Cageone Interview


By Vincent Morgan |  Published on Thursday, November 14, 2013.

CageOne is a prolific street artist. His style has developed into a refined abstraction pushed forward by his challenging of the conventions of form, colour and context. Interview inside.

Interview conducted by Jester Jacques Gallery for FatCap.

FC : The obvious first question : how did you get into graffiti ?

CageOne : Back (way back) in 1987, I first noticed the work of Part2ism adorning the walls of York - to be honest, this just totally blew me away, I had never seen anything like Graf before, he practically had an entire ‘wall of fame’ down the side of the old Bingo Hall and I knew instantly (having never been quite so inspired academically) that I needed to get hold of some cans and start spraying. Ah, Hycote, I sometimes miss that nostalgic 80’s sheen !

Ever the omniscient presence, my parents bought me a copy of Spray Can Art For my 13th Birthday, and drunk with excitement, ideas and cream soda – I suddenly realised this phenomenon was a global movement ! I may not have fully understood the full socio-political and cultural implications of Graffiti, but even as a 13 year old lad from Yorkshire, I knew that I just had to get out there and paint. Like countless others from my generation, my work has evolved from a rather illicit foundation, which unequivocally has its own place within the evolution of graf ; the early days without question taught me to paint quickly, in limited space, and scale walls, but that initial connection I felt, when I first saw Keith’s work has never left me.

It was then I started sketching and did my very first piece on a wall…. It was a chrome and black piece down an ally way. I also wrote the letters “UA” which I distinctly recall stood for ‘Urban Artist’….Highly original I know ! Soon after that, I began meeting up regularly with other local artists where we experimented with ideas and styles, and generally played around finding our ‘Street Selves’.

FC : Were you always artistically inclined ?

CO : Although I joke with people that I simply began to colour in as a toddler and have never stopped since, I didn’t actually explore the formal application of ‘established’ art until much later in life ; I never came into contact with art or artists during my childhood, until I saw the graffiti work on the streets. Since that moment I have constantly painted and sketched daily, if only to maintain my own sanity ! I literally transformed from being a rather disenfranchised youth, to being fascinated by the immense wealth of talent and creativity around at that time, and was desperate to learn more ; I began reading art books, visiting galleries and trading photographs of graffiti art with artists from around the world, but throught the 80’s, I was a big fan of Danish and Swedish artists, such as Bates, Reas & Puppet.

FC : What was street art like when you first came onto the scene ? And how has it changed now ?

CO : Before the days of the internet (and good paint) we relied on carrying a photographic portfolio of our work around, and traded these images with other artists ; now my work can be seen, shared and critiqued across the globe before I’ve even got home from painting.

I feel that global communication and social media is a double-edged sword for the arts in some ways – the vast accessibility has undoubtedly helped with the promotion/sharing of work and information, yet the digitalised constructs of media trends, tend to indulge in the more superficial aspects of the Arts Industries. Which is why I just get on with my painting and leave the rest of the world to it.

Although I began as a Graffiti Artist, I have always maintained a deep respect for the masters of light, depth and composition ; when Graffiti first emerged, I think it was originally seen as more of a social movement as opposed to an artistic one, however, there are many artists employing hybrids of both established fine art and aerosols techniques now, which I have personally been experimenting with for the past 5 years or so.

FC : You are truly an outstanding abstract painter in the traditional sense. How do you translate your style in street art ? And is it really different using spray paint as opposed to oils and acrylics ?

CO : I use the same techniques in my street pieces as my canvas work - I just use a different medium to apply ; for the street pieces I tend to rely on emulsions and aerosol, however I like to use a variety of different techniques to apply the paint : I use squeegies, decking sanders, garden water sprayers & aerosol on my street pieces, however on canvas I take great satisfaction in decimating bank/credit cards, spray bottles, cloths & aerosol… to be honest, the one tool I very rarely paint with is an actual paint brush. Whether the piece is to be hung on a wall, or painted straight on, I can visualise the finish piece before I have even started, but regardless of context or location, I always strive to make each piece rich in texture. It has never mattered to me whether my work is understood, or ‘liked’ per se, that is the nature of “Abstract Art”, however, I do believe that abstract art is at it’s core experiential, and so whether I am spraying aerosols, or scraping acrylics – each is merely an extension of myself, and paint is paint.  

FC : How has your artwork changed since you first started tagging/graffiti making in the streets ?

CO : My work has changed dramatically over the years and is constantly evolving ; I started off painting traditional graffiti style lettering back in the 80’s, which was mainly influenced by the Danish styles, , as I liked the bold lettering, coupled with abstract filling. By the end of the 90’s I was painting graphic style characters and had left the lettering behind ! Then (without going all X factor about this) in 2003 I lost my sight.

Luckily the doctors managed to partially save the sight in one eye – unsurprisingly the high presence of scars have permanently altered the visual world around me, which has invariably translated into my artwork. Fearful for a time that I may never be able to paint again, I simply carried on where I left off, and continued painting characters, although they were more abstracted, as opposed to graphic…because that is literally how I saw the world.

I have become increasingly lost to the enchantment of a purely abstract aesthetic, because it most naturally embodies all that I am trying to convey. It’s a funny old world really.

FC : Who is influential to your creativity these days ?

CO : I have always been drawn to the poetry of William Blake and the fluidity of classical dance movement ; however, even a Yorkshire man is entitled to smile…so without overtly indulging the poetics of Aristotle surrounding the discourse of Life Imitating Art – I shall simply state that all of my paintings are full of colour now, as opposed to the black and white of CageOne past (and I smile every day apparently, which makes me think I was a right miserable painter before !)

FC : What do you think about Banksy ?

CO : I think he is an artist that should be recognised more for his actual paintings, particularly the strength of his oil work. Having moved to Bristol from Bradford, it is impossible to live here without hearing ‘Banksy Tales’ and yet I can assure you that those genuine few that know him best, are of the most grounded and loyal sorts that I can’t imagine they would associate with anyone who isn’t similarly minded.

Street/Graffiti/Urban/Aerosol Art has in some ways become a victim of its own success, and yet it was largely the exploits of Banksy that brought this subversive art genre to the commercial masses ; rather than exacerbating the politics of selling Street Art and Graf in Galleries, I personally feel that Banksy created a performative platform – and made a substantial amount of money whilst doing so. Fair dues to the guy really, no artist likes living on baked beans ! And for some reason, success seems to inspire a lot of negative energy in people ?

The performance spectacle is obviously important as it draws the mass media’s attention etc, and yet when you look beyond the theatrics and address the subtle aspects of his work, the political messages, social commentary, use of humour and irony…like I said, ‘People know Banksy’ for his stencils, and yet he is an extremely accomplished painter.  

FC : Where can we see your artwork these days ?

CO : Most of my street work is around Bristol now I’m based in the South West, gallery work can be found at Jester Jacques Gallery London, Art-el Gallery, Upfest Gallery and Weapon of Choice Gallery (all in Bristol) and online a & http :// &

FC : Any advice for young artists, whether street inclined or not ?

CO : You are a living person NOT a brand. Paint from your heart not for likes on the internet. Practise your chosen craft but do not be dictated to by a government defined curriculum.

FC : Thank you Cageone.

You can purchase 2 of his original paintings from Jester Jacques Art, who is also currently working with The Krah on a T Shirt design and intends to continue to collect and sell street art from around the world on their online shop.

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