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Artist Spotlight: Bubba 2000

Exposed catches up with Sheffield-based street artist Bubba 2000 – recently spotted paying homage to the country’s frontline NHS workers with a striking mural on Upper Valley Road, Meersbrook.

Words: Elliot Lucas

How did you get into creating art?
Long story, but as a kid, I used to get bullied. So I’d go home and draw little pictures of myself as a superhero, beating up people *laughs*. I would show the pictures to people and they would say “Wow, that’s pretty good.” So I started to think, huh, I’m alright at this.

Then, starting out in the mid-90s I used to draw comic books, and from there I went and did some storyboards for films and music videos, stuff like that. And I was always sticking up my own art, because back in the day, illustrative art wasn’t seen as art. I remember, back in like 96-97, going to coffee places and saying “Hi, can I exhibit some artwork?” and they would say “No, that’s not art.” So I used to make photocopies and go stick them up. It’s just grown from there really.

And that has something to do with your choice to use graffiti, rather than more traditional mediums?
Well, I never have seen myself as a ‘graffiti artist’. The only similarity is that I use spray paint. But that’s like saying that Picasso is exactly the same as Van Gogh because they use oil paint. Graffiti artists don’t like what I do, the same way that ‘proper’ artists don’t see what I do as art either. So that’s why I’ve just found my own niche and do my own thing.

I just like the spontaneity of it. If you’ve got an idea, or a message that you want to put out there, it’s the most democratic way of putting a message out there. Like with the NHS piece I did, I wanted to show some appreciation, so I thought, right, I’ll go and stick it on a wall. That’s what I like about street art: if you’ve got something to say, anybody can put it out there. I get people messaging me saying, ‘but I haven’t got the right equipment and this and that…’ and I tell them to use what they can get your hands on. I used to use stuff you can get from a poundshop. If you want to say something, you’ll go and do it. It’s easier to make an excuse not to do something, than to get off your arse and do it.

Is there anywhere that you wouldn’t consider placing art?
Anywhere that has nature, parks and so on. And also, somebody’s house – they’ve paid good money for it. Just don’t take the piss, you know? With the NHS piece, I had been commissioned to put something there. When the lockdown came about, I thought about what I could do to show some support.

Tell me a little more about the relationship between the art and the locations you choose. Do you think a lot about who’s going to see each piece?
Sometimes I leave what I like to call easter eggs. If you think urban landscapes are blighted by graffiti, they’re even more blighted by adverts for Coca Cola and McDonald’s. That to me is more of an eyesore than what people call graffiti. So I like to put up little easter eggs. Little characters here, there and everywhere, that wouldn’t be spotted unless you really had your eyes open.

So yeah, I definitely think about placement. I like to set things up so that when you’re looking at a piece, you’re not just looking at the image. For example, I did a little sad boy on Hunter’s Bar roundabout, so you’re not just looking at the boy, you’re using everything else in the environment to frame it up.

Why do you think people don’t pay attention anymore to their environment?
Because we live in the age of self-entitlement. We’re making idiots famous. Someone who can flash a bit of skin on a reality TV show can earn over a million pounds a year. We’re rewarding stupidity. I think everyone has created an inner filter, because there are so many people out there starving for the oxygen of publicity, that we’ve just developed this sort of built-in ad-block filter.

People don’t understand why someone would go out and give everyone something for free. That’s what street artists do: we’re showing that the world can be a fun, beautiful place. It doesn’t have to be all about advertising and self-entitlement.

Are you hoping that when lockdown ends, people will more attention to their environment, since they’ve been stuck inside for so long?
On some level, this isolation is what we’ve all been living in for years already. And this has given us a taste of how things could be, the sense of community, the appreciation for the outdoors and so on. Of course there’s still people that wanna go back to getting their McDonald’s and shopping at Primark, etc. If that’s what they wanna do, good luck to them. But I think a lot of people are now realising, actually, this is alright, we don’t need all this materialism.

 What are you planning for when lockdown ends?
The big plan before lockdown was a show called Exit Through the Thrift Shop – a little play on the Banksy thing. I was gonna announce it on April 1st so everyone thought I was playing a joke, and then it would have opened a few weeks ago today. The plan is to still do Exit Through the Thrift Shop when everything gets back to normal. In the meantime, I’ve got a few little street pieces that I’m gonna be doing that should be pleasant surprise to everyone.

@bubba2000art
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