Joe Machine captures gangland’s Kray twins on canvas for Whitechapel’s Lollipop gallery
PUBLISHED: 07:00 12 November 2015 | UPDATED: 16:21 12 November 2015
A unique collection of artwork based on “bedtime stories” about the Krays opens tomorrow (Fri) in the heartland of London’s East End where the notorious gangland twins held court.
Artist Joe Machine wasn’t even born when the Kray twins went down for life for murdering rivals while running extortion rackets and crooked nightclubs in the 1950 and 60s.
Yet his life is dominated by “The Firm” which ended up behind bars in 1969 and the keys virtually thrown away.
“Other kids were getting bedtime stories about Rupert the Bear,” Joe tells you. “Mine were mainly my dad’s recollections about 1960s gangland.
“I remember the tales of the shadowy Kray twins he described as wearing ‘suits as sharp as a razor’ and fighting and shooting other villains in the smoke-filled, beer-dark clubs of the East End.”
Mythology is at the centre of Joe Machine’s work. Now his pictures of gangsters in acrylics on canvas and blockhouse on wood go on show at Whitechapel’s Lollipop Gallery in Commercial Street—in the heartland where the Krays and their henchmen once held court.
The figures in his paintings are his symbols or icons of the darkness and light that he feels is fundamental to the human experience.
“I heard somewhere that the origins of European royalty began in the ancient world as nomadic bandits and outlaws,” he recalls.
“Teams of villains rode from town to town killing and burning and offering ‘protection’ from their own exploits to towns that would pay them.
“Once the bandits were in, they took over the town, establishing themselves as rulers.
“In time, they became royalty—whether this is true or not, the story reminds me of the ‘royal family of the underworld’—The Krays.”
His exhibition which runs till December 13 includes prints, woodcuts, scrapings and large format paintings, all for sale. Titles listed read like a Who’s Who of London’s gangland:
Ronnie & Reggie Sparring as Boys
The Krays at Vallence Road
The Krays—Lesson to a Liberty Taker
Reggie and Frances
Ronnie Kray—Barfight with Knife
The Krays—Tooled Up and Ready
Member of a Rival ‘Firm’ with Razor Slash
The Killing of George Cornell by Ronnie Kray
Ronnie Kray Cutting a Man in a Pub
Reggie Kray after Jack McVitie Murder
The Krays, The Firm, Tea at Vallence Road
The Krays—Straightening Out the Opposition
Diana Dors with Razor
The Krays—Reggie, Ronnie and Charlie
Ronnie Kray With Hatchet
The Krays Drinking in a Pub
The Double-R Club
The Krays Fighting in a Pub
East End Justice
The Killing of Jack ‘The Hat’
Mad Frankie Fraser
The Krays—Carve Up at the Billiard Hall
Reggie’s Cigarette Punch
The Twins with mum Violet