British artist Cosmo Sarson hit the headlines with his giant 28ft mural of breakdancing jesus, created with over 1 kilo of gold glitter on a prestigious Bristol wall.
The artist has successfully translated his epic street art creations into highly collectible limited edition prints. Born and bred Londoner, Cosmo Sarson started doing graffiti and breakdancing as a child. He started breakdancing in 1983, “we used to turn up early to school so we could practice on the lino floors of the room before class.” Cosmo Sarson went on to study Fine Art at The Byam Shaw School of Art, adding traditional artistic disciplines to his graffiti skills. He achieved early success when his degree show was sponsored by Paul Smith.
Working in oils and gouache, Cosmo Sarson, began exploring themes around Hip Hop culture, creating almost trompe l’oeil images of breakdancers, skateboarders and bmx riders. He stopped painting in 1997, hanging up his brushes after a solo show on Regents Street. He remained retired from the art scene, in which his friends included the then relatively unknown Nick Walker and Ben Eine, until 2009.
“Being an artist isn’t a job, it’s a lifestyle, and it only pays for the lucky few, so you’ve got to work out how to survive and paint at the same time,” Cosmo explained in an interview. Between ’97 and ’09, he found work as an art director in advertising and then as a scenic artist on film sets. He painted everything, from large scenic backings, to old master paintings that hung as props, from frescoes to graffiti.
His now famous Breakdancing Jesus painting was one of the ideas Cosmo Sarson had during the 12 dark years he didn’t have a studio, “I promised myself that it would be one of the first paintings I would make upon my eventual return.” His last paintings of ’97 were self portraits of Cosmo breakdancing so in an interview he explained “like Jesus coming out of the cave, it was kind of apocryphal that I should return from the dead also, and to the same subject matter, but with Christ risen in my place.”
After the UK student riots, Cosmo Sarson turned his attention to images of police and rioters and began a series of works depicting the anarchy of rioters and the desperation of the police. Much of the series was based on dramatic photographs. Front line photo journalist David Hoffman gave Cosmo Sarson permission to work from his shots of the student riots; including one which Hoffman lost his front teeth to get!
Several of Cosmo’s riot related works were painted on unconventional materials, such as series of riot police painted onto hi-viz reflective material and ‘Cheese Eating Surrendor Monkey’ painted on the same material that US Army uniforms are made from. Often the materials, such as hoodies, denim and tracksuit tops, referred back to the subject, “It just provides an extra layer of reference to the work.”
Cosmo has worked on a project for the charity Age Concern which was shown at the Saatchi Gallery. He was also involved in the BT commission to customise a classic English phonebox, alongside esteemed artists such as Ryan Cannallan and Dave White. His artwork has been published in the book ‘Scrawl: Strange Graphics and Dirty