Vinnie Nylon is one of the oldest names in street art. With a career spanning 25 years, you might not know it, but you know Nylon. Aside from the graffiti art that originally made his reputation, Nylon has undertaken volumes of commissions from billboards, to magazines, walls and paintings yet has never before found himself the sole subject of an exhibition- until now. Poptimism is a brand new collection of work, a no-holds-barred exhibition drawing upon over two year of experience in commercial and artistic capacities. We caught up with the man himself:
Your style is something that is familiar, both from your own volumes of work, to the many copycat artists influenced by yourself. How do you keep ahead of the curve? I wasn't at all aware of it until recently that every man and his dog was painting some mid century goofy spray can or hot dog and I'm not so sure that I keep ahead of any curve as such because all I've done is plodded on being me. From time to time I do have to remind people that I was painting all this stuff since the "comeback" in 1997 and the whole soda pop thing basically grew out of a mutated Esso man. Getting the front cover of Graphotism no. 20 was a big honour and cemented my place as an early painter of American kids with huge ice creams!
How did Poptimism come about and what does it aim to convey? It is about the media barrage of post war America and Britain, it's about being told that everything is going to be ok. It deals with that lobotomising effect that seductive ad media and cartoons most definitely have on us as individuals. I myself question it and my own obsession in this show, it really is a genuine push/pull, love/hate relationship. The work itself has gone through some of the rigours of indecision, erasure and self censorship as elements are added, sanded back and taken away, layered and repainted. There is a piece in which the characters are locked in all out war with each other, a four feet square giant bust up between chicken legs, milk cartons and even an octopus getting stuck in, yet they keep on smiling all the way through this battle!
Who are your influences and how can they be seen in your work? I am influenced by the work ethic of a handful of artists that I am lucky enough to know and work with, we talk and they give me advice and constructive criticism. These people I am happy to say include Sickboy, Word to Mother and Sweet Toof.
What are your thoughts about graffiti art becoming part of the established art scene? I've been in and out of all that for years, doing a billboard for Fosters beer one minute and the next week you are walking tracks again. I mean they are two separate things, to me there is no graffiti as part of an established art scene. I paint paintings in what you could call the low brow or pop surrealism scene but I don't do 'graffiti' on canvas, that's just something that you do with your mates walking home from a party or go out on a Sunday to hang out an paint somewhere. For the older boys it has become more like fishing. To me, graffiti scene and art scene are two separate things. Sure graffiti may get you noticed by a big company but when you pick up that pencil in their office it ceases to be graffiti, it is graffiti style lettering for a job.
Would you return to graffiti? Anybody can tell you that you can't really ever stop, it never leaves you alone, not the other way around. I get just as excited spotting stuff up on the walls in London as I did seeing Trailblazers and TCA in Covent Garden 1985. If you are asking me whether i'll be doing anything illegal...
What are your next moves after Poptimism? Keeping busy I hope, I have a couple of commission pieces coming up, a piece in the anti slavery auction by Sothebys and Opera gallery, and there is some interest from one company that I'll wait and see on.
If you could describe yourself in three words what would they be? Cycling graffiti shoplifter?
Interview by Coco Khan
Poptimism runs for just one more week (get in there quick kids) at High Roller Society, Bethnal Green