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Street Artist Endlessis a mesh of contradictions

by Simon Allen and Patrick Silla

Unashamedly commercial, a patriot and a bit of a punk. Street artist Endless is a mesh of contradictions. His glossy paintings that sell for tens of thousands of pounds can be found on the walls of collectors and celebrities alike, including footballer Hector Bellerin and singer Rita Ora. They look more like adverts than art in the traditional sense. We met him to talk British identity, artistic freedom and why he doesn’t like the term street art.

There’s an ambiguity to Endless, the cryptic name and his hidden face. There’s no reputation that precedes him, only his work. When we meet him at the gates to his studio in East London, any preconceived impressions are thrown out of the window. Endless is warm, personable and expansive, a contrast for a man who hides behind a mask.

“Once you figure out your style you can be original. I’m always progressing. Some artists stick to one thing. I can’t. I’ve got too many ideas. That’s why I’m called Endless,” he says.

Endless doesn’t think of his art practice as work. It’s just his identity, he says. It’s what he is and what he does. He’s a creator, through and through.

Gilbert and George, the art duo famous for their loud, colourful photo-based artworks, have been a big source of inspiration and the three have become friends. Endless has worked with them and his ‘crotch grab’ piece was featured in a Gilbert and George exhibition in Singapore.

“Gilbert and George breathe art. They wake up and they do art. Before they sleep they’re still creating. It’s my life. If you’re creative, you don’t stop creating. It’s just what you do,”

His eclectic style can be described as mixture of iconography with themes of punk, fashion and the royal family.

“I like icons. A lot of creatives are against everything popular. I’m not. I like the Queen. We forget how much of an icon she is and what a fashion icon she is. She is a part of us; it’s an inescapable part of being British. I think she’s an important person. It’s why she features in my work so much. I want to promote things, not just mock them.”

Although his work has elements of punk and rebellion, reminiscent of the Sex Pistols album covers, a closer look will reveal he never degrades the icons he depicts. They are put into a new light, like an original take on a classic.

“My work shouts to get your attention and then it speaks to you. There are hidden meanings but you don’t have to know all of them. When I’m painting something I’m thinking of meanings but I don’t want to preach,” Endless says.

His reimagination of British pop culture figureheads has seen him feature in Liberty and receive commissions from Arsenal player Hector Bellerin and singer Rita Ora. For Endless, the popularity is just a springboard to bigger and better things.

“These relationships don’t dilute my creative control. I still make what I want to make,” he says.

His journey into the art world wasn’t an easy one. He felt lost after leaving art school, working jobs during the day and putting his work on the streets at night.

“It was tough,” Endless says. “Although I went to university, after that no one gave me a blueprint of what I had to do next. No one tells you. You have to find your own way.” The answer he arrived on was an outpouring of work. He used the only currency at his disposal: ideas.

Without access to the expensive equipment he enjoyed using at art school, Endless decided the best way to get himself out there was to create cheap stencils and use what was around him: the streets of London.

“Before street art there were adverts. That’s street art in itself. I figured the best way to make a name for myself was to advertise myself, literally,” he says.

Street art fanatics shake their heads at the idea of working for brands. Endless doesn’t care at all. “It pays the rent,” he says. The money from commercial clients helps him fund the work he’s most passionate about. And he feels ambivalent about street art as a genre. It’s just about money, he says. It was created for people outside the art world to attract new buyers.  But he’s not precious about how his work is received or how he is labelled:

“My art is on the street, I get it. If I get branded as a street artist I don’t get aggressive about it.”

He plays his cards close to his chest for what comes next. He’s got ‘an exhibition or two’ coming up this year and has some ideas about charitable things he could get involved in.

“I’m not stopping with just art. There are other mediums I want to play around with to get my ideas out,” Endless says.

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