The Connor Brothers: Igniting Thought and Laughter Through The Nostalgic Lens Of Pulp Fiction

The Connor Brothers
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Flirting with the paradoxical, British artists known as The Connor Brothers juggle fact and fiction on a tightrope, skilfully navigating the art world with an audacious blend of satire, irony, and raw authenticity.

Wearing the clever disguises of Brendan and Franklyn Connor, the ‘Brothers’ upend conventions with their distinctive take on pop culture, literary quotes, and vintage pulp fiction imagery.

Born out of a mysterious backstory of twins, who survived a sinister American cult, the dynamic duo were later revealed as James Golding and Mike Snelle art dealers turned artists, now their story reads more like an open book, a delectable tale of trickery, identity, and playful genius, where reality is but a footnote to the imagination.

The Connor Brothers
The Connor Brothers
Image courtesy of The Connor Brothers

The Connor Brothers started over a decade ago in James’s kitchen, during a dark period in my life when we were living together. We made collages to try and make each other laugh. It was very free, fun and silly.

The Connor Brothers

To describe The Connor Brothers‘ work, think of visual puns doused in wisdom, an intoxicating cocktail of humour with poignant social critique, where narratives unravel within a framework of irony. Their prolific use of classic pulp novels as canvases emblazoned with stark, witty aphorisms might appear at first glance as mere comedy. Yet, lurking beneath is an incisive commentary on mental health, society’s taboos, and the human condition itself, a sly wink at the postmodern world’s tragicomedy.

For over a decade, The Connor Brothers have shown they are not just jokers in the pack but, indeed, ace illusionists who continuously flip the script, keeping the art world at the edge of its seat, with their work selling for thousands at auction and held in notable collections, such as the V&A, the Omar Koch, Niarchos and Penguin collections, including featuring in Banksy’s dystopian amusement park “Dismaland”.

While some might see the brothers as merely art world pranksters, an undeniable gravitas grounds their work, this showed in mental health work and charity support, producing limited edition pieces to raise funds for important causes close to their hearts. The Connor Brothers ability to make us confront the contradictions of our existence, while coaxing chuckles from our lips as reality quietly sears into our minds makes them fan favourites among collectors and art lovers alike.

We caught up with the artistic brothers during their “Truth or Dare” Exhibition at Clarendon Fine Art Mayfair.

Hi James and Mike. Thank you for taking the time to speak with us. Please introduce yourselves to those who do not know you.

The Connor Brothers: Thanks. We’re James Golding and Mike Snelle, although everybody knows us as The Connor Brothers.

We started working on art projects together as a form of therapy under that pseudonym, and remained anonymous for a few years under the guise of twins who had survived a sinister Californian cult and made sense of the world through art.

We make satirical, retro pulp fiction art which explores truth, lies, society, art, literature and liberation, with tongues firmly in cheeks.

The Connor Brothers: When God Made Man
The Connor Brothers: When God Made Man
Image courtesy of The Connor Brothers
Can you tell us how you both started in arts, the essence of The Connor Brothers and what it means to be The Connor Brothers?

TCB: The Connor Brothers started over a decade ago in James’s kitchen, during a dark period in my life when we were living together. We made collages to try and make each other laugh. It was very free, fun and silly.

It was just the two of us, a pair of scissors and some glue. We just got on and shared a sense of humour, and we’ve now spent half of our lives connected to one another.

Originally, it was just a private joke between us, and was never intended it to be shown to anybody else. But one day, James suggested we exhibit them. I was completely against it, but he wore me down and eventually, I agreed. But only if we could hide behind a pseudonym. It’s now more than ten years later and The Connor Brothers has consumed our lives.

The story behind The Connor Brothers is as fascinating as a biographical documentary you’d find on Netflix. Can you share with us the origin of this idea and what inspired you to create it?

TCB: It was a way to make art but avoid public scrutiny during a difficult period in both of our lives. But after a couple of years, our art careers exploded, and it became too difficult to maintain the myth, so we came clean about our true identities in an interview with The Telegraph.

Image courtesy of The Connor Brothers
The Connor Brothers’ work strongly leans towards a vintage, pulp fiction aesthetic, often sweetened by your clever use of ironic and satirical commentary. Can we delve into your practice and sources of inspiration?

TCB: Pop art is a big inspiration; like Andy Warhol’s Pop innovations, we like to satirise American pulp fiction ‘dime novels’ and elevate them to fine art status. With pulp fiction, the actual content within the novels is pretty bleak. We try to give it new context; to make it more relevant to our times and create something positive out of something negative.

The Connor Brothers: Desperate Times
The Connor Brothers: Desperate Times
Image courtesy of The Connor Brothers
Can you talk us through your creative process? How do you select a subject, and what does the process look like from the initial idea to the finished painting?

TCB: There is a lot of phoning each other up, thinking we’ve had the greatest idea known to man. Or talking nonsense to each other in the back of taxis. One per cent of those end up becoming a series, project, or artwork.

The Connor Brothers at their “Truth or Dare” Exhibition at Clarendon Fine Art Mayfair
Image courtesy of The Connor Brothers
Your forthcoming exhibition, “Truth or Dare” at Clarendon Fine Art revisits your Fifties-style pulp fiction covers that make a playful statement about art, literature and liberation and unveil six brand-new pieces. What can visitors expect to experience?

TCB: Truth or Dare neatly sums up our career so far. It’s been a surreal blur between fiction and reality.

We loved living in that fiction. It’s this long and interesting story, which feels like a novel, but it’s been played out in real life, with all sorts of fictional characters. And the new show deals with this idea with brand-new literary art pieces, mixing modern day satire with retro design.

The Connor Brothers: Bipolar
Image courtesy of The Connor Brothers
The Connor Brothers are known for engaging in collaborative art projects with charitable organisations, particularly those centred around mental health and social causes. What drives your connection and commitment to these important causes?

TCB: When we started out, our story resonated with a lot of people, who opened up to us, and that was something we wanted to pursue, right away.

We’ve both had severe mental health issues and addiction problems and are aware of just how easily life can spiral out of control, no matter what your background is. So that’s why mental health, homelessness and refugee charities have been a big part of our charity work. Without the right support, the lives many of us take for granted can quickly lose their foundations.

We’re really lucky to be in the privileged position of being able to collaborate with organisations that do really great work for important causes and support some amazing people and charities

The Connor Brothers at work
Image courtesy of The Connor Brothers
The studio is the sacred temple of creativity. What are three things you both can’t live without in the studio?

TCB: We ended up with quite a big studio, which is great. But lockdown was really nice for us both, because we were forced to go back to basics and work together as just the two of us again. So each other and good music.

Saint & Sinners
Image courtesy of The Connor Brothers
What’s next for The Connor Brothers?

TCB: I really want a woolly mammoth skeleton. And someday, we’ll go off the radar and live in the woods

Lastly, what does art mean to you?

TCB: Really amazing art changes your perception of the world and your relationship to it. It’s about as miraculous an experience as it’s possible for an atheist to have.

©2023 The Connor Brothers

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