Sickboy Stays Free in Shoreditch


Graffiti artist Sickboy is cementing his move to the capital with his highly-anticipated Stay Free exhibition, opening today in Shoreditch.

FRESH from the Bristol scene, which has spawned a whole new generation of street artists including Nick Walker, Robert Del Naja and Banksy, he says London definitely lives up to his expectations. ‘Yeah, my studio costs far too much!’ But then he didn’t come here for fame and fortune. ‘If I did, I never found it. But on a serious note, it could have been any capital across Europe. London seemed a logical place to start. Bristol the city became a town, and then slowly but surely, the town became a village.’

Stay Free brings inspiration from Roald Dahl’s legendary written masterpiece Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (‘It has personal ramifications’) and will see him transform a Victorian grade two listed, East End building into a 3D creative playground, including a 14-foot factory art installation. To fit with the concept this will then be bequeathed to one lucky guest who unlocks the factory with the winning golden key.

Gold, his signature colour, is a recurring theme. Is he trying to make his artwork more valuable?

‘Not at all. It was originally a way for my work to stand out and be specific to me. I have used colour combinations as a constant element in a lot of my work; I generally use gold in unison with a selection of other colours: black, white, fluoro, red and yellow. When used together, they kind of become ‘my’ colours.’

Tipped as one of the street art movement’s most investable artists, Sickboy defiantly stays true to his rebel roots with a career that’s seen him spraying walls and wheelie bins worldwide with his iconic temple logo and Save the Youth slogan. ‘Apparently, even from a young age, my parents used to mock me by singing “I did it my way” at stuff I used to do. You turn right, I want to turn left.’

So what inspires his work?

‘It’s hard to put my finger on what initially inspired me to start graffiti; I think it’s a mixture of being a bit arty and wanting to do my own thing.

‘Over the last year, a lot has happened as the spotlight shines on the so-called ‘street art’. A lot of it rubbed me up the wrong way. Don’t get me wrong, making an honest pound out of your creative labour is fine, and allows you to keep producing better work with consistency; it also allows for stagnation as people become blinded by doing art for the wrong reasons. And corporate backing of street art ventures by large galleries kind of tipped me over the edge.

‘Stay Free, for me, is a DIY exhibition, self-funded and trying to stay true to what I have always loved – and that, in its purest form, is putting pen to paper, paint to brush or spray to wall. Not bogging myself down with the rights and wrongs beyond those simple rules. The factory was born from a sketch I did. I like creating environments on my pieces, and this is a way of realising it in 3D.’

First published on The London Word, December 2008.
© Abbey Stirling