Sickboy is in San Francisco producing a show of sick and twisted dreams, childhood imaginations, and hopes and fears. The show includes heavy installation pieces and a series of original paintings, low edition screen prints on wood, painted metal boxes, and the iconic Sickboy temple pieces on wood and book covers. I have here exclusive photographs shot by Colin M. Day, along with some questions and tid bits into the current life of Charlie Sickboy. This show is uncurated by Ben Eine. If you’re in SF make sure to stop by White Walls, Saturday March 17th from 7-11pm. Stay tuned for more shots of the opening, and walls with Sickboy and Eine.
Below are some brief questions with Sickboy and Eine:
VNA: What has been your experience of the Tenderloin, SF so far?
Sickboy: It’s pretty insane on the surface, but behind the crackheads and alcoholics there is a nice strong connected community. Although, some of the craziest things I’ve seen here so far was on the first day of the month when the homeless got their government checks and it was like Night of the Living Dead on the streets.
VNA: Why are you excited about this show?
Sickboy: It’s my first US show in a city I’ve never been, but always wanted to go to. I’m able to make new ideas come to life. Since this is my first solo show in the states and in San Francisco, I really want to smash it.
VNA: Your shows are based heavily on installation. Tell us about the theme for this installation?
Sickboy: The gallery has two separate rooms and themes. The back room I’m turning into a psychedelic child’s room. Since I’ve been here I have collected little bits from the Tenderloin, and also brought bits from the UK which will all be included in the room. In the main front room will be a resurrection of one of my cartoon coffins underneath dirt, surrounded by rainbows, and lit up with a one of a kind light box. Sick!
VNA: Hello Ben. How are you? How long have you been in San Francisco for?
Eine: Ya, cool. Been here for three days.
VNA: How long have you known Sickboy?
Eine: I’ve known of Sickboy for years and years, but I’ve known him personally since he moved to London.
VNA: What do you like about Sickboy’s work?
Eine: It’s original, clever, entertaining, and he keeps developing and progressing. He’s doing something different than all the rest of the wankers.
VNA: How have you helped Sickboy with this show?
Eine: I introduced his work to Justin Giarla at White Walls. I big him up as I travel around the world.
On a sunny February afternoon, I visited the studio of London based artist Sickboy, as he prepares for his solo exhibition at White Walls Gallery in San Francisco (opening Sat, Mar 17th). Famed for his street art throughout the world, this is Sickboy's debut solo exhibition in the United States. As he continues to paint one of the three canvases currently pinned to the wall, I ask him how he's getting on in the lead up to the show, about his history in street art, and his progression into galleries.
Interview by David Shillinglaw
Your show is called 'Wonder Club'. What is the Wonder Club?
It's a few different things to me. I have a lot of crazy dreams, and I wanted to base the work around these dreams, as a personal surrealism. It's given me more room for freestyle. A lot of the content is based on childhood memories and fairytales. There's quite a whimsical theme running throughout.
So do you feel the work for this show is more personal than before?
Definitely. As you move through life you shouldn't lose track of what is important to you. I want to highlight the fun element in my work. A lot of the pieces are made up of drawings from sketch books that I make while having fun; hanging out, eating and drinking with friends.
You told me earlier that you're working seven days a week. With so much preparation to do for the show, how do you balance working between the studio and the street?
I try to make it all roll into one. Painting outside is like an exercise for me. I stay true to my graffiti roots and allow those experiences to fuel the paintings. I'm not knocking the kinds of artists who replicate what they do on canvas in the street, but I'm just kind of more lazy when I paint outside. I do it for the fun. I do it for the experience of hopping over hedges.
Do you find you want to paint outside more because you're doing so much in the studio for shows?
I do. I mean, I wanted to paint tonight but, you know, I'm also trying to be sensible with time at the moment. I painted over the weekend though. It's just generally for my own personal pleasure.
Like you said, it's an 'exercise'?
Yeah, I would say it's sort of like an extra curricular activity. [laughs] It sounds really weird, but just being in here all the time can be a bit stifling. It's good to get out and just go for a run sometimes. Not that I get to that often!
People know you for the work you make in the street, in particular the 'temple' motif. What's that's the story behind that? Is it a visual mantra, or does it have a higher meaning?
To be honest I do it now because it's like painting my signature. But at the time, when I first started doing it, I chose the colours so that they were the same as McDonalds, which had to do with using colours that were supposed to make you 'happiest', So I stole the colours from that... Then I saw Gaudi, and mosques, and other beautiful architecture, and I decided I wanted to paint beautiful architecture on the not-so-beautiful architecture. So that was when I started paint the temple, which was about 2000, or earlier... But then it also just happened to fit perfectly onto a bin, and bins in Bristol were all red then, so the colour combination worked really well. Then the whole thing with the bin was to be able to unclip the wheels and drag them off to places where you could paint them offsite. So yeah... That's a brief history right there!
So let's talk more about your work for this show. You're doing installation, painting, and screen print. Did I read in your press release that you're also doing some work with film?
Yeah. I want to make an installation that's like an artist's refuge within the exhibition, and in it I wanted to have this cyclical video going on. It seemed like a really natural idea to have like a 'day in the life' type of thing, but that would have been quite boring. So I'm working with the photographer Viktor Vauthier, and to mix it up we've used four different types of cameras; a 5D, a Go Pro off your head, a 1995 VHS recorder, and an iPhone, and then editing all of the footage together.
So we started here at 9 in the morning and went right though the day, and I got a few pieces painted... I also got invited over to some really posh house in Mayfair and asked to just destroy someone's flat, which is also on there. [laughs] It was just fun to do. And this is the point, I've just tried to make everything really fun to do. In the past I've tended to make things really stressful for myself.
It's quite easy to sort of punish yourself, or do too much, or not eat properly, d'you know what I mean? Not find the right balance. So I've really just tried to get some more 'zen' with the way I work, 'cos this is my career and I don't want it to f**king kill me!
So what is your idea of fun?
I would say... being in a foreign country. Some of the best fun I've ever had has been in Portugal, when I used to chill with people in Lisbon. During the day we could hang out on the beach, go surfing, eat amazing food, go for a few beers, but not too many, then go and paint trains, and get in at about seven in the morning. You know, it's just an amazing lifestyle out there. It's got a good mixture of good lifestyle, architecture and art...
In your last exhibition 'Heaven and Earth' you had a confessional booth, which gave your show an aspect of audience participation. Do you plan to feature anything similar for 'Wonder Club'? What is the Wonder club? Can anyone join, or is it personal to you?
The Wonder Club for me is a re-visitation of my formative years as an artist, when I used to care less, and mark make, and draw more. We used to have a drawing session every night till the sun came up. It was about having fun, and dreaming your days away. The magic happens when you relax and dream, so let's hope that comes across with my latest show.
My favourites have to be the head portraits..stunning!
I've appreciated his work in the past, but never saw it as something I wanted on my wall (w/the exception of the Insect collab). The two portraits are incredible...seems like a great "next level" to me!
Works look pretty good overall, but I thought his Heaven & Earth work looked better in the pics I saw.
Looks like only 2 things have sold though? A pretty cheap metal box and Inside My Head 1 canvas. Hopefully they just haven't updated their website today. Otherwise that seems like a pretty disappointing opening to me.
All the book covers were sold about an hour into the show. The first head was sold and a couple of the metal boxes. Sickboy took some of the letters that were gathered from around town and attached them to a board that was put in a miniature house w/a sort of shingle roof on it. You could go inside and write graffiti all over the walls with a bunch of ink pens and other writing utensils. The fumes pouring out of the little graf house were enough to get ya high. If any of you guys want to see picks of the works up on the walls, just say and I will post them up.
I almost bought the one I call "itchy and scratchy" the one with the cat type thing sitting in the chair with WONDER by it for $2700 USD seemed like a decent price. Just never pulled the trigger on it. Then kept coming back to those two heads and thinking the one that was sold was the better or the two, so I was like damn, why didn't I buy the first head when I had the chance. Then I though the Jamison's Irish Whisky might be getting the better of me, after all it was St. Pats day. So decided to keep my money in my pocket.