The All Of Everything

The highly-acclaimed artist Mike Ballard covers every single inch of The Arts Gallery in Mayfair for its last ever show

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The Arts Gallery in Mayfair has exhibited some art's major players over the years, so the curators are none to happy that it is now to be demolished to make way for the the new Cross Rail system at London's Tottenham Court Road. But rather than lie down on the tracks and await its demise, the gallery has opted to go out with a bang, inviting the acclaimed artist Mike Ballard to create an immersive space that takes the viewer on a wildly skewed journey through art history. Appropriating everything from Caravaggio and Marvel Superheroes to Andy Warhol and beyond, this temporary space is perhaps the perfect canvas for Ballard's cosmic-infused baroque, which has it's roots in his beginnings as a celebrated graffiti artist. Dazed took an early glimpse at the work in process to discover why he has such an acute appetite for destruction...

DazedDigital: It must be kind of strange to create something that is going to be demolished?
Mike Ballard:
That’s the whole reason that I can go town on it. I come from a graffiti background so I’m never super-precious about my work. In that arena it always ends up getting painted over or destroyed. I often paint in derelict places because I’m interested in the transience of what they are before they turn into rubble. As a graffiti artist you are always painting things in kind of non-places, like the walls by the side of train track. I’m interested in places that are kind of between destinations.

Dazed Digital: So this is kind of an art history limbo...
Mike Ballard:
 Yeah, this show is a whole temporary environment – you kind of step into this world and this moment. It's almost as if you are inside a big box frame that mixes psychedlia and hip hop and comic book art, basically everything I am into. I'm just sampling loads of different influences really. I sort of appraoch my artwork in the way a hip hop producer approaches music, I’m into the appropriation of different things to create a new aesthetic.

DazedDigital: You haven't had very long to make it have you?
Mike Ballard:
 Just a couple of weeks. It’s been pretty ambitious considering the timeframe, but lots of people helped and we just went flat out. The collage on the celing has been the toughest part. It's sort of a digital fresco – a new age baroque version of the Cistine Chapel with David as MF Doom, stuff like that. If I had more time I would have actually painted it, but it just wasn’t feasible.

DazedDigital: Why do you think people describe your work as psychedelic baroque?
Mike Ballard:
 Baroque is really evident in graffiti anyway, because it’s an over-stylised and super-decorative form. Perhaps it's because I'm really inspired by the over-the-top aesthetic of people like Afrika Bambataa. I tend to just jam everything in there that I’m thinking about.

DazedDigital: Is street art kind of dead now that it's been so heavily appropriated by the art market?
Mike Ballard:
 I’m sure there’s a lot of people who made money from the street art bubble that peaked a few years ago. It’s hard to be knocked out by graffitti art now because there’s so much out there and the graffiti bracket is so limiting, but there are still loads of great people coming through. I think I've really moved beyong the street art tag now.

DazedDigital: Did you feel alot of pressure approaching this considering the likes of Tracy Emin, Peter Blake and Sarah Lucas have exhibited at the gallery?
Mike Ballard:
I'm just really honoured to have been asked. I do feel some pressure becasue of that, and because of people's preconceptions about what it is going to be like. I wanted to prepare the space before it goes into the ‘other world’ with imagery from my own personal art history and music that has inspired my work, including the flamboyant time travellers Sun Ra and RAMM:ELL:ZEE – guardians for the gallery as it goes to the other side of time. You would imagine that putting this much work in, I would want it to last a lifetime, but I see it as giving the gallery a send-off that appreciates its history. I would actually like to see it in different stages of destruction.

The All Of Everything is at The Arts Gallery from December 10, The Arts Gallery, 65 Davies Street, London, W1
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