Tim Hans shoots… James Jessop


Graffiti geek (and we mean that in the best way) and fine artist James Jessop met with Tim Hans earlier this year for our “Tim Hans shoots…” series. Tom Pearson interviewed Jessop.

Tom: Hi James, I wanted to start by going back to school and your trained painting roots. You attended Coventry University and the Royal College of Art, and now have BA Hons and MA degrees to your name, how do you believe this teaching developed you as an artist?

James: That’s a good first question, and answering it will make a huge interview just by itself, as history, obsession and dedication to a subculture all mean a lot to me.

My actual trained painting roots began, not in art school as a student, but back in the old school, by English standards use of that word, in the first UK wave of the Hip Hop era. Way back in 1985 I was hearing Chuck Chill out live giving the New York City latest live on Capital FM and this is where it all began.

Then on Friday 18th April 1986 I was given Subway Art for my 12th birthday. From that point, every day, I would make at least one A4 transcription drawing, paper pieces or outlines whatever you want to call them, coloured in felt tips taken directly from its pages. I still have most of the drawings. For the whole of 1987 as a thirteen year old I continued this practice, during school lunch break and all evening whilst at home listening to Eric B and KRS 1.

In the summer of ’87 Henry Chafant and James Prigoff’s Spray Can Art came out. This was like the new testament. From then I drew from that to the sounds of Public Enemy. That same year I met Robbo, Dozez WRH, Set3, Fura and Up2, and got their hits in my black book and these tags became my tag style blue prints.

When I turned 14 I was still on it, drawing every day, shaping letters and forming pieces spelling different words in different styles with mixed mediums. I also did my first solo trackside in racked car paint. Before that, I’d only worked as an apprentice for my older friend Mark Cheesman, filling in, and looking out. In the summer of 1988 I got obsessed with street skateboarding and slowed down with the graffiti daily paper pieces.

But a year later, in 1989 I would tag up whenever I got the opportunity whilst skating, in Milton Keynes, Harrow in London, and places like that, it was Jessop on tour. I know for a fact I was the first tagger in Milton Keynes. I’d be rolling then pull out my Posca, Pentel or my 30mm with meltonium shoe dye, I’d hit those marble subways then skate off again. Pure rebellious energy to the max. I remember some skaters telling me not to tag but they then later became taggers themselves. Back then in the late 1980’s we called it tagging and would say ‘have you seen my new tag’ or my ‘tag style’. Back then we never said ‘hand style’.

In 1990, when I turned 16, I was accepted on a full-time two year B-Tec general art and design course in Luton. I had to take two buses to college, and two home. I hit them all. Art all day, bombing on the way home, street skating every evening, living the life. It was then I read Keith Haring’s authorised biography and saw how he used the street art to inspire his gallery shows, and from then I specialised in painting on canvas.

During my B-Tec in 1992 I was accepted to and study at Coventry University BA in Fine Art. I started by degree at the age of 18 at which point I’d already been developing as an artist for 6 years. Going to Coventry was amazing as I no longer had to live with my parents, who wouldn’t let me keep spray paint in the house or go out all hours. Now it was on, any time any hour. Being an art student was great cover for being a full-time graffiti writer outside of college hours. I was the new Coventry King bombing prolifically and street skateboarding most nights, simply jamming out .

In my the first year at Coventry I finally saw Style Wars, which I’d never managed to catch before. The library also had the 1983 catalogue Graffiti Kings from Rotterdam, so I took all this in, I carefully cut out the full page advert for a show at Kladfled Perry Gallery, New York, from Art Forum. The show featured New York subway masters; Lee, Futura 2000, Daze, Lady Pink and Crash doing paintings on canvas and this gave me my biggest inspiration and hope.

In the second year of my degree I started to keep a closer eye on current painters in the UK gallery scene, such as Fiona Rae and Peter Doig, whose work I saw when the college took us all up to Liverpool and to London when Doig was up for the Turner prize. Being at art school was starting to have a big influence in my direction by exposing my eyes to these artists, who otherwise I would have over looked. Fiona Rae had the boogie down Bronx energy in her paintings back then, even though she was a London Gold Smiths college graduate. I was very influenced by her early 90’s abstracts and this inspired me to paint my own on a large scale. In my third year I applied to the Royal College of Art but didn’t get an interview. My degree final show was 5 large bright abstract canvases, very bold and bright with tagging rhythms in areas.

After graduating in 1995 I moved straight in to a open plan studio in Coventry City Centre and carried on painting. My goal and dream was to get into the Royal College of Art to study an MA in Painting. In 1997, after a second interview, they offered me a place and I moved to York Way in London. I would get the tube in from Caledonian Road daily, on the Piccadilly line to Gloucester Road, then skateboard up to the College. At this time Zonk DDS was the most prolific all city train and street writer with great style as well.

The Royal college was amazing. In the first year you would have Chris Ofili and Peter Doig coming round hanging out, talking about your work and their own. In the second year Ofili won the 1998 Turner prize, the first painter since 1986, and I only saw him once after that, but Doig became my personal tutor and remained a huge influence throughout my career.

Continue reading “Tim Hans shoots… James Jessop”

Vandalog Movie Night as a blog post

Earlier this week, I hosted a movie night at The Wren’s Nest in Atlanta for the Living Walls Conference. Living Walls asked me to put together a list of some short films to show, and I ended up with 27. A few people have asked me to post those films online to share with friends or just to see a film that they missed while they were getting some food, so after the jump you’ll find embedded versions of all 27 films that were screened at the movie night (many of which have appeared on Vandalog before). Enjoy! Continue reading “Vandalog Movie Night as a blog post”

Good Times Roll at High Roller Society

Tonight (29th June) sees the opening of Good Times Roll at High Roller Society. The show presents “an eclectic selection of 39 international artists for a salon style Summer Show that finally heats things up a bit this season. Ranging from the street to the studio, painters, sculptors, photographers and printmakers hailing from Australia, Brazil, Portugal, USA and UK join forces to showcase their wares through their passion for different creative practices.”

Following the opening, the t-shirt and letterpress printing workshops with artwork by Rowdy, Sweet Toof & others will keep you going back for more. So check out the opening party tonight, add these following dates to your diary and let the good times roll.

Workshops (minimum donation of £3 per workshop):

  • T-Shirt Printing: with COPYEM12 –– 30th June and 1st July 1.00–5.00pm (both days)
  • Letterpress Printing : with Alex Booker –– 29th July 1.00–5.00pm

Photos courtesy of High Roller Society

Come and Get It! Half Price: The Apprentice Takes on Urban Art

As most of you may know, last night premiered the latest episode of The Apprentice UK concentrating on the sales of urban art. The two teams were split up and tasked to represent two street artists and flog their work the public in East London at a night only gallery show. Obviously knowing very little about the genre himself, Lord Sugar set the teams up with car company Renault and gin manufacturer Beefeater in attempt to generate big sales for the teams by way of a corporate client. And then the circus ensued…

The episode opened with the teams standing looking frightened in Leake Street Tunnel in Waterloo with an ominous video of Lord Sugar talking them through the task. The candidates were then immediately split into their teams with half traveling to Bristol “the birthplace of graffiti” and the other half staying in London to source artists. In Bristol, the candidates met with SPQR and Copyright. Not liking the controversial wares of SPQR (the hypodermic needle freaked them out) the team fell for the stencil/tattoo-like stylings of Copyright. One of the guys kept trying to offer his own ludicrous interpretation the work as the camera panned to the silent artists making the situation just as uncomfortable for the viewer watching. In London, the teams met with Pure Evil, Nathan Bowen, and James Jessop. The teams fought over who wanted to sell Pure Evil’s work as he eventually went with the team that showed more enthusiasm rather than the pretty boy who kept talking out of his ass about how much he knew about street or rather that he may have viewed Exit Through the Gift Shop and retained a few facts. Bowen was also chosen to be shown, in order to impress Beefeater with his London centric characters. It was, however, ironic that half the team saw his work outside in Bristol and expressed how much they hated only to find out that they were selling it the next night. Nice job boys. The other team settled on Jessop and Copyright in the hopes of selling a large Jessop canvas to someone who was drunk enough to drop 10,000 pounds securing the team the win.

The shows themselves took place in Black Rat and Arch 402 with the usual street art crowds and bankers trolling through. The teams had no idea how or who to sell to, but just talking bullshit as if they were selling insurance. I’m just hoping that the artists who were involved were happy clearing overstock that night and making some extra money. Pure Evil alone sold over 10,000 pounds worth of work apparently. Not a bad haul and I’m sure some great publicity will come from it. Bowen got into the spirit by doing a live canvas based on the London landscape that could have gone to Beefeater, but with his representatives crappy client skills, the company left empty handed and their pockets still teeming with money. But in the end, the team that had Pure Evil won, even though it was only by 173 pounds. Bit of a shame. If only someone had enough space for any one of those 10 feet Jessops…

So what is the lesson here boys and girls? Is that anyone can sell urban art nowadays? Is it that almost anyone will buy something if you tell them it is cool/hip/trendy/up and coming? No no no. The lesson is that if you paid full price for any artists’ works than you paid too much. With an hour left to selling the teams started giving 50% discounts to some of the work. Half Price! Come and get it! Because that is not in bad taste whatsoever…

Images courtesy of BBC

DOTS parts 1-3 online now

A painting from James Jessop's "Subway Fiction" series

Parts 1-3 of DOTS, a series of films about London’s Burning Candy crew, have just been posted on Babelgum.com. The films follow members of Burning Candy as they travel around the world. So far, Luc Price aka Cyclops has visited India to work with signpainters, Rowdy has traveled to the Australian outback to see ancient wall-painting techniques and graffiti-history obsessed James Jessop saw New York City for the first time. Here are their stories…

(okay here’s a trailer first actually)

And now the actual films…

Bomb Chaser with James Jessop, which is without a doubt the highlight of DOTS so far and the one you should watch if you only watch one of these:

Beyond Cosmos with Rowdy:

Bollywood Clout with Luc Price aka Cyclops:

Also, James Jessop has a solo show opening tonight, also called Bomb Chaser, at Charlie Smith Gallery in London. Hooked has more info on that.

Photo by Lyfetime

James Jessop on pens and markers

James Jessop has made a video with SpineTV for all you graffiti nerds out there. James has a collection of markers and pens for tagging, from back in the mid 1980’s to the modern markers used today. In the video, he tests out each of these markers, goes through the history of his tags and even reveals one of the new secrets that graffiti writers have been taking advantage of this year. A must-see for those obsessed with graffiti history.

Via Hooked

James Jessop at High Roller Society

James Jessop‘s latest solo show, Beauty and The Beast, opens this Friday (March 19th) at High Roller Society in London. I’m very bummed that I’ll be out of the country for the opening of this show (more on that in a few days). Honestly, I don’t care for the painting that HRS has put in the press release, but usually I really enjoy James’ artwork. Demonology and Subway Ghosts are two of my personal favorites. Beauty and The Beast will only have four paintings in the entire show, but James’ paints on a pretty huge scale.

From High Roller Society:

After recent solo exhibitions in São Paulo and Copenhagen, four of James Jessop’s finest works will see their UK debut at High Roller Society, the newest gallery to London’s progressive East end. Titled BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, this solo show reveals Jessop’s trademark style: large-scale spoof horror paintings that present a visual feast of transcribed B-movie posters, 60s sex/sleaze paperback book covers, and 1980s New York subway graffiti. The exhibition launches on Friday, 19 March 2010, with the release of a limited edition 5 colour screen print based on his notorious King Kong painting series.

Jessop burst into the London art scene in 2004 with terrifying impact at Charles Saatchi’s infamous New Blood exhibition which featured an epic 5 metre-long panoramic painting entitled Horrific. Since then, Jessop‘s repercussions have continued with bigger and bolder studio work and a consistently strong dual street presence through his own rigorous dealings in graffiti. “My whole life has been mixing up graffiti with high art,” he states, “the message in my work is to make a painting that has huge impact”. Jessop feeds off of his obsession with certain sub-cultural movements, such as graffiti and drum n’ bass, the energy of which fuels his work, regardless of where it is executed. “It is never ending, I love this way of life, painting everyday, doing graffiti at night… I am living my dream.”

A graduate of the Royal College of Art, Jessop’s energy is nonetheless skillfully controlled and highly focussed. Every minute area in each of his paintings is considered in order to achieve the best visual effects. Varied impasto textures, fluid brush strokes, vibrant colour combinations, and delicate glazing techniques are executed differently throughout each piece, and help to emphasize the texture of every element in the composition. Jessop’s painting approach and many of his intertwined components are clearly influenced by key movements throughout art history such as the Renaissance, the Baroque, and Futurism. Yet, like a B-movie needs junk food, Jessop’s cross-movement style integrates Uni Posca paint pens, spray-can effects, and the familiarly bizarre imagery of popular culture.

Jessop’s big-screen works were recently part of the Animals Contemporary Visions exhibition held at the Martini Arte Internazionale in Turin, where he was subsequently invited to be the 2010 Artist in Residence at the Cultural Centre Cesare Martini, in Cavagnolo, Italy. Before undertaking this venture later in the year, James Jessop’s frightfully astonishing selection of works to date will be showcased at High Roller Society until 24 April.