Tim Hans shoots… Mike Ballard aka Cept

Photo by Tim Hans
Photo by Tim Hans

Mike Ballard, perhaps better known to graffiti and street art fans as Cept, is one of the UK’s most fascinating artists or graffiti writers. His artistic output includes oil paintings, video art, sculptures, screenprints, graffiti, murals and highly conceptual installation projects. Tim Hans met Ballard at his London studio earlier this year for our continuing series of photo-portraits of artists by Tim, and I asked Mike a few questions over email.

RJ: What are you working on at the moment?

Ballard: I’m working on a new series of paintings in oil, a new future primitive series, darkly psychedelic baroque hip hop with cosmic nomad overtones. They will form part of a new installation with video and sound, hoping to show it next year, as there is a lot of work to do.

RJ: What is the separation between Mike Ballard and Cept?

Ballard: The work I make under Mike is more patient and considered, it’s the opposite end of the scale from the work as Cept. The work on the street is instant, mostly made up on the spot and executed within a couple of hours, I’ve painted so many pieces, it’s like I’m on auto pilot most of the time, I rarely think about what colours i’m using, unless doing characters, I let the letter pieces flow and see what happens, I rarely draw outlines these days and have started to go straight in with the final outline first. Cept is very impatient, get it done, let’s go to the pub and look at the photos, whereas with my studio work I’m in for the long haul, using brushes and oils, mixing colours, it’s a world away from graffiti, the work on canvas is a lot more considered, it’s a new world to me  painting with oils, so I’m learning all the time, new techniques, different pigments, it’s like getting into graffiti again, I’m super buzzing about it, want to know everything. The studio work allows me to expand my artistic ideas beyond graffiti, but maintaining a sensibility that comes from my years of painting on the street.

Photo by Tim Hans
Photo by Tim Hans

RJ: In mainstream contemporary art, there seems to be this idea that the writers who get into highly conceptual art leave graffiti behind and “graduate” from writing, but artists like Barry McGee and yourself keep a foot in both worlds. What continues to appeal to you about your work as Cept that you don’t get from your work as Mike Ballard and vice versa? Is it a false dichotomy to position writing and conceptual painting, video, sculpture and installation art as different things?

Ballard: Once you’re really into graffiti, I feel there is no stopping, serious writers don’t give up, it goes in waves, sometimes I’m painting a lot outside and sometimes not, but never falling out the game, I’ve been painting for too long to ever stop or turn away from graffiti, what I’ve seen of late in London is a lot of people claiming to be street, coz they done a couple of roller pieces in the wick, painted on the street for 2 minutes then claim to be making some big transition from street to gallery, these are just people who make money not art, and have no integrity in what they do, it’s simply to be famous and get some money, they don’t graduate from writing, they use it as some kind of badge to make them seem cool, and have no presence on the street anymore.

Graffiti is a massive part of me, it is who I am , how I grew up and the friends I have made, I get a lot of satisfaction painting graffiti, it’s instant, in your face, burners all over the place, the whole action of painting a huge piece, it can’t be beat, it’s a feeling like nothing else, where as completing a painting on canvas is a different feeling, it’s again one of satisfaction and challenge, but more personal, a bit more shy and reserved, a whole different context of making stuff, bipolar.

I think it’s how you pull these things together and again in what context you experience them, I incorporate all these elements into my installations, it’s not that they are different things, divisions but whether they have the artist’s style and ideas running throughout the different mediums, to form one big piece of work from many elements.

Photo courtesy of Cept
Photo courtesy of Mike Ballard

RJ: What is the riskiest artwork you’ve ever made?

Ballard: Riskiest in terms of shocking? or riskiest as in most crapping myself? If it’s the latter, probably doing a back jump on the New York subway.

Photo courtesy of Cept
Photo courtesy of Mike Ballard

RJ: What’s the strangest dream you’ve had recently?

Ballard: I always have strange dreams, but telling them to people is like looking through someone else’s holiday photos, a bit boring, you can’t convey the feeling of the experience…

Photo courtesy of Mike Ballard
Photo courtesy of Mike Ballard

Photos by Tim Hans and courtesy of Mike Ballard

Weekend link-o-rama

Nemo in London
Nemo in London

Happy weekend. Are you on the east coast of the USA? If so, are you melting?

Photo by Unusualimage

A video from Mike Ballard aka Cept

British artist and graffiti writer Mike Ballard aka Cept recently posted this video, titled The Rest Pretend, showing some of his indoor and outdoor work over the last few years. I’m a huge fan of his work both as Ballard and Cept, so it’s cool to see the Cept work given a sort of Ballard-style touch through the editing of the video. Usually, it seems that the Ballard and Cept identities are kept a bit more separate and distinct.

Via Very Nearly Almost

Photo by RJ Rushmore

Weekend link-o-rama


Caroline and I are out in Colorado this week with my family, so art is coming second, but luckily it looks like it’s been a slow week. Here’s what I almost missed…

Photo by Nolionsinengland

Vandalog and M.A.N.Y. present Up Close and Personal

In two weeks, Vandalog and Murals Around New York (MANY) will be putting on a pop-up show in a New York City apartment. Up Close and Personal mostly came out of two ideas: 1. Street artists tend to work large outdoors and we wanted to challenge people to make art on a small scale and 2. We’ve all seen artwork in galleries that either would only look good in a gallery but not in a home, or is just too big to fit into a typical apartment and we wanted to see something different from that. With Up Close and Personal, the show itself is taking place in an apartment on the Upper West Side, and we have capped the size of the artwork at 30 x 30 inches, with an emphasis on going as small as possible.

I’ve worked with Keith Schweitzer and Mike Glatzer of M.A.N.Y. to curate this show, and we’re really excited with the line up that we’ve managed to put together: Aiko, Chris Stain, Clown Soldier, Don Leicht, Edible Genius, Elbowtoe, Gaia, How & Nosm, Jessica Angel, John Fekner, Know Hope, Logan Hicks, Mike Ballard, OverUnder, R. Robot, Radical, Retna, Skewville, Tristan Eaton, Troy Lovegates aka Other and White Cocoa.

Up Close and Personal opens May 12th from 7-9pm. We’ll also be open from 7-9pm on the 13th. Then noon-9pm and noon-7pm on the 14th and 15th respectively. Particularly on the 12th, it is possible that we’ll be shifting people in every half hour or so, since the space is a small apartment. The show is taking place at 217 West 106th Street, Apartment 1A, New York, NY 10025 – Between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenues.

Hope to see you in a couple weeks!

Chris Stain

Some NY art fair suggestions

EVOL will be at the WILDE Gallery booth at Volta

With two midterms exams tomorrow, I’m rushing this post, but here’s a simple list for some of what to check out at the art fairs in New York this week.

I won’t be in NYC for the fairs myself, but I’ll hopefully have some photos to post. Otherwise, the places I will be getting my art fair news will be Hyperallergic and Arrested Motion.

Photo courtesy of Volta Art Fair

Mike Ballard – Community Thunder

Mike Ballard, aka Cept, has a show opening this week in Cork, Ireland. Yep. Cork. Sounds like a kind of random place for a show an artist like Mike Ballard, but then again, Mike is not the type to do things the usual way (like the substantial differences between his art as Mike Ballard and his art as Cept). Over the last couple of years, Mike’s work has continued to grow on me. At first, I just trusted nolionsinengland when he said how great it was, but I’m not sure I could quite see it. Now though, I get that awesome sense of wonder when I see something by Mike Ballard. I’m excited to see that Mike is bringing his work to new audiences in Ireland.

The show, Community Thunder, will take place at Triskel Arts Centre, opens this Saturday from 6-9pm and runs through March 23rd.

PS, I don’t mean to say that Cork or Ireland in general sucks, I’m just saying it’s not known for a thriving street art or graffiti scene besides a few exceptions.

Photo courtesy of Mike Ballard

Weekend link-o-rama

D*face sticker

Happy new year! Between snow in NYC and the general slowness around this time of year, not much going on this week. Here’s a bit of what I’ve been enjoying though:

Photo by Delete08

Burning Candy updates

Tek33, Gold Peg and Sweet Toof. Photo by Tek33

There are a few little bits to mention today about my friends in Burning Candy. The crew have been keeping pretty busy lately.

  1. The above wall (thanks to Tek33 for putting me up) is the latest in at least 3 large walls painted in London by members of BC in the last month or so. Nolionsinengland has photographed the other two.
  2. Important note: I worked at High Roller Society for one day last week, but it’s not a regular job or something I expect to repeat since I’m moving soon. The crew’s Candy Shop show at High Roller Society kicks ass. It’s a small space, but Burning Candy have really made full use of the gallery. The installation is really fun to explore. There are so many little bits that it’s unlikely anybody noticed every minor detail that the crew had put into the assemblage of paintings, stickers, sculptures, drawings and found objects. There are photos on High Roller Society’s flickr, but I think that this weekend was the show’s last and it is now closed. But double check with HRS I guess, because I could be wrong.
  3. The crew is traveling. Sweet Toof is painting in New York City and a standard Mighty Mo/Sweet Toof has appeared in Amsterdam.
  4. Sweet Toof’s got an interview in this week’s le cool.