The obvious question with the work of James Jessop is how does a notorious graffiti artist (whose distinctive trident tag and ‘Tek 33’ signature that swathe the streets of North and East London where the artist lives and works) translate this side of himself into his painting? But if we ask this question we have already taken a wrong turn in understanding how Jessop operates. If you ask Jessop what motivates his prolific graffiti excursions he’ll tell you that he does it for the buzz, that he has a passion for spraying up walls and trying not to get caught, and that he has a deep love of graffiti art circa 1980’s New York. And if you ask him the same question about his painting you’ll receive a similar answer, except this time he’ll mention artists as diverse as Peter Paul Rubens, Vincent Van Gogh, and Tal R.
Jessop’s practice as a painter and his relationship to graffiti can be understood in terms of ‘approach’ and not ‘translation’ from one practice to another. This approach or tactic, this line of attack when approaching the canvas, is one that embodies the energy of the act of graffiti; it’s frenetic, free form, improvisational bombilation, or as the philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guatarri would call it: lines of flight. Graffiti’s power is its sense of resistance and rupture in the ever increasing corporate sterilization of urban landscapes. The aesthetic that graffiti takes from; that of mass culture, whether that be comics, film, television, magazines and advertising, is likewise Jessop’s index for what kind of subject matter is allowed into his work. Jessop’s use of the equipment and technique; the spray can as a brush, the modified paint pen, the calligraphic rhythms that you find in tagging, open up and inform his approach to painting.