By Liz Farrelly
Sixteen years ago, Paul Jones of the Elms Lesters Painting Rooms, a scenery-painting studio and art gallery, was looking for someone to add a ‘piece’ to a theatre backdrop. That’s how he found his first graffiti ‘writer’. Since then Jones has signed and shown a whole raft of underground artists from the UK, the US and Europe, and is adamant that graffiti is the most significant art movement of the 21st century. With a recent blockbuster show at the Gateshead Baltic to back up his claim, he may be on to something. ‘My heart is with painting and always will be,’ declares Jones, unperturbed by its ‘poor relation’ status in art schools. But, he argues, because painters have been ‘working away quietly’, with graffitists practicing beyond the influence of art-world critics, ‘their heads are completely open’. The result is true innovation. While early collectors were ‘from the scene’, more recently the fan base has expanded to include, ‘teenagers, surgeons, plumbers… buying art is the new rock and roll’, says Paul. His latest show brings together the illusive Parisian, Space Invader, famed for adding mosaic pixel pieces to cityscapes around the world; New York’s WK Interactive, who paints figures in motion on a giant scale; new boy, Australian Anthony Lister, who portrays individuals down on their luck; and Jones’ most successful discovery, Adam Neate. The subject of a recent CNN news report, Neate prefers to paint on cardboard, and during the past ten years has abandoned more than 1000 paintings on London’s streets. My advice is keep your eyes peeled!
In Selected Stores Only runs from 5-24 February at Elms Lesters Painting Rooms, 1 to 5 Flitcroft Street, London WC2