PRIEST is about to unveil his solo art exhibition from 12th October – 9th December at Mucciaccia Gallery in Mayfair during Frieze London.

Contemporary pop artist PRIEST’s satirical style contrasts playful and innocent imagery with dark, subversive subject matters. His compositions are bright and colourful, combining nostalgic cartoons, video games, and street art in a tongue-in-cheek critique of capitalism and corporate culture.

Toys also feature heavily in PRIEST’s practice, the word doubling as a derogatory term for inexperienced painters in the graffiti scene while emphasizing the element of play that’s central to his approach. In his words, each project is a bad idea taken much further than it should have been in the first place.

TS: How did you get started as an artist?

PRIEST: I was born in a small country town in New Zealand, my mother was a dancer, father was a street performer. My family owned a small shop in which we sold outdoor wind sculptures. I was surrounded by many forms of art and performance from a young age.

I started painting graffiti illegally on the streets of New Zealand in 2010, I moved cities a lot, from Wellington I then moved to Melbourne, then to Copenhagen, followed by Glasgow, and now London. I began making art in 2019.

Following a court case for graffiti in Australia, I decided to make paintings and prints to try to help pay the fines. During this year, I assisted an artist in Melbourne called RONE. He taught me everything from managing my own career as an artist to building large-scale exhibitions from scratch.

A few years later I was lucky enough to have the New York-based artist KAWS mentor me and help guide my career into the fine art world, this was a pivotal point and brought a lot of attention to the paintings I was making.


TS: Can you tell me about your process as an artist and how you create your work?

PRIEST: Most of the work I create is acrylic on canvas, the large installations are made from various materials such as wood, metal, and foam. Moving from graffiti to fine art was challenging – there are huge differences between the two. I can paint a very large piece of graffiti in around ten minutes whereas my canvas paintings can take 3 – 4 weeks to complete. This patience is something I still struggle with. I was never a trained classical painter, so my methods of painting are far from correct.  I think this can make the work more interesting upon closer inspection.


TS: Who and what inspires you?

PRIEST: I am fascinated by playful and colourful work, it’s easy to pull people into an idea without shocking them too much at the start. I frequently study the art styles of different areas of pop culture. I enjoy the challenges of mimicking the painterly style of old Disney backgrounds and applying them to modern-day objects, creating 3D renders of Pixar scenes, and practicing the pixel styles of classic video games.

Graffiti plays a large part in my work currently, the many situations that I have ended up in whilst painting graffiti.  I like to recreate my paintings and see how they translate to the various pop culture worlds I explore.

Currently, my direct inspirations are RONE, KAWS, Joan Cornella, Javier Calleja, and Nathan Fielder.


TS: What exhibitions have you done and how did they come about?


TOYS –  Solo exhibition 2019 Melbourne – Stockroom Gallery

The artist RONE and his partner Alice whom I assisted for a year encouraged me to have a solo show and spoke with the gallery owner who was happy to host the exhibition.

PLASTIC – installation and paintings in a group show – Saatchi Gallery 2023

Roger Gastman, the curator, and founder of Beyond the Streets contacted me on Instagram and we began talking, this eventually led to a large involvement in an exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery.

PRESS START – Beyond the Streets Gallery – Los Angeles 2023

Again, this was through conversations with Roger Gastman.

THE MADNESS OF THE PRIEST-VERSE – Memorabilandia – Milan 2023

One of my close friends opened this gallery, we decided to do an exhibition here to kick off the first year at the space, New York-based artist CRASH had a show prior to me!


TS: How did established artists and well-known art curators start collecting your work?

PRIEST: One time I had an idea that if I dressed up like a trash bag I could go painting graffiti in the street and whenever the police drove by I could crouch down, lean against a wall, and blend in with the other trash. This idea quickly became a real product called ”TRASH SACK CAMOUFLAGE”. I made 30 of them.

For the release, I created an advert and wrote a jingle that I hired a band to play. The product came with a 16-page instruction manual that I wrote to explain the incredibly difficult process of putting on the trash bag and the many warnings of suffocation and other hazards.

The video went viral on Instagram and was seen by many artists, collectors, and curators around the globe. My paintings started selling like hotcakes. I also considered selling hotcakes as well to compare sales and make a final decision on whether to pursue art or become a baker.

TS: Can you tell me more about the pieces that will be exhibited at Mucciaccia Gallery in London for your upcoming solo exhibition from 12th Oct – 9th December?

PRIEST: This exhibition is about exploring the world of Looney Tunes. I am very interested in this era of cartoon history. The paintings are a mashup of what would happen if graffiti existed in these worlds and the consequences of it, along with plenty of other satirical twists on these classic characters. I don’t want to say too much, I prefer to let the work speak for itself!

TS: The exhibition name is “Trapped in a Cel”, can you explain what that means in the art world and its relevance today?

PRIEST: ”Trapped in a Cel” is a play on words, with the word ”Cel” referring to animation cels which were the traditional method used to create animation until everything went digital. The paintings I have included in this exhibition have many elements of crime and illegal activity; I wanted the exhibition’s name to also relate to the final stage of the justice system, ”Cel” meaning Jail Cell.

Classical cartoon Cels have been sold in auctions at Sotheby’s hitting record numbers in the hundreds of thousands. They are becoming widely recognised in the art world.


TS: What do you have planned for the future?

PRIEST: Shortly after this exhibition I will be showing work during Art Basel in Miami, and then have quite a few international exhibitions lined up for 2024 which is always interesting to see how the work translates in new cities.

I am also leaning more toward installation and sculpture after the popularity of the Saatchi installation for Beyond the Streets earlier this year, so this is a big focus for these upcoming shows. There are plenty more smaller projects in the works, but I like to work in silence until it’s time to announce!