DJ Fat Tony & Opake collaborate on new exhibition- The Cookie Monster attends a meeting for overeaters; Eeyore and Pooh Bear re-enact a therapy session; Sesame Street’s Bert and Ernie have an obsession with adult content; even the confectionery you find at meetings has had a makeover… it’s all the work of a pair of recovered addicts-turned-artists, DJ Fat Tony and Ed Worley (aka Opake), who between them are celebrating their recovery through some unsettling and provocative art.
From addicts to artists
Club kid. Hedonist. Queer pioneer. Addict. Tony Marnoch, aka DJ Fat Tony, hit rock bottom during an out-of-control cocaine binge in the early noughties that almost literally left him ‘speechless’ – he pulled out all his own teeth with pliers while experiencing psychosis. Fast forward to 2023 – following rehab, therapy and a journey through 16 years of sobriety and enlightenment – and the fashion world’s go-to DJ, now 56, is a bestselling author, acerbic social influencer and outspoken advocate for facing addiction.
Ed Worley’s addiction story follows a familiar trajectory after he first tried alcohol aged nine. By 16, he was taking cocaine but nevertheless passed his exams and enrolled at the University of Leeds to study cinematography. He became an alcoholic. A crack addict. During a drug-induced psychotic episode, he attempted to cut his leg off with a razor blade. He experienced homelessness, had run-ins with violent dealers who threatened him with guns and machetes. Now clean for five years, the 34-year-old is a graffiti and pop artist who works under the name Opake.
Honesty, advocacy, irony
These two creative forces have United in the desire to confront the stigma of trauma through honesty, advocacy and humour. A tongue-in-cheek look at the different forms of addiction and recovery, the art featured in Church Halls and Broken Biscuits explores the ’12 steps to recovery’ mindset and behaviours. Meetings often take place in church halls or community centres, where tea is served alongside biscuits decorated with positive affirmations such as ‘One day at a time’.
I hated myself and life and all I had to look forward to was death. This exhibition celebrates 16 years clean and sober, and my love of life– DJ Fat Tony
Opake’s works often feature cartoon characters, and both Winnie the Pooh and the familiar figures from Sesame Street make an appearance on canvas. Cookie Monster attends an Overeaters meeting. The Count counts off his recovery days. Bert and Ernie are cast as former porn and sex addicts. The middle of the gallery space will feature life-size soft sculptures of The Count, Cookie Monster, and Oscar the Grouch.
Other pieces on show include a collection of 10 illustrations with an ‘early recovery’ theme, all inspired by classic children’s books. Picture a child praying over a McDonald’s hamburger – a recovering addict often turns to the comfort and instant gratification of junk food. Or a child taking a selfie while clutching a Balenciaga teddy bear. Many feature unsettling motifs of self-sabotage.
Raising ££ for rehab
The exhibition will feature a specially created ‘hero’ piece of art to be shared on social media from the show’s start date before being sold at a closed silent auction. Money raised will enable treatment for a number of addicts at a UK rehabilitation centre, facilitated by Street Scene.
Fat Tony + Opake, Church Halls and Broken Biscuits, 27th April – 20th May, Quantus Gallery,
About the artist
DJ Fat Tony, performer and content curator, Tony continues to mix with the cultural movers and shakers of our times. He’s hung with them all, including Keith Haring, Andy Warhol, Madonna, Elton John and many more, and his inner circle includes Kate Moss, Boy George and Edward Enninful, editor-in-chief of British Vogue. His uncensored wit is brilliantly refreshing in a PC world.djfattony.co.uk
OPAKE (Ed Worley) Now five years clean, father to two young children and gaining an international reputation with his graffiti-style pop art, Ed has said that “addiction isn’t a hindrance, it’s a gift – you just have to learn how to use it.” His highly dense, complex repeated patterns play with the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. quantusgallery.com/opake