Sickboy: Heaven and Earth in a playfully surreal show

Photo: Will Coldwell

Sickboy’s infatuation with religious symbolism manifests itself in a playfully surreal way at his latest show.

Consisting mainly of conventionally scaled paintings, the compositions resemble that of medieval religious art, with dramatically coloured figures centred beneath arches – like stain glass windows glowing with animated holiness.

With titles such as ‘Forget’, ‘Forgiven’, ‘Critically Zen’ and ‘Jonah’, the inspiration for the work is obvious. As the artist explained: “I started off looking at old renaissance paintings, and looking at the signs and symbols in them, reappropriating them as my own”, before reassuring me, “It’s not just to ram a load of Catholicism down your throat!”

Despite Sickboy’s evident shift to the finer side of street art, there is a nod to his past endeavours in the form of a full size caravan, daubed with his infamous ‘temple’ tag. The caravan (which doubled as a bar at the opening), sits opposite a confession booth, complete with it’s very own, albeit cantankerous, priest.

Pulling back the curtain to reveal a broad man in a dog collar, I asked the looming churchman if he was real. “Course I am”, he scowled back at me.
Would he be taking confession tonight? “Depends if I feel like it”, he said, yawning.

That experience in many ways epitomises the character of Sickboy’s work; the more time you spend on it, the more absurd it becomes. Take ‘King of the Universe’, in which a Dali-esque figure hangs it’s head, looking over a segment of a toy train set, covered in miniature tags, resting on its lap. Whatever messages we begin to draw from the composition are lost as our eyes are hijacked, drawn away towards a tiny depiction of Dangermouse in the bottom left hand corner, shooting rainbows out of his eyes.

Sickboy sucks the viewer into his pyscadelic world of cartoon futurescapes, with slogans such as “Its just a dream”, “Brother” and “Heaven Only Knows”, strewn carelessly around them, further reminders of the religious undertones of the work.

Perhaps the irrationality of these details stems from the fact that he is at heart a graffiti artist.  It may look like fine art, but for Sickboy it seems the temptation to deface them was just too much for him to resist.

Sickboy’s show is at the Dray Walk Gallery, Brick Lane, until Sunday 6 Nov

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