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Urban Art

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  • 1. Urban » Nothing’s simple when it comes to art, that’s what makes it so refreshing. Creating a label for Jungle a certain type of art is pointless because as soon as you set boundaries, someone will break them. Which is what’s happened to urban art. Once called graffiti, then street art and now urban art... it is impossible to pinpoint what falls into which genre. Bristol has been at the forefront of helping artists of all persuasions break such boundaries; which is why the city boasts a plethora of graf artists, street artists, illustrators and designers who have all taken inspiration from the once simple graffiti genre. Bristol’s long been a hotbed of urban talent, from Ronnie Jotun, who writes a regular blog on Bristol street art (bristolgraffiti. street art and graffiti to urban fashion design. But wordpress.com), is keen to explain what it is that’s made Bristol such a hotbed of what is it about the city that breeds such creativity? urban creativity. “Everyone knows Banksy, 0117 183
  • 2. Urban Profile illegal graf ti artist turned mysterious College Green [outside Bristol Cathedral] RIGHT A self-portrait of Nik in his studio, celebrity,” says Ronnie. “But too few and all the older kids would want to see my which he personalised with illustrations. realise that Banksy didn’t happen in a black book.” Again, for the uninitiated, Nik BELOW One of Nik’s designs printed on a vacuum: Bristol has long had one of the explains this is a portfolio graf ti artists sweatshirt based around his tag ‘Love the leaf’. most respected street art scenes in the carry to show off their work. “It’s not wise BOTTOM The original illustration before it world. Artists who started on Bristol’s to carry one if you’re wanted by the police, was transferred onto the sweatshirt. streets like Nik Walker, Inkie, Xenz and but these kids would borrow my book and Sickboy all now sell work for thousands. pass it round for hours because But why Bristol? Partly its history: they liked my stuff so much. before founding Massive Attack, Robert It all started when I bought a ‘3D’ Del Naja brought back graf ti styles graf ti magazine from Forbidden and in uences from New York to Bristol. Planet in Broadmead,” says Nik. This in turn inspired the likes of Nik Walker “I used to sit there for hours and Inkie. The reputation spread, other sketching and trying to be just artists moved here, including many of the like the guys in the book.” legendary Twentieth Century Frescoes From then on Nik was hooked crew. The reputation of the TCF in turn and started to exhibit his work at attracted a new wave of street artists, then different venues around town. “I going on to make their own mark on the had an exhibition of my paintings city through groups such as the What? in Seven on Park Row. I also did Collective and Keep Yourself Strong. a T-shirt design for the guy and But it would be foolish to think all of this he ran up a batch of shirts to talent could have happened without fertile sell alongside the paintings. The ground to grow in. Bristol’s always had a paintings sold really well and so rebellious edge, attracting and helping instead of taking the money I made people who aren’t afraid to do things from them, I asked Seven to do me differently and then wait for the rest of a bigger run of T-shirts. I used to the world to catch up. Nearly 20 years ago take them round in a backpack and many Bristol street artists were arrested sell them to people or people would as part of ‘Operation Anderson’. Nowadays search me out and ask for one.” *NikilL they’re the ones doing the charging for This artist is a great believer their art in galleries across the world. that if someone sees your work and likes it then they will nd you. ◆ One example of the fresh underground “With mainstream artists,” says Nik, talent to come out of Bristol is NikilL. “you sell 20 million records because When two close friends of graf ti everyone hears it. They have no artist NikilL got arrested for tagging the choice as it’s being rammed down streets around Bristol, Nik saw this as a their throats. With underground, I love sign. Instead of continuing to spray walls the feeling you get if 100 people buy your and buildings he turned his attention to music or your art.This means you have to designing unique items of clothing. “I be good! There’s also a huge collaborative wanted to still do graf ti but in a different network of creative support in Bristol,” way,” explains Nik. “Really, graf ti is just “I used to sit for about getting your tag out there; clothing is like this AND you get to see people wear hours sketching, it, so it’s an added bonus.” Nik started out back in 2001 when trying to be just he nished school and decided to go to college in Brislington to study art, like the guys in business and biology. Being a keen skater, he soon found a whole new culture in the book.” Bristol that instantly fell deck over hoodie with his designs. “I used to skate on 184 0117 www.bristolmedia.co.uk
  • 3. *Motorboy explains Nik, which is great for emerging designers and artists like him. “I didn’t go into this knowing I wanted to design clothing, I just did graf ti. Then I got into T-shirts as people liked my illustrations.Through my clothing I got to know the music heads around Bristol and they all wear my stuff and like my art. From there I got into producing and music.” Strange as it may seem, a young graf artist who had little idea what he planned to do with his life was lucky enough to nd a ◆ Motorboy is not about proli c art, but he still remains one of network of creative culture in Bristol that wanted to help take his Bristol’s most distinctive artists. His Mickey Mouse logo and political designs further. But if it wasn’t for Nik’s passion for illustration slogans appear in a few odd corners of the city. The unusual medium of none of his designs would have travelled further than his bedroom. paste-ups certainly sets Motorboy apart but his deliberate juxtaposition of easily identi able logos, bold colour and subversive messages “If I could spray on clothes and it would go through the wash makes his work stand out where others come unstuck. The use of iconic then I would do that. These designs, for example (he points to commercial imagery to carry an essentially anti-fashion statement stays the T-shirt he is wearing: one of his own, of course), feature brush true to his situationist inspiration. strokes and splats that I add with a brush and can before I scan it into Illustrator, where I chop it up and mix designs together.” This kind of found art has won Motorboy acclaim from the artistic Nik is proud that his work is original and unique, and unlike most community and has proven popular with collectors. Despite this level designs on the market, is not all done on Illustrator. I use a biro of success, Motorboy spends more of his time organising events and most of the time,” says Nik. “ Then I just compose it in Illustrator. exhibitions that promote the extended urban and street-art scene. Collaborating closely with other members of the community such as But the ultimate question remains: with student debts and Nik’s Cyclops, he recently hosted the Steal From Work shows, 12 Days of Xmas increasing desire to get his own place and be independent, if a and Not A Penny Off The Pay, which featured names from across Europe multinational agency offered to buy his brand, ‘Love the Leaf,’ and further a eld. Motorboy is also helping to run would he sell it? “No way,” says Nik. “Unless... I was living in the www.graf e.co.uk, the urban art raf e that raises thousands for streets in a box. But seriously, no. I am a roots kinda guy. Bristol children’s charities. With further plans to open a gallery in Bristol at the is where I have come from and where my brand has developed.” end of this year, Motorboy’s vision is certainly dynamic. (Tamasine Johnson) www.motorboy.info 0117 185