Last week saw the opening of a new exhibition at our sister gallery Lawrence Alkin Gallery. The artist behind the solo show, ‘One Red Rose Forever’, is one of our very favourite Urban artists, Copyright. We accompanied Copyright to a neighbouring London pub for some Dutch courage before facing the queuing crowd at the preview. He took the time, over a cider or two, to discuss the blooming lovely exhibition and his ever-blossoming art career...
‘One Red Rose Forever’ was described by Time Out London as “the ideal Valentine’s offering”. The exhibition opened to the public on Valentine’s Day manifesting a visual feast of hand painted roses, scantily clad beauties, love birds and smouldering sirens draped in ravishing red gowns. Copyright admitted that the abundance of romantic imagery wasn’t a coincidence, “it was a no brainer really.”
The dates of the show and Copyright’s characteristic motif, the red rose, combined perfectly to set a unified theme for the new collection. “I spent ten minutes brainstorming with Gemma [artist Gemma Compton, Copyright’s wife] before coming up with the idea,” he explained. The rose has been a longstanding motif in Copyright’s street art, “I started with the rose image about 11 years ago.” Back then the roses were mostly monochrome and speedily sprayed on the streets, now they are delicately hand-painted on canvas in tonal pinks and greens. In exploring this reoccurring motif, the exhibition is evidence of the progression of Copyright’s style and career; from street walls to gallery walls.
Copyright’s art may have moved into the gallery but it hasn’t lost its street art heart. We wondered whether Copyright thought Street Art and romance were incongruous. “It’s true, most Street Art is political or satirical and current”, he answered, acknowledging that flowers, hearts, and gems aren’t your average street art subjects! By exploring more traditional and timeless themes, such as beauty, nature and femininity, we think Copyright is pushing the boundaries of the Street Art genre, creating work that is innovative, inventive and truly unique.
Perhaps the noticeable lack of romantic imagery in Urban Art and Street Art is related to gender? Graffiti writing and Street Art have been male dominated art forms (although this is changing, hurrah!), tackling themes that have also been traditionally dominated by men, such as politics, war and comedy. “A lot of people think I’m a woman or gay,” chuckles Copyright, who is neither. He emphasizes how ludicrous this is by pointing to the historical example of Renaissance artists, like Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci, who explored subjects such as angels, motherhood and femininity, whilst remaining exemplars of ‘Renaissance men’ and ‘masculinity’. Copyright revealed, “When I was seventeen I started painting pin-ups, half-naked chicks,” and women have remained a favourite subject of his. Interestingly, he noted that as his style has matured and developed the females have become more and more clothed!
‘One Red Rose’ is evidence of Copyright’s increasing interest in ‘traditional’ art subjects and techniques. The exhibition is brimming with beautifully hand-painted elements, ornately patterned backgrounds and even a gold aureole (in ‘Earthhound’) which is more commonly associated with early Christian art. Copyright describes his distinctive style as a “fusion” and observed that the street art elements have faded out more in this latest collection. He did clarify that the increase in painterly elements wasn’t actually new, “I’ve always painted; painting came first really.”
Spotting several new motifs and elements in the show, we asked Copyright how his style has developed. “It has evolved as I have personally,” he replied. He was quick to acknowledge the influence of his wife, artist Gemma Compton. “She’s a better artist than me,” he gallantly admitted! Gemma Compton is famous for her astute studies of birds and we noticed in the exhibition how Copyright has adorned a number of his beauties with birds and butterflies. Another interesting new feature we noticed was jewels. Painted gem stones can be spotted on ‘The Joy of Knowing Everything You Have is a Gift’ and ‘Love is the Gift’, which even has physical rhinestones applied to the canvas. Copyright explained that he was interested in exploring this new element further, perhaps looking into working with semi precious stones in the future. We think the jewels are another romantic affirmation – gems for Gemma!
Perhaps the most noticeable new addition in ‘One Red Rose Forever’ is the inclusion of three canvases devoid of a central female figure. Copyright describes them as “abstract”, although they do contain figurative elements such as birds, butterflies and roses. These canvases are the most avant-garde of the show and a brilliant addition. Copyright admitted it was “intimidating” to face a canvas without a figure. He explained how his monochrome women immediately draw the eye and consequently the peripheral elements become less paramount, but with these abstracted works every inch of the canvas is under scrutiny and he has to pay much more attention to the composition. “It’s really hard to create harmony within the composition,” Copyright said of the new challenge he’d set himself.
What is next for Copyright? Well, he gives the impression he is a laid back dude, “I don’t usually plan anything, it’s just sort of fallen into place so far,” but he’s clearly incredibly productive. He put this whole show together under a really tight deadline. “I usually take January off to explore a new medium”, he told us; last year it was stained glass and the year before that miniature paintings on wood. “I really look forward to doing something else, changing it keeps it interesting for me,” he said, revealing the secret to his fresh and cutting-edge style.
How about exploring textiles we suggested? It seems as though the abstract pieces would make brilliant repeat patterns. “Maybe, someone proposed doing a wallpaper,” Copyright replied, and Gemma’s transferred her artwork on to beautiful scarves so maybe he could follow her down that route, he pondered. Then he remembered that he had been approached to create a swimwear collection! A friend who works for a triathlon company asked whether he might be interested, “My first question was ‘can I do bikinis?’”, Copyright said smiling; “a wetsuit could be cool.”
With the cider consumed, the Bristolian artist contemplated meeting the collectors and fans waiting for him at the preview. We asked whether this audience was influential in the creation of the work; how important were their tastes in planning the show? “I am aware that it’s going to go into people’s homes but I don’t necessarily want to pander to that”, he said, “I want the work to be hung and enjoyed. It needs to look good.” Interestingly, he notes how his style has evolved as he has personally, but he’s also aware of how his audience has gradually evolved too. Early fans of his are now “middle aged dudes” and his new work “needs to pass the wife test!”
‘One Red Rose Forever’ certainly passes the wife test with flying colours. The demographic of the preview was proof of how successfully Copyright has pushed the boundaries of Street Art and welcomed new collectors. His audience is now as multifaceted as his artwork, drawn to his innovative imagery, interesting narratives, the beauty and the romance! We thoroughly recommend visiting this Copyright show and highly suspect that you will fall madly in love...