London based fine artist James Mylne has unveiled two controversial new works to announce an upcoming London retrospective of his work later this year. The Battersea based artist specialises in photo-realism through using ballpoint pens on paper and is considered a pioneer in the field. This December, Mylne will present A Decade of Shady Business, a solo exhibition in Mayfair celebrating ten years of his innovative ballpoint art and unveiling a series of incredible new works that address themes and issues close to the artist’s heart.
Some of the most arresting portraits in the new exhibition immortalise two of the most contentious political figures of the moment, Boris Johnson and Jair Bolsonaro. Mylne has painstakingly recreated the current British Prime Minister in the guise of arch villain The Joker, in a nod to the new Joaquin Phoenix blockbuster. The artist comments, “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.”
Meanwhile the 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.”
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.
A Decade of Shady Business by James Mylne
opens from 12th – 22nd December 2019
at 4 Mandeville Place, Mayfair, London W1U 2BG