The stencil on the wall: Joe Turpin talks being South African, comparison to Banksy and “Park’s Pleasure” debut

The talented Mr Turpin...
The talented Mr Turpin:  “I can’t date the first time I was taken to a gallery… In that sense I’m very fortunate for my upbringing”

With a successful exhibition already to his name, it’s easy to forget the “pop art expressionism” artist is only 19, a student and living in thousands of miles away from home; Johannesburg. In this exclusive interview Joe Turpin talks; being South African, comparison to Bansky and his debut art work “Park’s Pleasure”


What are some of your influences as an artist?

Growing up as a South African born-free, I was always surrounded by South African art in our home, as well as our family and friends homes. People like Norman Catherine’s figures and Steven Cohen’s screen prints have always been evident growing up and I can’t date the first time I was taken to a gallery. In that sense I’m very fortunate for my upbringing. My Mother, Gisele Wulfsohn was a photographer and seeing her work, her passion for her subject and her exhibition have always influenced me. She’s number one to me. However like many up and coming artists, it’s people like Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf and street artists like Lady Pink and Rammellzee that have had huge impact on my aspirations to pursue art as a future.

Subject matter, what do you paint mostly?

I want my work to reflect on social awareness. I want to highlight politics, power structure, poverty, disease and urban decay. At the same time I want to pay homage to great minds, most of whom have since passed on. I think for people who have influenced me in music and art, carried me through some hard times, deserve more than a tribute. Some people should be immortalised in as many representations as possible. Evoking emotion is also important. I found a deep love through expressionism as an acclaimed movement since I hated not being able to draw or paint realistically in school, and being marked down on it. Art is more than that. In addition to expression providing some aesthetic beauty, it’s a way of talking. In ways words can’t express.

Where did the stencils come from?

I’m self taught in that respect. I started out in early 2012 leaking the ink off of printed out Shepard Fairey images onto cardboard and cutting those out, finding I could spray paint those onto paper. I actually did that before painting expressively. Images of Malcolm X, Huey P Newton and some of the controversial Kony 2012 posters were my first stencils. People always comment on how it looks like street art and compare it to artists like Banksy but the interest in him, on my part, only came because I was already cutting out stencils. I like to think of Jef Aerosol as a more influential stencil artist.

Any recent projects? 

‘Exodus’. It was completed for my Fine Art Practice Module in my first semester at Oxford Brookes. Based on advice I’d received, I wanted to try make the stencils less figurative. More geometric and minimalist in form. The work is my entry into experimenting with that but also documents a process. Each canvas is called , Genesis, Process and Revelation respectively and document a journey in life. We are all affected by things in Life. Death, Disease, Circumstances beyond our control. That’s why the figure breaks up. As an African born and raised student living in the UK, I’ve found being homesick a major issue. On top of that I was affected by some bereavements back home that I’ve been so far away from. I wanted to translate that into this project and move away from figurative stencils too.

And finally, the debut of “Park’s Pleasure”!

PARKSPLEASUREThis work came from two places. One, I am currently studying Fine Art in England, and the scenery here lead to me photographing a swan. I try use my own photographs for my paintings now to avoid any copyrights. Also makes me use a camera more. From that I threw up a quick sketch and thought it would be good to paint. The second place was the recent shooting in a synagogue in Jerusalem. I’m sick of the hatred on all sides of the violence in that region. I’d done work on calling for peace and even a free Palestine. I felt deeply about how I was here, looking at swans in rivers and studying at a Euro-centric Art school, when in other places people are killed for their religion. The background was my emotion on that event and so was the stencil of the swan ‘bleeding out’. I’d never done that on the stencils before and am always looking to change and ‘spice up’ the content.

Park’s Pleasure594mm x 841mm Oil stick, spray paint with stencil, acrylic, marker on canvas

Photograph by  Simnikiwe Buhlungu

Find out more about Joe Turpin, his art work and future exhibitions on his social media sites:

Twitter: @joeturpinjoey





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