompany the exhibition.