The truth is I was personally moved after spending time with JPS. I had to tell his story yet only in a way he was comfortable with doing. I asked the questions and he was sincere and kind enough to speak of darker times and how he has grown into the artist we see him as today. His story is unique and it is my absolute pleasure to share it with all who are reading this.
Knowing this was your first trip to New York, what made you choose Fat Free to show with?
I’ve known the owner since late 2009 and he’s a collector of my work, I had never been to America before and it’s somewhere I’ve always wanted to visit so I was very pleased when he offered me to exhibit a solo show at Fat Free Gallery. I absolutely loved New York and plan on coming back in a few months and get some work on the streets. I have a lot of new ideas that I got whilst experiencing the city, and it wasn’t the right weather for painting early January.
Your work at the show had more meaning than meets the eye, especially the pieces “Big Deal” as at first glance they appear so innocent. Two children exchanging money. Yet, as explained, the words Coke, heroin, etc. fill the background in wonderfully colorful 3D like imagery. Why so dark? Does that reflect your past? Was that your intention to juxtapose the two meanings?
A lot of my pieces do have subliminal messages in them, particularly the one you have mentioned, it stems from back when I was a heavy drug user and I was waiting in a dodgy alley with about 12 other addicts the guy on the phone kept saying ‘hold on mans on his way to you now’ really he was just building up the customers ready to serve them all at once. Suddenly a young boy no older than 11 turnt up on a little bike with his mouth filled with wraps of crack and heroin and started serving them out to people who could of easily robbed him, it took a lot to shock me back then but this incident always stuck in my mind, big deal is a nod to that, that sadly sometimes child’s innocence is lost and they are put in situations that would seem crazy to normal people.
Original street version.
Version as seen at Fat Free Gallery.
Your work always uses humor in it. Also, found objects. How did this first come about and what did your very first piece look like?
Somehow through even the darkest times in my life it was my sense of humour that kept me going. I like to put that into my works, I’m not fond of politics, people see enough of it on tv and papers to have it thrown in there face via walls as well. The found objects thing was just logical as I started out with zero money so it was cheaper to paint on found things, I painted on lots of pieces salvaged from Barrow gurney abandoned mental hospital and I liked the fact these items had history to them. My first ever stencil was a tribute to my friend Darren Plumley who was murdered in my hometown of Weston super mare in 2009.
Your story of beginning to learn stencil work back in 2009 after attending a Banksy show was very moving. You decided to get clean and pursue art. What about that show touched you? Why did you decide to go sober right then?
I was completely blown away by that show, I loved how he could put full size characters on a wall with a method that was so quick, it really made me realise how I’d thrown away my own talents, I was very gifted at art from a young age but completely threw it away. The going sober took a couple of months it wasn’t instant but I did start teaching myself to stencil almost immediately using just the blade from a Stanley knife with no handle, and cutting straight from the page in books I got for about 50 pence from charity shops and then sprayed with high pressure stolen car spray paint. I look back at those stencils and laugh but that’s how it began.
What piece put you on the map would you say?
That’s a tricky as I had a couple go viral in 2011 the ‘use the force’ piece and biggie smalls were very successful but I also think the horror works I've done at the mental hospital (shown above) was when people really noticed me.
Knowing that you now reside in a rather rural part of Germany makes me wonder how much artwork you can produce there. Do you hit up your surrounding town? What made you move from the UK where you are very well known?
Yeah it’s not an easy area for street art there’s basically next to no scene where I live now, usually when painting in the U.K. I can fast talk the cops and blag I’m legit but I speak zero German so apprehensive about just hitting places especially as it’s a lot of listed buildings, but I recently done a Snow White project in the town of Lohr am Main with @pzy_art where the story comes from and the castle she lived in and the mirror is still housed. I think over time I’ll get people accepting the art but just gonna approach it more carefully. I’m happier here and it’s easy to stay away from temptation. I don’t want to screw that up and I will still be painting in Weston when I visit, I also go back to Stavanger in Norway where there’s lots of street art and of course I have big plans for New York. Germany will get hit.........just need to be tactical.
Also painted in the town of Partenstein, Germany, is the piece below.
If you could collaborate with any artist, who would it be with and why?
I’d love to collaborate with banksy even though our styles are similar I think that we could come up with a great collab. I think it would be cool to collaborate with Stik and Fanakapan as I think it would be a great crossover of styles.
What can you tell me that you have never told a journalist before regarding your work?
I’m not proud of this one but some of my earliest works were exchanged for drugs which I then sold in order to get equipment and paint to hit walls, back at the beginning I had no collectors just my old links. I guess I had to take a step back in order to move forward. These days I try do as many good things as I can I have a little motto, "each smile I create takes away a tear the old me caused."
Where can our readers learn more about both you and your work?
There’s a lot on google if you search jps street art or you can follow me on Instagram at jps_artist