artrepublic interview Grant Dejonge, winner of our Street Art competition

It was Leonardo da Vinci who once said “The eye sees a thing more clearly in dreams than the imagination awake”. When looking at ‘Lost’, the winning entry in artrepublic’s Street Art competition, you can’t help but imagine this eerie yet mesmerising piece was conceived in a vivid dream.

Grant Dejonge, the creator of ‘Lost’ and victor of over 250 submissions to the competition, was the self-confessed wild card in our Street Art campaign. His apparent unexpectedness to be shortlisted, let alone win, was testament to his humble attitude, as well as artrepublic’s liberal selection process. If for Grant art has been depicting life, then hopefully now he no longer feels lost.

‘Lost’ – the winning entry by Grant Dejonge

“In all honesty I never considered winning any competition. I’ve entered so many in my life and in 42 years never won anything, so winning Street Art, after seeing the high standard of work, is a real joy,” said Grant. “Also as the competition was advertised as street art, I believed they’d choose a more urban style rather than a traditional oil painting. It’s down to the judges’ open mindedness why I’m here now, so I’m extremely grateful to them.”

Although street art is of course synonymous with graffiti and poster art, the term ‘urban art’ has become a little more compromising in recent years. Post-graffiti, for example, has perpetually battled to distinguish itself from mindless vandalism or territorial graffiti, but fortunately now has more legitimate public space to use as a canvas. Also, ‘street installations’ are increasingly prevalent due to the fact that 3-D images can manipulate the landscape without tarnishing it. Another key factor is its non-permission based, so artists can leave their mark without legal action or a tirade from a perturbed environmentalist

However, there has always been a clear message of activism and subversion connected to street art, which is why the connotations are extreme and uncontrolled. However, a property doesn’t have to be forcefully defaced or flash mobbing in the streets for a message to be delivered. Street art can take a more subtle approach yet still have a powerful effect.

The wall that now projects Grant’s work, situated next to MyHotel, off Jubilee Street in the heart of Brighton’s North Laine, is commissioned by artrepublic and acts as the perfect exposed (and legitimate) platform for the artist. This is evidently the break Grant has both wanted and needed for some time; however an opportunity for creative success has presented itself before.

“I've painted all my adult life and even managed to make a living at it at times, but I did turn down the chance of the Venice Biennale once (a major contemporary art exhibition that takes place once every two years) because I didn’t know what it was!” Grant admits. “I was rather young and naïve, certainly more naïve, so I often wonder “what if?”. But, I also believe that that particular decision was made for a reason and now is my time for some degree of success.”

“However, I am still no different from many other talented artists who live in Brighton and generally struggle,” continues Grant. “The Brighton art scene is certainly thriving, but I often wonder if there’s enough money to support it. That’s why a competition like Street Art helps promote local artists, not forgetting that fact it raised the profile of a good charity too.”

The charity was Street Smart, a fund raising scheme that works closely with participating restaurants to provide over 90 regional homeless charities with well needed financial support between November and December. This event occurs in cities throughout the UK and artrepublic wanted to highlight Brighton’s contribution by involving StreetSmart with their campaign.

'Autumn' by Grant Dejonge

“When we devised the competition, we thought that Street Art could provide an ideal platform for raising awareness of the homeless situation in the UK and Street Smart were very enthusiastic from day one. artrepublic is extremely proud to help the cause of a charity that does some much good. We were overwhelmed by the high quality of the entrants, the four judges Pure Evil, Inkie, Ben Eine and Static had a challenge when choosing the winner. However they all agreed that ‘Lost’ is an outstanding work and a well deserving winner. I absolutely agree that we couldn’t have hoped for a better piece to reflect the purpose of the competition.” says Andrew Milledge, Marketing Director at artrepublic.

Although Grant was already familiar with Street Smart, he wasn’t aware of the Street Art competition until a good friend educated him whilst decorating his house as a favour; practicing his artistic ability in a more pragmatic manner.

“Yes, I have to confess that fortunately a friend informed me of the competition as I, ironically, had a paint brush in my hand,” says Grant. “I often disappear off the radar and work in my studio, so it wasn’t at all surprising that this was news to me. I paint pretty much constantly, but if I’m not doing that I occasionally use a kiln to produce ceramic-based pieces. I ran a gallery with studio space on the sea front for six years and ceramics was my main output. However, painting is my primary passion.”

And when asked who influences this passion: “Well, my favourite painter is Bacon, however my influences are varied but pertinent to me,” says Grant. “I particularly love Otto Dix and Max, as well as Beckerman. Painters such as Matta and ‘Tanguy Futurism’ were an early influence, but in truth most of my day to day influences are my friends and fellow artists who no one has ever heard of - and my wife Jacqueline.”

Over the imminent weeks people will begin to hear about Grant Dejonge; the guy whose painting transmits conspicuously from a wall in Brighton, and who may have been lost in some way, but has definitely now been found.

Hear a radio interview with Grant Dejonge following the installation of his winning piece outside the London Graphic Centre (just click the green button).

You can see ‘Lost’ by Grant Dejonge on a wall next to MyHotel in Jubilee Street, Brighton and outside the London Graphic Centre in London during early 2010.

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