This is one of my favourite blogs – mostly because I haven’t written it! Let me start by saying how fellow Bristol artists Shab and JeeSee describe Mr Sleven’s work:
” Sleven’s work explores the relationship between Bauhausian sensibilities and recycling culture, shimmering phenomena frozen through emergent and practice, the viewer is left with an insight into the darkness of our future. Fascinating theoretical limits of the zeitgeist. What starts out as triumph soon becomes manipulated into a manifesto of temptation, leaving only a sense of chaos and the chance of order. Reminding me of influences as diverse as Camus and Miles Davis, new variations are created from both constructed and discovered narratives.
As shifting phenomena become reconfigured through emergent and repetitive practice, the viewer is left with a testament to the outposts of our culture.” Shab
“Sleven depicts letters and characters with his own distinctive take on graffiti and street art. His style is unique, bold lines you can tell are his. His work demonstrates he has a thorough understanding of how colours relate to each other and how nature, both of the human and the urban, speaks to our eyes. An organic artist, with a hint of the struggles of the underdog, his art stands tall and is vital for the jilted generation. A life lived, taking in the rich sub cultures of Bristol, predominantly Hip Hop, is right there on the wall or canvas. And is difficult to deny the truths told by this experienced and honest artist.” JeeSee
And then onto an interview where Sleven answered in the third person. I cannot take credit for this delicious eloquence.
Bit of background and how you got into art
Slevens doesn’t know an exact point when he got into art but his earliest memory of being creative is drawing on the walls of his bedroom as a wee sprog. And just knowing that every time he had a pencil, pen, crayon or brush in his hand, it felt right, it felt natural, it felt like escapism from what was going on around him, it felt like freedom. Since that feeling he discovered from such a young age he carried on with his new found obsession for scribbling his world on any form of canvas possible. He learnt that his innate love and ability to create art would help him escape the confusing, strange, cold world he’d been birthed into and it was also an excellent tool to amuse, bewilder, astonish and befriend people. Which helped him deal with being imprisoned in the archaic regime of school throughout his younger years.
Influences on your work
Slevens influences are vast and varied. His art is heavily influence from subcultures and countercultures (specifically hip-hop), books on the workings of the inner minds eye, graffiti culture, pop culture, different historical and present cultures, all forms of art, nature, music, politics, his cat, random people he meets, his family and tight knit misfits he also calls family, and just the general day to day madness of life it’s self. But to put a specific point on the visual artists that have influenced him and his work, it would have to be H.R. Giger, Dali, M.C. Escher, Jackson Pollock, Van Gogh, Francis Bacon, Zdzisław Beksiński, Picasso, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kieth Hearing, David Choe, Mear One, Seen, Futura, Seak, OS Gemeos, Replete, Vaughn Bode and Mark Bode, Ralph Bakshi and Hayao Miyazaki, Todd McFarlane. To many more to list but these are the ones that have been most influential within finding his own style and technique.
What have you been doing since we last touched base on 3 is a magic number?
Mr.Sleven’s been part of numerous exhibitions, events and festivals over the past 3/4 years. This is down to an event he set up in 2013 with a fellow limey from his hometown. The event was dubbed “Scribble’N’Scratch”. A monthly illustration battle league and hip-hop event. Which he took the title for in the first year. S’n’S opened up the doors to many opportunities for Sleven. Such as exhibiting work alongside numerous up and coming artists as well as established ones, in such cities as Bristol, Bath, Frome, Birmingham and Cardiff. As well as exhibiting at numerous exhibitions, he’s also started to curate them back in 2014. This came about when he was given the chance to turn a rundown loading bay at the P.R.S.C into a gallery and hold it’s first exhibit. A year later he became a partner at the Matchbox gallery on Stokes Croft. Which he’s exhibit and curated at since 2015. He’s also been in charge of the site art and decor for Wonder Fields fetival for the past three years as well as painting at Baltewr festival for the past two and Upfest back in 2012.
What do other artists say about your work:
The only thing he usually remembers on what other artists say about his work is “That’s a bit fucking dark innit or that’s sick” So here’s some quotes from some artists he asked specifically for this question : Annika Wilkinson “Dark but beautiful and reflective of your emotions and mind. Uplifting and unique in a distinctive style. Very Street art graff formulation unlike no other combined with a deep expressive and evocative touch”. Pekoe “Massively varied style that you’ve worked hard to develop. I’m impressed how all your work is definitely “yours” even when the actual style differs”.
What have you got coming up?
Sleven doesn’t currently have any exhibitions lined up for the rest of the year as of yet but this is sure to change as soon as summer starts to move out of the way. He’s lined p to paint at Upfest this year as a solo artist but also with his Matchbox Gallery collective as well as taking on the Upfest Scribble N Scratch battle. He’ll also be doing decor for Boomtown festivals Wild west area, a graffiti jam in Glastonbury called Styles of Somerset which is in August, as well a couple of music events he has lined up with his collective B.A.M.P and he’s also booked in to paint the P.R.S.C outdoor gallery wall later in the year.
What is most important to you about your art?
What Sleven feels most important to him about his art, is being able to escape the day to day drag of this culturally enslaved western side of the world he lives in, through his art. It also gives him a sense of balance and purpose to the madness in his melon and life as it is. And if he’s able to effect at least one person with some form deep emotion through that art he’s created then that’s just as important to him as his escapism through art.
And about Upfest?
He’ll be painting at The Rising Sun as a solo artist, the South Street Park with the Matchbox collective and battling for Scribble N Scratch at The Tobacco Factory on the Saturday and again on the Sunday if he wins his battle. Sleven’s not completely sure what he’ll be painting as a solo artist as of yet, he just has a colour scheme of red, white, black, gold and grey. With his crew, they’ll be envisioning a quote from Sun Tzu’s: The art of War, in the theme of Afro Samurai. He’s looking forward to being slap bang in the middle of a smoldering paint pot of creativity, colour, cider and mischief. Which every year, upfest undoubtedly bring, whether he’s painting or not.
See Mr SleVen’s work at South Street Park
Upfest Saturday 29, Sunday 30 Monday 31 July 2017