The Man Behind Bristol's Breakdancing Jesus
It’s a giant breakdancing Jesus – Bristol, where else?!
Artist Cosmo Sarson took time out from answering questions from proper journalists to give muggins here at Simple Lampoon an insight into the world of a man who paints glittering 30ft depiction of Christ in Stokes Croft – as you do.
If you haven’t seen it, ‘Breakdancing Jesus’ is a mural on the wall next to the Canteen, although I think if you’ve missed it you might have bigger problems… Cosmo also explains his reaction to media hype surrounding the piece as well as work on films such as the soon to be released ‘World War Z’.
SimpleLampoon: The spot is obviously highly regarded being opposite the ‘Mild Mild West’ piece – was there added pressure with people judging the piece directly against that, and also people being able to watch you live whilst sipping a beer?
Sarson: There was a lot of pressure painting that wall because it's such high profile, not only in terms of being desirable to other artists but also in being so exposed to people watching as you work, so yes, I was a bit nervous and it's not a wall you want to fuck up on being so visible. Painting on scaff (Editors note: A perilously high scaffolding platform) is always awkward because you can't stand back to see what you're doing and there's always a pole in the way.
I was also aware that I was perceived as not being a local and that drew some negativity from some quarters that felt the wall should have gone to a Bristolian, but at the end of the day it was an open competition and anyone could have entered. I was also slightly nervous about the reaction to what is potentially quite a controversial image, but I think after the scaff came down and people saw it in the flesh on the whole the piece has been well received.
As far as people drinking and watching me while I paint, I got on well with the residents of Turbo island across the road who loved it!
SimpleLampoon: The texture that the gold gives is fantastic – is that a reference to religious architecture and imagery?
Sarson: The gold is quite obviously a reference to religious icons, as is the fact it's painted with a brush rather than spray, as I also wanted to refer to the fresco painting tradition. I was pleased with the gold, there's a lot of movement in it and it's not just a flat reflective surface. The under painting was a wash of yellow ochre and burnt umber, a second layer of metallic gold spray was dusted over the top followed by a varnish with gold glitter.
SimpleLampoon: The wall is set to be repainted in 2015 – did this affect the subject matter chosen? Were you able to be more ‘daring’?
Sarson: The fact that it was temporary didn't affect my idea, or make me more daring; the 'breakdancing Jesus' is a theme I've been working on for some time. I was just very pleased to get to paint it on such scale and it wasn't an opportunity to be missed.
SimpleLampoon: The reaction to the piece has been massive, were you expecting that?
Sarson: I certainly wasn't expecting the reaction it got, I thought it might make the local paper but that was it.
(The story remained on BBC’s most read for almost the entirety of the day the story was posted and has circulated most national news outlets and beyond)
SimpleLampoon: The film work on your website is fascinating, is it satisfying to know your work is going to be immortalised on film, or is it just another job?
Sarson: My film work is really just a day job, it's fun and pays me to be creative. My friend Nick Walker did a similar thing doing graffiti for Eyes Wide Shut and I followed his example and got into film too. WWZ - Brad Pitt’s new zombie movie comes out on Friday. I did the graffiti on all sets throughout that film. I also paint large scenic backings for film which are often used instead of green screen, that experience has helped me on working on a large scale quickly.
SimpleLampoon: What originally got you in to street art?
Sarson: I'm not quite sure what got me into street art, I don't really consider myself to be a street artist, I'm more of a fine artist that paints the odd wall here and there.
SimpleLampoon: You’ve got some great exposure from ‘Breakdancing Jesus’ - What’s next for Cosmo Sarson?
Sarson: Coming up next is a high-end print release, staying on the 'breakdancing Jesus' religious icon tip. Think gold leaf and diamond dust. I'll keep you posted...----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Cosmo’s work also extends to an extensive portfolio that you can check out on his website. There's an online shop with a lot of background work from breakdancing Jesus theme, plus more pics from the sets of Children of Men, Harry Brown and other films you just might have seen. Also check out the Facebook page if that's your thing.
Featured Image and main image supplied by Paul Green Photography. Check out some more exclusive photos of how Breakdancing Jesus took shape as well as other steet artists on the Paul Green Photography Facebook page.
Additional artwork photos courtesy of Cosmo Sarson taken from www.cosmosarson.com, All Rights Reserved © Cosmo Sarson 2013