I always think of the old Ronseal advert when I think of Skeleton Cardboard! Except it’s not a case of doing what it says on the tin. Rather, it’s about doing what he wants on the walls and streets. Drawing skeleton’s on cardboard and leaving them for people to find. His name really is what it is, it’s how he started and it perfectly describes what he was about in his early foray into the street art scene.
It was a journey to Mexico which inspired him. Back in 2011 he returned with ‘Day of the Dead’ imagery rolling around in his head. Quitting his job he enrolled on an art foundation course encouraged by his wife who had found a few of his old sketchbooks lying around. “I firmly believed you couldn’t be an artist unless you’d been to art school” he told me before adding….”which I now realise is total bullshit!”
A FUTURE IN ART
An artistic career very nearly never happened. Initially going to art school in Blackburn he dropped out due to what he calls funding issues and “probably a few too many raves.” It was then he told me that he “gave up on a creative future…” ending up in what he describes as a succession of crappy jobs working in a bakery, a peanut factory and then as a courier which took him to Shoreditch. “It was a different place back in 2000 and I guess this was my subconscious introduction to street art.”
“When I started I was quite naive and experimental” he says of his first forays. “I had no agenda and my work was informed by what I saw on the streets. As I progressed I became aware of many different artists, styles and movements. I am now much more informed. I went to University later on in my life, which actually wasn’t a bad move.. with an older head on my shoulders I took more in, rather than just partying!!”
SKELETONS ON THE STREET
“I saw putting work on the streets as a way of getting it out there without needing gallery backing” he told me. “It also created a level of intrigue with people finding the pieces on the street. I didn’t have much confidence, so welcomed the idea of anonymity which still love till to this day.”
This was a time when, in the East End of London, street art was booming. The mass development of the area hadn’t really begun yet. That would really be kick-started after the Olympics in 2012. Skelly, as he became known, entered the scene at a time when street art as we know it today would really start to take off. Fuelled by the likes of instagram and facebook the art on the streets of the city would soon find a much bigger worldwide audience.
“It was a happy accident” he says as he describes his jump into becoming a full on street artist. “Being creative and living in East London at the right time and right place.” It was a time of plentiful art shows. He’d visit and keep bumping into the same faces, chatting and getting to know people. Slowly but surely he would become more immersed into the urban art scene.
His first foray into actually painting onto a wall though was in 2012. “I’d started selling work through a rather unusual Second Hand shop called ‘Shoreditch Junk’ on Sclater Street. The owner, Tony, would rather start arguments than sell anything to the public. He asked me to paint the external walls of his shop which happened to be on the route of a street art tour and overnight i’d accidentally become a street artist.”
NOT IN USE
Fast forward six years and Skeleton Cardboard now has his first full solo exhibition, ‘Not in Use’ at the BSMT Space Gallery in Dalston. It’s a key milestone but one which he’s been building up to for some time. A regular contributor to group shows, his work has already hung in galleries including the Saatchi and most recently his work featured prominently in the high profile art book ‘Cash is King’.
“My work appeals to people of all ages on several levels” he says when asked about his audience. “People love skulls and people also love the phrases. It talks to them about everyday struggles with technology and the mundanity of modern living in a large city. Kids love the dancing skeletons (including the metaphors for life and death)… Oh yeah! people love it when you swear too.”
Skeleton Cardboard was interviewed over email on 18 September 2018. ‘Not In Use’ is his first gallery solo exhibition. It is showing at the BSMT Space Gallery in Dalston from 20 September 2018 to 9 October 2018.