AboutMy whole life has been mixing up graffiti with high art. I didn't really think about so called 'street art' or being a 'street artist'. I wanted to be a painter, so when I was eighteen I started the Fine Art Degree in Coventry and then when I was twenty two. I started the MA in Painting at the Royal College of Art London.
How I got into art was when I was eleven (1985), I was into Hip Hop music, Breakdancing and Beatboxing, then one day I found out that you also had lettering, like graffiti words that you would spray on the wall such as 'Break', 'Rap' or 'Funk'. I was like, woh! That's cool. What really opened things up was when I saw the book 'Subway Art' by Henry Chalfant and Martha Cooper, in April 1986, its a legendary book full of 1970/80s New York Subway Graffiti, the biggest selling art book in History. I could not believe it because they actually did graffiti on trains, over the windows that completely blew me away. Now twenty five years later I am still using Subway Art as source material and even more amazing Henry Chalfant and Martha Cooper are aware of this and like my paintings.
Today like the subway graffiti, I want to make a painting that has a huge impact, for example a 5m tall Kong's looming over the viewer with an energetic presence with the large scale. I use King Kong in a pop art tactical way, it attracts most peoples attention much more instantly than an unknown image, an image that everyone instantly recognises, and the word 'King Kong' and the gorilla and the way I paint it, and mixing up contemporary influences from other painters. All the things that I love, I bring that into my work like a melting pot and throw it all into the painting. The bottom left corner has a dinosaur fighting a mini Kong gorilla, there I was aiming for a Ruben's feel with fast brush strokes as in Ruben's 'War and Peace' and 'Lion Hunt'. Mixing up the Baroque with graffiti, everything.
I am referencing one of the most famous films ever 'King Kong' 1933, made again in the early 1980s and again in 2005. At the end its sad when Kong climbs-up the Empire State building with the woman to look at the beautiful view. But they come and shoot him down, it is a very sad moment, I was in tears. You get to know Kong like he is your own dog, you love him.
Recently I saw the Picasso retrospective at The National Gallery in London and I looked at his brush strokes thinking about the texture of his paint, to try and take something of it and get that vibe into parts of my paintings. It is never ending, I love this way of life, painting everyday, doing graffiti at night. I am living my dream; I am living the Graffatarian life.
James Jessop 2009.