Sorry, it’s not for you

‘Sorry, it’s not for you’ is something of a provocative, supercilious remark.

Sorry it's not for you
Sorry it’s not for you

Not the usual angle for inviting visitors to your new exhibition, perhaps – but a title rather befitting of graphic designer and artist Mark James, whose work draws on playfulness, humour and the darker side of society.

99% is Shit neon
99% is Shit neon

However, for all the show’s faux-snobbery, James is anything but someone who trades in exclusion and condescension. Far from it – his work’s recurrent motifs, as he discovered putting together his new exhibition, are binbags, kebabs and urban detritus.

Chucks screenprint
Chucks screenprint

‘Bringing the work together, I saw there’s a theme’, says James. ‘I’ve noticed I work a lot with waste products – there’s a lot of fast food references, newspapers and bin bags.

‘I think there’s dark side to everything, there’s that undercurrent to the way we live.’

Tanuki shapeshifter
Tanuki shapeshifter

The show opens at new gallery *Subject to Change this week in Cardiff, which James has founded thanks to an Arts Council Wales grant.

Future shows, he says, will hopefully see him create a large installation piece for the gallery, and he hopes to draw in artists from outside the area to show their work in an affordable venue.

Wage Wallet
Wage Wallet

James says, ‘[The gallery] is a way to experiment. We took it on a couple of months ago, and we want to give people the opportunity and freedom to show their work without the constraints of high rent’.

Dalston Fried Chicken vinyl toy
Dalston Fried Chicken vinyl toy

James’ show will be the gallery’s inaugural exhibition, and provides an often hilarious overview of his work. Among the pieces on show are his Dalston Fried Chicken vinyl toys, which inadvertently lent the show its title thanks to a confused customer perusing the strange creatures in a store last Christmas.

‘A lot of the work isn’t for everyone’, muses James. ‘A lot of people don’t want to question some of it – things like the doner kebab camouflage prints…There’s a dark humour running through it’.

Doner kebab camouflage print
Doner kebab camouflage print

This bleak and wry humour, says James, is inspired by his graphic design hero Jamie Reid, the designer of the punk era who created the iconic sleeve designs for the Sex Pistols.

Union Flag
Union Flag

This anarchic punk aesthetic is certainly in evidence in James’ work – particularly in pieces like his Union flag fashioned from binbags, and his ‘Everybody’s Unhappy Nowadays’ screenprint, a play on The Buzzcocks single.

Everybody’s Unhappy Nowadays
Everybody’s Unhappy Nowadays

‘I’ve been obsessed with music and sleeve design since I was a child, so that area of my work remains a huge part of my life,’ says James.

He adds, ‘By opening an exhibition and gallery for “the nouveau prole” I want to explore the times we live in, where the expansive middle classes are getting progressively poorer at the hands of a system built on want and waste.’     

99% is Shit vinyl toy
99% is Shit vinyl toy

Sorry it’s not for you runs from 7 December – 24 January at *Subject To Change, Castle Arcade, Cardiff, CF10

Guardian
Guardian

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