Interview: Sickboy, Street Artist

Surreal street artist Sickboy is back with a brand new exhibition. We last spoke to him in 2008 before his Stay Free installation featuring balaclava-clad Oompa-Loompas running around a transformed Victorian tram shed while a 14-foot factory installation churned out art.

This time around, the “neo-psychedelic-cosmic-abstract-expressionist” artist takes a metaphysical journey with his latest creation “Heaven and Earth” combining spraypaint sonatas inspired by renaissance paintings with physical pieces like a confession booth. The online version has already attracted over 1,000 uncensored soulbearings; if you have something to get off your chest, now may be the time.

What’s the thinking behind your next exhibition?

I’ve been exploring and pushing my figurative and landscape work through a broad spectrum of sources such as renaissance masterpieces to surrealist art. I wanted to represent my version of heaven and earth. I’m not religious, but at the same time, I’m fascinated by religion and its effect on art over the years.

You studied fine art and have said that you were influenced by Picasso, Hundertwasser and architectural artists like Gaudi. What were the formative events that led you to become a professional graffiti artist?
I wouldn’t call myself a professional graffiti artist. Things evolve naturally. Graffiti is my favourite pastime and the biggest subcultural influence to have graced my life since an early age. I’ve always painted on canvas alongside graffiti and I’ve been doing exhibitions throughout my career. I felt that to only paint walls, or to only paint canvas, was too stifling. I just go with whatever comes next and try to pull towards it from the heart.

Are you affiliated with any London crews? Are there any crews you rate?
I think it’s good to have people who are associated by style and ethos. I’ve always liked the history behind legendary London crews such as D.D.S – they are people I’ve seen up since I was young. Old crews like The Chrome Angels still fill my brain with reminiscent glee, and the continuity in  T.F.W as repeat style offenders. Some crews are a strong part of London’s history and make-up whether you write or not.

How would you compare the current London graffiti scene to that elsewhere in the UK?
I think it’s always been more cut throat, and more active than anywhere else. This means that you’re less likely to see full colour productions and more likely to see chrome and black tracksides and shutters – it makes for an interesting bus or train ride.

What do you think about organised graffiti events like The Battle Of Waterloo 2?
I think graf jams are okay. The atmosphere is always a bit ego-driven. It’s cool to get everyone in the same place, but competition comes to the forefront and sometimes, it’s better to just get on with your own thing.

You’ve had great success with both letter-based works and symbols (e.g. the Temple). What’s your preference nowadays?
Any of the above. Emptying spray cans is where it’s at; emptying spray paint while drunk is even better.

How has the London graffiti scene changed over the course of your career?
Graffiti is back in control. Street art half stepped into a historical landmine and got its leg blown off.

Given legal carte blanche, what would be your ultimate place to paint and what would you draw?
I think legal carte blanche removes a lot of the point for me. If I was God, I’d paint some trees back into the city.

Sickboy’s Heaven and Earth will be at Dray Walk in Brick Lane from 4-6 November. More information over at http://www.thesickboy.com.

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