The World of Sue Kreitzman

Sue features in the new book by East London Homes by the Hoxton Press

East London Homes details the alluring interiors of 29 homes in London's most creative neighbourhoods; providing an enthralling insight into the lives of the creative minds who have chosen to call this area home.

With the rise of lnstagram accounts like Decor Hardcore, New Age Cocaine, 70s Dinner Party and The 80s Interior are we failing back in love with "bad taste"? What's the definition of bad taste and, more importantly, who decides whether something is or not? Is our move towards questionable taste a reaction to "good taste" being a little bit mainstream, a little bit safe and - worst of all - a little bit beige? Artist Sue Kreitzman, writer Raven Smith and designer Emily Forgot sit down together in Sue's house to discuss the notions of good and bad taste exploring its intrinsic links to class, culture and design history.

DEBIKA RAY: All of us work in fields where we're making aesthetic judgements all the time, putting ourselves in the position of arbiters of taste in some way or another. So, I wonder whether all three of you would describe yourselves as having good taste?

SUE KREITZMAN: What the hell is good taste? I did a painting that says, "Good taste is overrated," and I also have a tagline, "Ghastly good taste." So, for me, the idea of good taste is nonsense. The epitome of good taste is a little black dress and a discreet string of pearls. You put me in that and I would die. I'm 78 years-old, avoiding that kind of ghastly good taste is what keeps me young.

DR: Good and bad taste, are they the wrong words then?

EMILY FORGOT: Yeah, perhaps. Bad taste doesn't exist because having a point of view is probably the most important thing and wherever that comes from should be celebrated.

SK: It's about not being ashamed of what you love. Don't let the taste police make you be something you're not while secretly inside you're exploding to be else entirely. What surprises me in the fashion industry here and in New York is that all the fashionistas wear black.

I went to a fashion show a couple of years ago and I was invited to sit in the front row where everybody was wearing black. Hilary Alexander was there taking pictures of everything and in the paper the next day she had a picture of me.

She said, "Oh, fabulous colours at this fashion show yesterday," but I was the only one in fabulous colours, and she made it seem like everybody else was too. It does make a great impression! Sometimes people are appalled and think you are ridiculous, but that's fine. I'll be ridiculous. I will be what I want to be no matter what.

DR: Do you get a sense that people are ever laughing at you?

SK: There's a theme of insistence on doing things a certain way, especially as you get older. There's a certain way an old person is supposed to look but because of An Seth Cohen and his Advanced Style blog older women can do anything they want and they will be worshipped for it. I've had people say to me, "A clown dresses that way," or "Did anybody ever tell you look like Edna Everidge?" That hurts. People have said stupid, idiotic things, but I don't care. Those people are not worth my attention.

DR: Do you like standing out, being known for a certain style or type of taste?

SK: I would be very happy if everyone started to look like me. I love to go out on the street and see people dressed in colour. I don't need to be unique. Once a month my friends and I have a colour walk where everybody is dressed in colour and the more the merrier. I dress this way because I love it and a lot of my friends do as well. Let me just say a word about beige. Beige could kill you.

RAVEN SMITH: What you're talking about are those expectations - of what old people should do and wear. Beige is bad because old people are expected to wear beige and blend in, disappear. But, for someone younger an all beige outfit is a statement of taste.

"There is something about velvet isn't there? It makes me feel like I'm going to kiss someone who tastes of cigars."

EF: I wish had worn beige today. It would have been worse than wearing all black like I have.

SK: It would have been very hard for me to even let you into the house because I have a real phobia about beige, it makes me ill, it makes me frightened and scares the hell out of me. I just can't.

RS: I have beige trousers, actually they're biscuit.

SK: Yes, but you have an orange t-shirt on so you're good.

DR: Do you feel that with the homogensation of the high street and global trends travelling so quickly it's difficult to find individual pieces and mark your own taste/style?

SK: I make everything myself, I make my own jewellery or friends make things for me. We have this community of artists and In a very satisfying way, everything has meaning, it has to have a story. I'm an artist and I collect the art of my friends. You can see from the way I live the when I leave the house I can't bear to leave it behind, so I wear it, I put it on my back. Everything I wear is a work of art and has a story and has a meaning and has a personal connection to me.

DR: Grayson Perry said that taste is an expression of your class Would you agree with that?

SK: Visible manifestations of wealth are the epitome of bad taste. People who buy these watches that cost £10,000 or more, why would you do that? And when people say, "Well, what else are they going to spend their money on?" I'll make you a huge list of things to do with that money.

EF: What's bald taste then? What Is kitsch?

SK: You know It when you see it. Kitsch is very bright colours. Kitsch is stuff that is out of fashion but you learn to love again, Kitsch used to be ember-raising and now it's s badge of honour, I adore kitsch! Each generation has their own idea of what kitsch is, and each generation embraces the kitsch that they love.

DR: Does Ideology plays a part in taste? Would you Judge someone's taste as being more refined if they have some kind of thought process behind it for example.

SK: It's not always immediately obvious, and that can be fleeting as well, like the current trend for sustainability. I like to see people wearing vintage stuff that is maybe a little shabby, so long as it doesn't smell of somebody else's perspiration.

EF: Good vintage is sustainable, there are so many fashion designers now who would just take a vintage item and remake it in a cotton instead of a polyester and it's new. All of the inspiration for trends at the moment comes from the past.

DR: Does that mean bad taste doesn't exist anymore because as soon as someone tries to do something different it gets re-integrated into the mainstream and then it's no longer rebellion?

RS: If you look at big fashion houses, they deliberately make stuff that's bad taste and shocking and one-linery, Like platform Crocs, for example. They deliberately make us all smile and they're created to make us share images. There's an irony to it but they are essentially bad taste.

SK: Wait a minute, platform Crocs are bad taste?

EF: Are there a pair in the house?

SK: Not platform, I think I might have a pair of Crocs.

DR: I'm interested in Sue's opinion on norm-core.

SK: Oh my god, is norm-core still a thing? I don't understand norm-core, it's ridiculous, it makes me break out in a rash.

EF: It's rebellious in a way, isn't it?

SK: It's boringl It's as bad as the plaid shirts and the beard oil, the Lumber-sexual. What's the point of it? Are they Canadian? Do they live in the woods? What the hell is going on here?

DR: It seems to me that so much of what we envisage to be good taste is defined by this kind of western European idea. Is good taste a Western-centric notion?

EF: Not anymore, but historically in the UK it would have been Western people who travelled and brought back objects to introduce people to different cultures. The Horniman Museum is the collection of a tea merchant. He would travel and bring back these objects that would give us an idea of being human. So, in that traditional sense, taste wasn't about consuming things it was learning from things. I wonder what we're learning from the Kardashians?

Click the photo above to buy Issue 11 of Riposte (Opens in a new window)

And below, Peter Watts features Sue's home in his article for The Telegraph...

"We are all individuals, one size does not fit all..."

Sue Kreitzman describes her love of personalisation, and stars in the O2 'Customise Your Plan' Advert 2019.

Behind the scenes...

Sue Kreitzman is featured in the new book 'Bolder - Life Lessons From People Older and Wiser Than You' and was interviewed at The AllBright Mayfair. Click the photo above to be taken to Sue's YouTube channel and watch the video. (Opens in a new window)

Sue was interviewed by emerging film-maker Katie Alcock. Click the image above to view Katie's Vimeo account and watch her groundbreaking interview with Sue at home. (Opens in a new window)

The Arts Project: Featured Artist of the Month: Sue Kreitzman

By Peter Herbert, Curator Manager of The Arts Project

We not only welcome our artist of the month but also offer a heartfelt 80 gun birthday salute to Sue Kreitzman as she enters another brave and bold new decade with a life containing ever more twists and turns.

We first met through a chance encounter involving a mutual friend after an artist became unavailable and Sue offered to exhibit. We instantly bonded and began a series of co-curated shows. One of these happened beneath an old church in St Pancras in a cold crypt containing 557 tombs which was once used as a shelter from WW2 bombs. This dark damp crypt gallery space was turned into an explosion of joy and colour. For Sue's birthday during the exhibition, I organised for a dancer actor to emerge from a roll of carpet unravelled down a long walkway that ended at the feet of Sue. What an evening that was!

We went on to co-curate group shows involving Sue's artwork with a growing coterie of like minded artists including Ella Guru and John William in exhibitions titled Wow, Flashier and Trashier, Epiphanies and Dare to Wear. These were in galleries that included Novas near Tate Modern although our true enduring spiritual base was to be found in a challenging and unlikely place. This NHS Conference Centre is located in a striking Victorian building at St Pancras Hospital and is now considered by many to be one of London's Art world secrets with visitors not expecting to find such a beautiful surprise. Sue has added to its stature over the last 10 years with her support and co-curated Arts Project exhibitions. These alternate themed exhibitions that explore the joy of colour with explorations of wild extremes of needlework and stitchery.

Watch out for news of a planned collaboration between The Arts Project and Sue later in 2021 when we return to see what is happening with the pleasures and possibilities of the world in colour.

As an additional homage to Sue's inspirational links with younger artists we include this transfigured portrait by young artist Katelyn Barnes of an original photo. The result explores the physical surfaces of paint and photography while suggesting Sue's true love for Art that fights to overcome, and enriches an often drab colourless world.

Artwork by Katelyn Barnes from an original photograph by Ruthie Stevens

"I am an Outsider Artist, an accidental artist, a happy victim of an unexpected epiphany in my late 50s."

"Now I hover somewhere between 80 and eternity. I live for colour, I live for art, and I live to help younger unsung artists receive a fair share of visibility and success."

"I am surrounded by art. My art and the art of my friends and proteges. I live, breathe, eat, drink and dream it. I wear it. I bury myself in it. I wrap myself in its profundity. My life is an oasis of art and colour. Every gorgeous piece of it, the making of it, the collecting of it, the viewing of it, the whole entirety of it, the glorious colourful clutter of it, keep me safe, keep me sane, keep me unutterably happy. My life is filled with love and colourful joy."

"Altered mannequins, embellished dolls, memory jugs, paintings, sculptures, assemblages, installations...they tell profound stories, they contain anima, they represent boundless and wild creativity, they leap out at me and my visitors from every niche and corner. Too much?? Don't be silly. Less is less, more is not nearly enough.

My beliefs are: kitsch can be spiritual. Minimalism is scary. Beige might kill you. Art is the glue that holds our life together and tells our story to the world.

I am the art and the art is me. There is no separation."

"During quarantine, some of us went wild, making art all day and all night, with no restrictions. Locked in, all by ourselves, surrounded by art supplies. We madly made art like no one was looking. Then we posted all over social media where everyone was looking. So obsessive. So prolific. So much sharing. Quarantine was exhilarating."

"When will the Pandemic end? It's going to be awhile. Quite awhile. The entire world has been brought to its knees, and after it's over, the world will be a different place entirely.

Of course, the arts will suffer. They are suffering already. Galleries going out of business, museums shutting down, and, in some cases, disappearing for good, funding is drying up: the structures of the visual art business are crippled.

Artists, especially Outsider Artists will continue making art. It's what gets us out of bed in the morning, it's what keeps deep depression at bay, it is as necessary to us as breathing. And the angst and uncertainty of the times will make our art even more profound, complicated, and deeply meaningful.

But where to exhibit, how to make a living wage, how to survive this disaster? On line exhibitions are the thing right now, Zoom, Instagram, virtual this, that and the other are filling the gaps, but in a small and makeshift way. What happens when the cyber attacks bring everything down?

So my answer to the question that was posed to me: "How will the arts survive the Pandemic?" is: I don't know! It's scary, it's complicated, and - right now - there is no end in sight.

During the plague years, Shakespeare wrote King Lear. While you are waiting out the Pandemic, create your own masterpiece. There is plenty of time. Make this period of history meaningful for you.

As far as the future is concerned: Fasten your seatbelts. It's going to be a bumpy ride.

Love, strength and hope to all."

Thank you Sue for being our Artist Of The Month.