SICKBOY: Art Crimes

Taking cue from his religious upbringing and his studies of visual communication, Sickboy introduces a new genre of rebel art.

Interview: Nakia Hicks
Images: Viktor Vauthier

Sickboy, once a schoolboy in Bristol, UK, never quite fit into the model of his British upbringing. As seen with most artistic types, the conventional never seem to be the right fit. So while at the home of a classmate, he stumbled into something that would ultimately change the course of the rest of his life. “I was visiting with a friend whose brother had drawn graffiti on the walls of his bedroom. At that moment, I felt like what I was taking in went with where I was internally. It spoke to me.”

Though he was never formally trained, the art he did come across in school never offered the creative outlet graffiti did. “I completed formal foundations in art courses, but the approach to teaching it was a bit dry. Graffiti felt rebellious and just had a naughtier edge.” As it would happen, the graf movement was bubbling all round. From the mid-1980s, Bristol UK began emerging as the epicenter of street art, spawning the likes of Banksy, Inkie Nick Walker and setting the stage for Sickboy and his peers. Soon In the truest essence of the art form, he would merge his talents with a “crew”, a group of like-minded street artists who called themselves names like the Twentieth Century Frescoes (TCF) and the Have A Go Heroes (HAGH).

Sickboy began cultivating his craft. Taking classes on the foundation of art and visual communication then provided him with the technical knowledge to diversify his art and introduce elements not commonly seen in traditional graffiti, which he says still resonates when he creates today. Working in the mediums of screens, free forms, illustrative arts and painting, Sickboy’s personal style began to elevate him based on his eclectic choice of canvas and his elusive subject matter “I began working with whatever I could get my hands on— house paint, tar, gold pen, shoe polish.” His decision to use a logo as a signature, as opposed to writing his name was not only unique, but also proved to be a staple in his catalogue. His painted temples became his calling card. Vivid, multi-tiered imagery paired with bold color use and varying materials propelled Sickboy into the mainstream.

Transplanting himself to London in 2008, Sickboy opened his first solo show in December of the following year. The installation included a mixture of traditional paintings, prints and a 14-foot structure called the “Stay Free Factory”. The message behind his work shares the same sentiment. “My general message encourages the viewer to stay free from constraints. I’ve never tried to make any massive cultural statements. There is nothing political or Goth intended. It’s about a positive feeling. My imagery relates to my personal life, bible stories and subjects that move me.”

Using his spirituality as a basis for his work, Sickboy, now one of the most renown and respected of the renegade artists to emerge from Bristol, is continuing to develop his personal brand. To date, he has managed to transform a schoolboy hobby into a lucrative business, securing a steady stream of commissions, solid collectors and a host of buyers. Along with selling his work both directly and through small gallery relationships, he produces and sells a “fanzine” called the Carafanzine series, 3-D figurines of his temples and every year he produces a small exhibition. “I oversee everything from the publicity to the marketing and the self promoting. I try and split my brain down the middle: the artist and the business end. I also try to farm out the business responsibilities to friends.”

This September, Sickboy will be facilitating his 2nd major exhibition and his most inspired to date. It is a collaborative effort with other British artists melding mediums and adding elements such as theatre, video, a choir and a life-size confessional constructed with bricks. When asked if he ever feels as though he’s “arrived”, Sickboy explains, ”I feel like I’m on the cusp of doing bigger and better, but I never feel as though I’ve reached that place.”

Images courtesy of Sickboy and Viktor Vauthier.

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