Jamie Scanlon AKA JPS has commonly been confused by another well-known stencil artist, and he's learned to accept the comparisons. He is well known in London, and all over the UK, but is now ready to hit the US with his hand-cut, tongue in cheek commentary on pop culture, social injustice, music and movies. His love for hip-hop is apparent in his work, and an endearing intimacy with each subtle statement. I was fortunate to chat with him while he prepared for his solo show at Fat Free Art. Check out all the beautiful pieces at 102 Allen Street.
Erica Stella: Welcome to the US, and welcome to New York City. Please introduce yourself to our audience who might not be familiar with your work. After this, they will have no excuse!
JPS: I am a UK born artist and have been hitting the streets and walls since 2009. My work consists of a lot of tongue in cheek puns, object interventions, placement or sometimes I like to scare the crap out of people with my horror works.
ES: I had read that you use your own gov't name initials, opposed to the common anonymous tags by street artists. Can you explain the intent behind that decision?
JPS: Well when I first started most artists were following the route of being anonymous and I didn't want to do that. Back in early 2009 before I started as JPS, I was homeless and addicted to drink and drugs. I'd lost 12 years of my life going down the wrong path.
After a friend made me go and see Banksy's museum show it was like a wake up call to how I'd thrown my life away. So I decided to get help, and went to recovery. Fortunately my mum let me move back home, and I started teaching myself the stencil technique, and trying to develop it further than previously seen. I guess people hide their identity for different reasons, but police only really have power if the owner wants to prosecute. I've been fortunate never to receive a complaint! Even though I've painted without permission hundreds of times (sometimes I've even made fake permission letters), I've felt that the police will show up.... and the letters worked.
I guess the not hiding the story behind my art, and my identity I've inspired a lot of people to face there own demons and prove anything is possible with the right mind set. It has not been a straight path though, the downside of being known attracted some nasty stalkers, and there's been relapses. Putting down the drink and drugs was only part of the battle I had to change as a person, and try to do as much good as I can.
ES: You find the witty humor in public art, and have been successful with your audience. Have you always incorporated humor into your art, or was it the culture of street art that brought the wittiness out in you.
JPS: From the beginning I decided that politics were boring. Why would people want what they read in the paper, or see on the news be thrown in there face via a wall? I don't think it changes the way things are or how people vote, so I wanted to make people smile. I think the humor comes from back before I started. At the lowest points in my life, I maintained a sense of humor and often laughed at the most macabre of things in order to cope with them.
I often wonder myself how I developed being clever with word play. Maybe it relates to my love of hip hop and Eminem but I'm not sure, it's like these ideas just pop in my head, and I try to paint them quickly before the joke wears off on myself - as sometimes you question your own ideas; are they too corny? will it be well received? Sometimes it's best to just paint them, if left too long you begin to falsely think they are weak.
ES: A Hip-Hop Head! I have to ask you to give our readers your TOP 5 MC's.
JPS: I'm not up-to-date with all the new rappers but my favorites are Eminem, Tupac, B Real, Biggie Smalls and Eazy E. I think that Oz the hitman is one to watch, and I also like the London UK rapper Kingpin.
ES: As a hip-hop fan myself, the natural connection between the history of graffiti and hip-hop is apparent. Here we are at the beginning of 2018, a long way from the 80's and the birth of hip-hop. Where do you see both of these art forms going?
JPS: It's a difficult question with the invention of the Internet. More and more people's stuff gets seen and ideas get used up, it's the same with the movie industry. Everything is a remix or a remake, and it can be difficult to come up with ideas not previously done. I always research my ideas to ensure I'm bringing something new to the world but sometimes you come up with a good idea and find its already done... then it goes in the bin, I think that currently street art is still gaining popularity whilst hip hop is going through a strange phase. I'm not liking much of the new stuff.
ES: Before your public art was seen on the street, you were influenced by artists such as Escher, Cezzane, Dali, and DaVinci. Who influences you today, and why?
JPS: I'm a fan of many street artists these days, my biggest influence was obviously Banksy although I try not to be influenced too much by others. I guess these days I try to be influenced by myself, if I come up with an idea I'll do my best to check that it's not been done before. If it has then that idea goes into the bin, I think this route will ensure I stay fresh and stand out from the crowd. But to name some artists I admire, I would say Stik, Odeith, PichiAvo, and ROA.
ES: The Oct. '13 "Better Out Than In" Banksy outdoor exhibit in NYC had a huge impact on me, at that point in my life. Can you explain the timeline of your show earlier that year, and how the art of flattery came into play?
JPS: Banksy's NYC show was great, but to see it billed in the media as the first outdoor exhibition was annoying. I pretty much turned a Barrow Gurney abandoned mental hospital near Bristol into an outdoor exhibition, months before Banksy done New York. Lots of people visited my horror works there, and it was definitely what put me on the street art map. I believe at different times I have influenced Banksy, as he has me. For example, Dismaland was held in my home town of Weston-super Mare where I have lots of pieces. I know from a good source that Banksy done a tour of my works with the actor Jack Black, which I was amazed to hear. Right after Dismaland ended, Banksy painted a piece in Calais at the refugee camp of Apple founder Steve Jobs... the style Banksy painted that one was very reminiscent of my work, as it was full color. Banksy is the king of street art, and it's thanks to him it's become so popular, to have influenced the man himself is a great honor.
ES: You have worked in both Norway and London, and now NYC. What other places to you wish to give your gift to their streets?
JPS: I would love to paint in Detroit. My all time favorite film RoboCop was set there, and also because Eminem is from there....I have a lot of ideas for Detroit.
ES: One of your witty pieces that uses the elements successfully, was GoGo Yubari. What came first? Did you have the idea, and scouted the right location, or did you see the spot & the idea came?
JPS: I had the idea first, then chose the location after which turnt out to be the doorway of an abandoned launderette in my home town of Weston-Super mare. I painted it without permission, but I did fit the chain myself. I knew it was a good idea but never predicted the success of that piece. But as soon as I looked at the photo I took after finishing (less than an hour that's long for me though but she was tricky), I knew it was my best piece - although everyone seems to have their own favorite.
ES: This was a question from 2 of my stencil artist friends. Stencil process: machine or hand-cut?
JPS: I always hand cut them and don't use photoshop, the human eye sees much better than a computer program i also use minimal layers to cut time when hitting the walls.
ES: Hand cut is the way to go. Ok, let's talk Trump. You did an "unsanctioned collaboration" last year depicting Trump being searched by the police. What type of feedback did you receive (positive & negative), that might have differed because of the topic. It's been such an enormous subject here in the US, I can imagine others having strong feelings as well.
JPS: I tried not to be political with the piece, it's more a tongue in cheek thing. Trump has definitely been a controversial President, but I'm neither for or against him. As for public opinion the only arguing and negative response was a few haters saying i bit Banksy, but i think Banksy would be cool with it.
ES: In addition to your first solo show in the US at Fat Free Art this week, what other projects do you have coming up?
JPS: I have plans to return to Stavanger in Norway, and come back to NYC and do some nice street pieces influenced by my stay in the city this time. It hasn't been the right weather to paint so far, so looking at around May. I also have talks in place with Amsterdam street art about painting there, and walls offered in Paris so gonna be a busy year.
ES: Where can we keep up with you, and purchase work? (social media, shop, etc.)
JPS: my IG is Jps_artist and you can find a lot of articles and my website via Google JPS street art