Sickboy – Stay Free Show

The Tramshed
Rivington St, London
3 – 10 Dec

All photos NoLionsInEngland except where stated

If Street Art needed a hero, an anonymous posterchild, then Manc rat Sickboy would be your man-with-a-can. For large scale wall lushness all over the world, this artist’s portfolio ranks with the very best and most loved.

Firstly there are the Sickboy temples, those lurid yellowey-orange squashy bubbly mosque looking radio sets, radiating colour all over the place.

Sickboy Temple, 2007

Sickboy Temple 2008

Then there are the block letters, whose colours and composition are always verging on the ramshackle yet Sickboy always delivers a positive message in rough perfection.

Sickboy, feat Word To Mother

In addition to running with the AAGH (Ave A Go Heroes) Crew which may include Sickboy, Otick, Ponk, Phet (TBC!) Sickboy has painted with some of the best, including Burning Candy, Lister and Word To Mother, obliging his comrades to raise their game.

Brick Lane with Burning Candy
Dragon Bar Roof (RIP) with Anthony Lister
It is hard not to love the work Sickboy leaves on walls so it’s no wonder the private viewing of Sickboy’s first solo London show was rammed but let’s recall a few basic characteristics which ensure total respect: all of the graffiti was created in situ, (mostly) without permission and look stunningly gorgeous.

Sickboy love has taken over a spruced up tram shed on the fringe of London’s East End, showcasing Sickboy’s original art, prints and installations. The single cavernous room is lined with paintings on three sides, suspended by wire from the rafters because listed building sensitivities means they can’t make holes in the walls. The core of the space is occupied by a garish red and yellow oversized playhouse, looking like a cross between Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory and a Hansel and Gretel Ikea shed. The frontspace surrounding this Stay Free chalet is landscaped with small potted shrubs which close inspection reveals to be Sickboy prints.

A set of large paintings on paper pressed against coloured Perspex box frames dominate the left side of the shed. Thematically, the common denominator is a glimpse into the mind of Sickboy, illustrating its internal mechanisms as it ponders the quandaries of an urban existence. On/vol controls on the classic Sickboy Temples convey the idea of some kind radio device and many of the Sickboy paintings deal with the dilemma of information overload, with small boxes transmitting rays into Sickboy’s mind, mutated TV sets and buttons on everything.

False Hopes And Dreams
TV and Bones

Sickboy’s figurative paintings are reminiscent of the comic strip universe of the Numskulls but just the body with its passageways and linking mechanisms, not the actual Numskulls themselves.

4our Ribs And A Tuning Fork (Detail)

On the opening night, the Stay Free hut echoes the sweet factory in Charlie and The Chocolate factory, within its dark and mysterious heart three balaclaved girls in red one piece jump suit uniforms prepare Sickboy sweets which churn out to the punters on a Sickboy motif converyor belt. The girls seemed happy enough, willing to pout for the cameras and pass out sweets in exchange for swigs of beer, reflecting perhaps the condition of the oompah loompahs who are in essence slaves.

Sickly Sweet Factory – photo: HowAboutNo
A caged inflated heart maintains a dialogue with the hut from an elevated position, the heart is bursting out of its cage but like the slaves it remains tethered to its domain.

Stay Free

Inside the hut, apart from the sweet factory there is a treasure trove of past Sickboy prints and a few small edition and original pieces, believed to be new for this outing.

Technology may be (or maybe isn’t!) the windmill Sickboy mainly tilts his lance at, but one of the favourite London street pieces this year shows Sickboy railing against the acid popping auto-destructive tendencies of the yoof of today.

Woodseer St, London, 2008

That piece contains many details which echo in the new work in this show, the skeleton, the ribs and the internal links between the organs of consumption and the organs of personality, perhaps the clearest link is in the ecstasy symbolism of the smiley eyes in a trio of lurid red and yellow painted and possibly part stencilled spray on coloured Perspex Save The Youth boxes by the back door into the wendy-house.

Save The Youth

The “quilted” word squares (well, they might remind you of those mega quilts made from lots of small pieces sewn together) come to prominence in a set of four spray acrylic and ink canvas productions. The search for words is rewarded with characteristic upbeat Sickboy mantras “Love Saves The Day, Be Thankful For What You’ve Got”, “Free Your Mind And Your Ass Will Follow”, “Stay Free and Just Be Yourself, This World Is Yours” and “I Can’t Move Mountains, I Never Said I Could, But I Can Make You Happy”

Just Be Yourself

Free Your Mind

Although many of the messages have the positive power of quasi religious commandments (or have they come from inside Christmas crackers?) many of Sickboy’s figures are mentally wilting under the onslaught of excessive communication overload. However, this doesn’t seem to be where the boy gets the prefix sick from, the work on show just merits the perversely flipped meaning of the work “Sick”, as in “sick work dude!”.

Protect The City

Plenty more pics of gorgeous, sick work from the show here.

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