Portrait of Juice 126 photo Ian Cox
Summertime, Pressed flowers – 1992
Sunset Rorshach glass 2010
Self portrait detail 2009
The Smashing of Amps 1993
Welcome to a world of genetic modernization – Rough, Part2 & Juice 126 – 1998
Purple Mix Landscape (digital artwork) 2012
Redprint Sepia (digital artwork) 2012
Tobacco and Oriental scent 1992
Corals Rorschach glass 2010
Summertime Rorschach glass – 2010
Rough, Juice 126 & System 2009
Steve More & Juice 126 2000
The men they couldn’t hang 1991
Juice with one of his metal book series Early 90′s
I first met Juice 126 in a small seaside town called Bridlington in the north of England in the Summer of 1989 and I often look back at this meeting and wonder what might have been had we not met… Would I be the painter I am today, would most of the other artists I know be the artists they are today? Would he?
Juice 126 carries the torch bearer for an entire generation of graffiti writers who quite frankly refused to recycle what had already been done in the previous decade in New York. His work was groundbreaking in the late 80′s and is still as progressive and important now as it was then… He drip painted 3 story buildings at least a decade before KR started doing his drip paintings and was using golds, coppers and other metallic paints often discarded by more traditional graffiti writers. He’s been one of my closest friends for almost a quarter of a century and he still continues to inspire me. He is without doubt the last true Iconoclast. He is Juice 126…
RR: When did you paint your first abstract painting?
J126: I think about 83 or 84, the painting is owned by a friend called Simon Lloyd, who you might have seen his link up on Facebook and the first real abstract painting was a scrape. It was a Futura 2000 style scrape, Because we had the ‘Celluloid’ covers, The Phase2, The Futura, there were those four records and it’s Futura standing by one of his paintings with a scrape on it and we used to look at it and wonder how he’d done that, so I tried it… Just layered the paint down, scraped it and that was the first real abstract painting that I had done. But that was on a piece of mount board, the first outdoor one was probably a couple of weeks later.
RR: So it was that quick that you felt you had to take what you’d done on a small scale on to a larger scale?
J126: At the time, I was working with an artist called Crase, Jade and another artist called Order and we were all a little crew called ArtX, Art Experiment, and we wanted to experiment and some of us specialized in letters, I just specialized in color. Color is my specialty, I like color, just the way color looks and different colors interact and I just wanted to paint color. At the time, I mean it’s 1984 you’re talking about where everybody’s painting letters, where everybody’s following the Subway Art Bible, I just wanted to paint color, I just wanted to see what color looked like as color. And I’d been looking at stuff by Futura and stuff that the New Yorkers had been doing. We had that belief here at the time, that everyone was still painting trains, the train years were coming to an end and everybody was painting work in the gallery and a lot of the work that people were doing in the gallery was semi-abstract or with Futura’s case it was pure abstract, so I just thought, yep, I’m just going to do this, because that’s what I feel more comfortable with. It’s no use painting letters if you’re not comfortable with them and I was never comfortable with letters.
RR: Saying that though, I have seen drawings of letters by you from many years ago, which I still have quite a visual connection to.
J126: I think it’s a natural progression… You have to start in someways with letters, letters are the form that give you the ability to put colors inside them and outside them and then everything else stems from there.
I love letters, I love typography and I will always doodle a shape and draw something, but I don’t feel that I want to add to the myriad of badly painted letters because If I started to paint a letter I’d think, hmm, I could just carry on with a color over there and then I’d forget about the actual letter shape, the shape of the letter would become secondary to putting the color on the wall. So yes I’ll draw a letter, but there are much better people who are taking the letter to a new height, that’s up to them… I’ll stick with abstraction.
RR: So you don’t miss traditionalism at all?
J126: Yes and no. I like traditionalism when it’s practiced very well and in a well thought out manner. I hate it when it just becomes ‘graf’.
RR: It kind of becomes a standard?
J126: Yeah, it’s always been a standard, you’ve said, I’ve said it, other artists have said it… I mean if someone could give me the graffiti bible tomorrow and told me that I have to start off painting letters and I had to start doing throw-ups and that whole standard that everyone follows, I’d follow that… But I like traditional graf when it’s done well and doesn’t become monotonous.
RR: Going on from that, a lot has happened in the last ten or even fifteen years that’s seen a lot of changes, a lot of progression, a lot of experimentation. How do you see the recent progression, especially within the so-called ‘Graffuturism’ or ‘post graffiti’ genre?
J126: It’s good to see… That artists are now expanding. I know in the last say five years it’s as if everyone’s minds have been expanded on a World-wide basis. When you used to look at abstraction, it was a very tight bunch of artists on a world-wide basis, there were a few artists in Australia, There were one or two in New York outside of Futura, there was the Parisians, a few Germans, one or two in Holland and that was it! And then all of a sudden, I don’t know it.. It was the Street Art, sorry to say it, but the explosion of Street Art allowed a lot of artists to be free.
RR: That’s quite interesting…
J126: Well it was, I mean because if you look at graffiti in various movements, around about 86 / 87 there was a man called Martin Jones who coined the phrase ‘Street Art’! And that was the first time everyone began using the term Street Art and then everybody started to experiment about that time, that was the time that the Chrome Angels were experimenting, that was when Futura was out in Paris, that was when the first explosion of Street Art happened.
Every time the art has expanded it’s been around the whole street art phenomenon or a re-launch of the whole street art phenomenon and the last sort of launching has allowed the art to expand beyond the small borders that existed.
We all knew each other, that’s something I think we can always say… That the few people who experimented we all knew other, we either knew each others work by photo or by the early internet, but we always knew each others work.
In the last five years, you’re falling over new artists who are experimenting with abstraction and sculpture.
RR: But you can see where a lot of it comes from… Especially as you say, in the last five or so years, new artists coming out with new work, you can see where it’s come from.
J126: Oh yeah! At the moment it’s the Eastern Europeans… If I see another Polish artist who can twist constructivism or futurism, I’m just going to explode. But it’s brilliant and it’s beautiful and it puts a smile on my face. And it means that you’re not alone anymore and for me that was always one of the big things, for a long time I always felt alone. I mean we were a great bunch of artists we’ve always worked together with at events both here and abroad, but I always felt alone because I’d always start to throw paint around and everyone would look at me like I was from another planet. But Last sort of, I don’t know, five years or so I haven’t felt alone, not in a being lonely sort of way but just not feeling alone that people are going to think it’s strange that there’s color going to be put on the wall.
RR: It’s interesting though, from meeting you in the Summer of 89 and by painting with you, probably before the end of that year and then in probably by early 1990, myself dabbling in more abstraction from your influence and me being, you know, a fairly traditionalist, hardcore, London graffiti writer. Even tho in my mind I always had these other things going on. It’s quite interesting, I still cite you as an integral pivot in me changing what I was doing.
J126: I just see it as everyone being… I just see it as artists a lot of the time need to be poked to experiment, you didn’t need to be poked.
RR: But you must have seen something within me to connect?
J126: You just allowed me, with the madness that I did, not to be on the outside, because if you stand outside yourself and you think about our first meeting at Bridlington, we met over at the most amazing Lokiss painting, and we both bonded over that painting more than any other painting that was being painted there… I mean Jon One was painting, Mode, Risk and Slick were painting. We bonded over that. Now, in your mind you probably went away thinking he’s got a style that maybe similar to Lokiss but then as soon as we started to paint together I didn’t have that style… It’s just like… It’s just Freedom. You allowed me, considering what the scene was at the time, you allowed me to paint with you and then after the first time we painted you could have gone; “I’m never painting with that mad nigg** again, I’m never ever painting with him.” but you didn’t. We both thought, yeah this is cool and it was more about friendship than it was about painting. And that’s how a lot of our friendships have built over the years with System, Part2, it’s as much about our friendship as it is about our painting… You’ve got to be able to communicate.
RR: So do you think that’s why that time was so important as far as building the Ikonoklast Movement for example? We were discovering all these artists who were fairly like minded.
J126: I think we all, on a world-wide basis, we all became friends because of what we did, but also because when you did meet those artists, or you communicated through letters, you didn’t just talk about painting. You could talk about art and you could talk about music and poetry or whatever. It wasn’t only about painting, because if you remember we were in contact with a myriad of artists at the time. I used to run the BluePrint Gallery in Selly Oak and I used to get letters everyday from artists from all over the world, some of those artists I’m still in contact with today, but a lot of them I wasn’t interested in, simply because all they wanted to talk was graf, graf, graf. There’s more to life than graf and It helps you build, it helps you grow as an artist. Just remember we’re artists and we’re people and all our interactions help us to grow and it helps our art to grow. Your art doesn’t grow in a vacuum.
RR: So what was the Ikonoklast Movement?
J126: The word Iconoclast means to break an image and graffiti in the early nineties in England was about the tradition, you had to paint a train, you had to do letters, you had to do characters… There was a standard layout, you know what I mean? but we broke that image! All the artists in the Ikonoklast Movement wanted to experiment with their art, whether it was shape or form or color, they just wanted to experiment. It was just a group of like minded artists getting together and painting together. It was a super Crew, it was one of the first European Super Crews. At the same time in Paris you had Bad Boys Crew, I mean that was a super Crew cause it had Jon One, an American in the crew, PCP, Paris City Painters, that was a super crew. Mist, Stone, Decay… Ikonoklast was a British super Crew of artists that wanted to paint together but also… How do I describe this? Classic examples for me in my mind are, we’d end up somewhere, we’d go to Wales or we’d go to Scotland and we’d all have to paint together. Five artists would come together and there’d be a wall and we’d all paint that wall but there’d be no black lines, there’d be no I need thirty feet of space and you lot can have the remaining ten, we were able to work together. Ikonoklast was a super crew that didn’t paint graf…
RR: I always thought of it as a concept shop… And you could go in and buy the coolest books or the coolest T shirts or the coolest kicks and they would be things that you’d never get in any other shops.
J126: When I first met Part2 he was painting mazes and he was just starting to experiment with painting parts of human features and within a year he was painting the ginormous portraits he was painting. That wouldn’t have happened if he was painting in a traditional graffiti vacuum. Those bits of faces would just be tacked on to the end of a letter piece.
RR: System and Part2 were probably the complete forefathers of photo realistic painting and I can sit here and quite comfortably say I’d seen those guys do it before I’d seen anyone else do it well, to the standard that they did it.
J126: And a lot of what we did as well revolved around paint, information, If you remember at the time, we wanted to paint bigger. That was another reason that the Ikonoklast Movement banded together, paintings of that era were about, I don’t know, fifteen, twenty feet long, eight feet high. We wanted to paint bigger paintings, complete paintings. I mean, back in 87 everyone had that drawing in their book where they’d spent two weeks painting and coloring and the painting was forty feet long and thirty feet high, a painting that would never be able to do but you would show it to people at the writers bench or wherever you gathered together and scare the living shit out of everyone and stamp your authority down by going, yeah, that’s our next painting, if we can find a wall, the ladders, the paint etc…
RR: So on that note, full respect due to Mister Krink, KR. You were doing drips in the mid eighties, drip painting entire walls and I saw a wall of yours I think it was from 88 that you showed me when we met, that was entirely dripped and as far as I’m concerned and as far as I think a lot of other people are concerned, you own that. And on top of that you always had these amazing colors which no one had, these incredible lilacs and dusty pinks and it was probably a couple of years before we fully realized you mixed all those colors yourself.
J126: Well at the time, England circa 87, 88, 89, 90, it was just car paint. It was mainly Car Plan and Duplicolor, two northern paint companies and they just made paint for cars. There was no pink, no purple so you had to make those colors. Mixing nozzles came from an artist in Birmingham called Tragic, who is no longer around, he’s dead now. One day he turned up at my flat with a can of paint and he goes try that and it was lilac, it was like where the hell did you get lilac car paint? He said I mixed it. From there onwards we gained the ability to mix paint and as I remember at the time, we swapped the idea of mixing paint with the artists of Los Angeles who had stencil caps. They wanted to be able to mix paint and we wanted stencil caps. That was one of the first International swapping of ideas. Yeah paint’s paint! I love paint today but it hasn’t got the variety that we had back in the day.
RR: Well it has, but it’s not the same, you’re bound by the shades of what you have on a pantone reference, which I think is a real limitation and I think it’s also a reason a lot of artists nowadays from our genre are utilizing a lot of other mediums other than spray paint, myself included.
J126: I see that as a blinkering by the paint companies, because Belton or Auto K is still the largest car paint manufacturer in the world and they push a limited range to us as artists when their range is thousands of colors, they could expand it beyond the range that exists, you can still get those colors, it’s much harder to get them. In some ways that’s why I paint less, because it’s harder to get hold of what I would call quality paint.
But laying paint on a wall and letting it drip, for me it was just a natural progression, and it’s only due to Duplicolor as well because the nozzles that I use for that technique, those nozzles used to come on a weird can paint, it wasn’t even paint, it was called foam rubbing compound which is a compound that would help mix new spray paint with your existing spray paint, sort of blend the barriers. I just looked at the nozzles the first day I saw them and thought that must move the paint very fast and it went on from there… It was an experiment, I like to experiment on walls.
RR: So are you shifting in to using different mediums as well?
J126: I’d like to. I’ve just gone through my crisis year where I’ve ground to a halt. I’ve watched a lot of other artists expand into using different mediums, I mean Jaybo using bitumen and there’s some Eastern European artists using string and Delta’s using whole sections of like walls, yourself experimenting with various acrylics and emulsions and I feel stuck, and yes I want to experiment, but for me it’s figuring out where it fits in with spray paint and I haven’t found that happy medium yet. There’s still a lot of energy in spray paint, it’s just getting out and also, we live in the internet generation, sites like Graffuturism they show work and it looks great but you never seem to be able to figure out the mediums. The pictures that are shown never give enough detail of the work.
RR: But that’s the problem with the internet in general… It’s always best to pack a bag and go traveling and that’s been quite a voyage of discovery for me I think, because I’ve been doing so much traveling in the last few years and I’ve seen Jaybo at work, Marco Grassi at work, you know, I’ve seen how they do what they do. I’ve seen Poesia at work, I’ve seen West One and how he paints, I’ve seen it first hand whilst standing next to them.
So we spoke about Futura being a key instigation to where you went with your art, what other artists inspire you to make art?
J126: Well when I first started to paint graffiti, I started to explore and Futura stands strong. RammellZee is another artist that comes to mind. Ramm was in another Universe and still is in another Universe. Lee, there was some early Zephyr work that was quite amazing and then outside of graffiti it was artists like Bill Sienkewicz, Jon J Muth, Kent Williams, they’re all comic artists or illustrators, those three are quite famous American illustrators but they illustrated comics in the mid-eighties using techniques with watercolors and acrylics. It wasn’t an inked in comic, they expanded my mind. There was also HR Giger, Gustav Klimt who is my favorite artist, Monet, artists who use color very well. They were the artists that caught my imagination but as the years have gone by various artists have expanded my horizon.
RR: I remember sitting in Tate Britain with you in the early Nineties when you and I went to see the Jackson Pollock show and you and I were sat in front of ‘Full Fathom Five’ for a good twenty minutes.
J126: That was an experience that was. Pollock, It was just like, yeah, Oh My God! I think there were only a few Pollock’s in England so you never get a judging of the size of them, they’re huge! and ahh they’re beautiful… I got to say Pollock, especially Full Fathom Five and Blue Poles, those two paintings. They just open your mind, art in general, because once you discover artists like Pollock, you start to read about other artists, Cy Twombly, DeKooning and you start looking at their work. I did very little in 1986 except go to Birmingham Central Library and read art books and try and expand my visual horizons.
RR: Those artists are so important and it’s funny but I never saw the connection between Futura and Kandinsky until you pointed that out to me.
J126: Amazingly enough, for me that was an accident. You remember you used to be able to get art postcards, in a shop as you are, flicking through the postcards and it’s Kandinsky, Kandinsky, Kandinsky then there was a Futura in the next window and I’d never seen the link and as soon as I’d seen the similarity in the link visually, I had to explore who in the Hell Kandinsky was because at that time I didn’t know who Kandinsky was and once you discover people like Kandinsky then you discover all the artists from the Bauhaus and the Blue Rider Movement.
Modern graf and abstraction owes so much to the expressionistic movement that happened in Europe and still happens in Europe.
RR: For me, two of the most important artists to my work in the last few years is Van Doesburg and Malevich and what they did has influenced me so much.
J126: I knew of Malevich but didn’t understand his influence on the movement as it stand today until about a year ago and learning more about the guy it’s just block color.
As I’ve read Malevich had a great manifesto that influenced everyone else.
RR: I have a strong connection with Malevich because he came out of graphic design much in the same way as I did.
J126: He was the renegade of the constructivist movement. It’s that great feeling.
RR: I think he’s amazing, I went with Jaybo to Tate Modern the other day and they had this amazing Malevich piece in the permanent collection.
J126: It’s good to see. One thing about graffiti writers that I always found really weird was the great thing when you used to go to a new city was one to paint but two to go to the local museum to see what they have hanging on their wall and sometimes it was amazing to find out that a lot of graffiti writers had never been to their local museum, so they didn’t know what work was hanging in their city. That’s an eye opener but I still feel that our art stands on the outside of the art movement, it’s never been put inside. Someone wrote a manifesto recently about the link between graffiti, De Kooning and street art and someone had made a chart, that was amazing, because it fitted, literally every part of the movement together and where it stood at it’s chronological timing and it’s good to someone was thinking about the theoretical It’s something Jay One, said that it’s no good just taking pictures of our work, we have actually got to write and talk about our work because the historical context, so much has been lost and we need to fit it all in.
RR: I still firmly believe that some of the artists that have been there for a very long time are the ones that are really tipping over and becoming very important artists. Like Lokiss, Delta, Jay One, even here, Part2′s current sculpture work, absolutely incredible and Steve More, one of the best graffiti artists from the UK in my opinion and his work now has translated into the art world and art movement so beautifully. These guys are at the forefront and there’s a lot of people absolutely burning their heels but they’re moving at such a fast pace, that catching up with them is so difficult.
J126: I just wish sometimes that when they do retrospective shows of chronological times the last fifteen years could feature more graffiti, more street art and more abstraction. It fits in with anything.
RR: So tell me about your part within Agents Of Change
J126: I see my role as a minor role at the moment, I just give my all when I have to do something for AOC. I just try to include myself and make sure that, mentally all angles get covered.
RR: So what projects have you got lined up for the coming year?
J126: Last year I did not a lot, because I’d burnt myself out… I find painting easy, I could paint quite a lot, if I had two hundred cans of paint I could use them all in one day, and produce an amazing amount of work. This year I’m very tightly focused, I have two projects in mind that I want to complete, just extending my range, I want to slightly go backwards and I do a lot of digital vector line drawing and I want to complete that work with the abstract work I have.
My surface at the moment is glass, I love painting on glass but I’m also going to be working on acetate and I just want to get two projects done. I want to paint some new walls, it’s a problem to paint walls in this country so I’m going to have to look further afield for some walls, but most importantly I’ve seen art in the last two years where all the work is done in a day, I want to go back to painting walls that take two and three days to paint. I do feel that work is done too quickly at the moment. I want to continue to explore the technique of Rorshach, I like the technique and I want to expand on that, it’s weird, I don’t want to reveal too much.
RR: I love your Rorshach work, that Tobacco and Oriental Scent painting is one of my all time favorites of yours.
J126: It’s difficult, I’m an artist that really needs to work from a studio but a studio is a difficult place for me to work, because I’m far away from the work. I like to work from home and I’ve just got to get a balance this year between painting at home and painting in the studio. I have twenty pieces of Rorshach work that’s on paper that needs to be added to and developed this year. Those works are two years old and I’ve got this idea of doing a sort of abstract painted montage, a bit like Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin. But I’ve got to get it from my head to the surface. I just have to paint it all in one go in a mass frenzy and then I’ve got to work out how to exhibit it all.
A lot of our work today is around the gallery but there’s very few galleries that will allow you total free reign to do what you want within a good financial constraints. I just have to break that barrier as well.
More traveling too because all the good work going on seems to be in North America, so I’ve got to get myself a passport and do the traveling, not a problem…
Many thanks to Holly Howe for the proofing.
Thanks to Ian Cox for the portrait of Juice 126.
Photos are courtesy of Juice 126, System and Remi Rough