Born in the UK in 1972, Duncan Jago is considered a veteran of the urban art and design community. He has been described as a pioneer of the Scrawl Movement. Growing up in the small village of Eye in Suffolk, Jago had an intense interest in graffiti, which led him to study illustration in Bristol. He graduated from the University Of The West of England in Bristol in 1998. It was there that Jago met Steff Plaetz and Will Barras, which led the way to the start of the now renowned Scrawl Collective agency. Mr. Jago’s skills lie in everything from painting and illustration to creating artwork and designs for some of the biggest international brands.
Mr. Jago’s early style that he explored during the nineties into the new millennium has undergone a prolonged and continuous process of abstraction and has evolved deliberately into his current way of working; the droid-like ﬁgures of his formative, commercial illustration slowly enveloped in ever-deepening layers of colour and shade. These ﬁgures have now become almost entirely hidden, remaining as shadowy, compositional elements, spectres lurking in the gloom behind the kaleidoscopic vapours of (what might perhaps be) humankind’s vanity and pollution. One senses a narrative, but it remains obscured, teasingly just out-of-view.
Most recently, Jago has taken the idioms of spray painting to a level of sophistication rarely seen in the medium, completely uninhibited by any notions of what spray painting is, or should be. There is maturity and depth to the use of colour that hints at the mineral traces left by geological time, or the complex nebulae of deep space revealed by Hubble’s keen eye.
His work is the result of a stream-of-consciousness approach, where meaning presents itself through process. One might well use the phrase abstract expressionism, since form and structure have undergone a process of abstraction, whilst primarily being emotionally expressive. It is both formally organized and balanced, as well as spontaneous and visceral.
Jago’s inspirations and influences span the cultures of hip-hop, comic books, impressionist masters, Japanese manga, nature, and artists such as Futura 2000 and Mode 2. About his art, Jago states, “Painting for me is a part of a therapeutic practice and in this body of work, I am working through my own anxiety to do with the worries I have regarding where we are heading as a species. As our numbers increase on the planet I am fearful of the obvious effects we are having on our environment. I think walking around owning a pair of eyes and ears for the last 37 years I have probably been influenced by countless people, sounds and sights. However I think my love of nature has been the biggest influence. The forms and flows that exist within it seem to be appearing in my work more and more nowadays.”
On his website, Jago quotes Thomas Merton who wrote in his book No Man Is an Island, “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”
2011: Rudimentary Perfection, Recoat Gallery, Glasgow ; Never Judge, Stolenspace Gallery, London; 2010: Overseas & Undertones, ABV Gallery, Atlanta; Sleight Of Hand, Recoat Gallery, Glasgow; LTRHDS 2010, 1000 £ Bend, Melbourne and Red Bull Gallery, Sydney. 2009: Keep From Going Under, Friend & Co Gallery, Bristol; Modart Curated Show, Thinkspace Gallery, Los Angeles; Artists Eleven, Bonhams, London; So Refined, The Don Gallery, Milan. 2008: Burning Bridges Group Show, The Brick Lane Gallery, London. 2007: Space Junk, a travelling exhibit throughout France. 2006: Mr. Jago, Lazy Dog, Paris. 2005: Urban Edge, Spazio Gallery, Milan. 2004: Scrawl Collective, Boxfresh Store, London. 2003: Paintura Project, Parco Gallery, Tokyo. 2002: Art Meets Windows, Hunaku Store, Osaka. 2001: Night Vision Goggles, Houston Gallery, Seattle.
Sources: Information and texts compiled by Alison Tara from Duncan Jago's artist statement on his website (www.mrjago.com); a 2009 interview with Andrew Hosner on www.sourharvest.com; and a biography on stolenspace.com