MR. PHLEGM: Urban Renewal

UK artist Mr. Phlegm uses forgotten pieces of Sheffield as a backdrop for his king-sized comics.

Words: Mariama Primus
Images: Mr. Phlegm

“I love to get run down urban spaces and factories and play with the space… A painting in the street becomes part of the city’s architecture, influenced by what’s around it rather than being some awkward canvass in an art gallery.” – Mr. Phlegm

UK–based cartoonist and street artist, known as “Phlegm” or “Mr. Phlegm” has a passion for transforming seemingly entropic spaces into an alternate dimension through his larger-than-life illustrations.

The self-proclaimed “self-publishing” addict, who has been committed to creating, illustrating and publishing his own comic for the last six years, has always been inspired by underground art. Which is why he took to expanding his canvas onto the walls of abandoned warehouses and factories in and around his hometown of Schefflied. Most recently, Mr. Phlegm decided to lace an old dilapidated Russian Sukhoi fighter jet (in Whales, UK) with a “nose job”, adding an archer strapped with a bow and arrow along its side, and a telescope to decorate the plane’s tail.

As if his massive pieces jumped straight off the pages of one of his comic books, his street art maintains the same aesthetic: his signature fine-lined approach. His attention to detail is meticulous and made visible through endless cross-hatching, patterns, surrealist 3D-esque shading—his images are all very vivid. But where Mr. Phlegm truly excels rests in the juxtaposition of the ordinary scenes that he creates and masters with his complex handiwork, to the complimentary settings he chooses to erect them.

While some may say Mr. Phlegm belongs in the graf category because of this choice, not to mention his leanings toward characters, most street art followers label him a cartoonist. In a wall painting entitled, The Harnessing the Giant Squids, Phlegm creates the illusion of a boat hovering over a local riverbank and capturing a giant squid. A scene taken directly out of his latest comic book, when Phlegm blogged about the piece, he marveled at his perfect selection of its real-life environment. “When the winter water levels rise I should get a good picture of it, as if it’s actually submerged.”

Of course, Mr. Phlegm creates works under the guise of many themes, but blurring the lines of fantasy with reality remains a constant. Perhaps that’s what’s most fascinating about the experience, knowing that once you’ve walked onto a Phlegm scene, you are no longer a voyeur. You’ve become one of his characters.

Images courtesy of Mr. Phlegm.

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