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James Mylne – A Decade of Shady Business
Categories: Artist Of The Week
Joker Johnson DETAIL low res

Fine artist James Mylne presents a series of new ballpoint artworks as part of a London solo exhibition in December. The Battersea based artist specialises in photo-realism through using ballpoint pens on paper and is considered a pioneer in the field. A Decade of Shady Business celebrates ten years of Mylne’s innovative ballpoint art and sees the artist unveil a series of incredible new works that address themes and issues close to his heart. 
Last month Mylne’s Joker Johnson artwork hit the headlines and sold to a collector within hours of it appearing in the press and social media. The illustration became a viral phenomenon capturing the public mood as the UK Prime Minister made history and fresh enemies in equal measure as he controversially prorogued Parliament and failed to secure a deal on Brexit. 
The ultra-realistic ballpoint sketch of the Prime Minister as the infamous Joker seemed to achieve instant cult status with Joker Johnson placards appearing all over October’s Brexit marches last month and this month appearing on the front of German current affairs magazine VIEW. The artist commented, “The whole Brexit thing is a bit of a bad joke…but like the Joker I believe there is a sadistic side to Boris beneath all the foolishness.” The original ballpoint pen artwork drawing sold within hours of the story breaking all over the world.
Meanwhile his damning portrayal of Brazilian PM Bolsonaro sees the controversial world leader captured with the flames of the Amazon pouring from his eyes. “During the worst of the recent Amazon fires I actually lost sleep thinking about Bolsonaro’s attitude towards it all,” says Mylne. “It seemed quite evil to me.”
Mylne will be unveiling more new works in the coming weeks ahead of his exhibition including an image of Donald Trump. 
Using a normal Bic ballpoint pen (or biro) James can spend up to 300 hours working in intricate detail to create beautiful black and white drawings often combining the careful use of spray paints to add colour backgrounds & additions.
Mylne’s incredible, unique ballpoint works have been likened to ‘beautifully painted canvases’ and are often mistaken for photographic prints, such is the incredible detail and likeness to his subjects. Mylne says Biros appeal to him due to the huge level of concentration required to complete each drawing. Mistakes cannot be rectified, and any errors result in the artist having to start the piece again.
Often featuring political figures or news events, Mylne’s work during the past decade has also focused on the topics of celebrity, notoriety and the focusing of our gaze towards instantly recognisable figures.  Kate Moss and Audrey Hepburn have featured in some of his most popular and enduring works as well as influential cultural figures from Steve McQueen to The Notorious B.I.G. Consumerism, status and luxury lifestyle are often present in Mylne’s artworks, with fashion brands and luxury goods being scrutinised and their influence questioned, their almost disposal status being immortalised in these complex pieces that take hundreds of hours to produce.
“Ballpoint pens are everywhere,” says Mylne. “Scattered over desks at work or school, on counters at your post office or bank, and under your sofa. No one owns them really, ubiquitous, disposable, and pretty much free. The simple engineering and design behind them is so efficient and durable that they haven’t needed a design change in decades… I remember the moment, aged about 15 or 16 when I figured out how to use them for creating soft tones and effective shading. It was a bit of a eureka moment. Up to that point I’d loved using the pens, but it was mostly just for sketchbook work. It made satisfyingly sharp, bold lines, crisp outlines and comic like graphics and imagery.”
Although he often works from old photographs to create his fine drawings, James has also collaborated with famous photographers such as Terry O’Neill, ex Rolling Stones guitarist Bill Wyman and Roger Eaton. Influenced by both urban and contemporary art Mylne’s work has been exhibited alongside Street Art legends such as Shepard Fairey, D*Face, Banksy, Mr. Brainwash etc as well as YBA artists such as Damien Hirst & Gavin Turk. His first solo exhibition was at The Conningsby Gallery, London, in 2008 which was the first exhibition to showcase photo realistic ballpoint artworks.
Mylne’s work has recently been chosen to feature on the cover of a new hardback book on the best of ballpoint art that will be published by Sandu this November.

Exhibition Listings

A Decade of Shady Business by James Mylne
12th – 19th December 2019
Fitzrovia Gallery
139 Whitfield Street, London W1T 5EN

Author: Lisa Baker

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