Personal reflections on urbanism, urban life and sustainable urban design in Wellington, New Zealand.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Neonate unmasked?

Last year I posted about the prolific street artist who goes by the tag "Neonate". Since then, astroblastro has kept an almost scarily comprehensive archive of Neonate's "work", which I found thanks to Alan's comment on Stephen's most recent post about Wellington street art. Astroblastro adds notes on subgenres and stylistic evolution, points out a possible Neonate-forger, and speculates that Neonate's real (or alternative) name may be "Jerome Copeius".

This theory is based upon at least two examples, and seems a reasonable deduction, though the last name could be "Copelus" or "Cope!us". Some recent graffiti at Waitangi skate park (which is probably being wiped out as I write) offers more clues:

Waitangi skate park - Neonate/Jerome Copeius graffiti montageThese are still ambiguous, since while the faces on the right seem to link the names together, the handwriting is very different.

Neonate's daily 'strugles'But the strongest hint yet comes from this sticker I saw near the corner of Allen and Wakefield streets. It's in quite a different style from the toothy monsters and bulb-headed angels that we're used to, and the use of a sticker suggests that Neonate/Jerome might have a more ambitious approach to street art than the average teenage tagger. Perhaps an art student or designer working towards an illustration contract via street cred? But the new figure and text convey a sense of working-class ennui and alienation, struggling against the strictures of a menial job (and the English language) while idly dreaming of escape. On the other hand, the drawing that astroblastro thinks might be a portrait of Neonate shows a tousle-haired smiling skatey kid.

I wonder whether Neonate knows about the attention he's getting on line? And if so, what he thinks of it all?


At 6:50 pm, June 17, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had heard that he wasn't writing anymore, but I don't believe it. There have been some new tags up recently, like these you posted, and it seems doubtful that they're older than a few months. (When I took most of the photos I was taking.)

I really liked the clean style of his first stuff. It lends a formalism to the graffiti that I really liked, mostly because it was a departure from the scrawl or Soviet-stencil type styles common in graffiti. Formal + cute.

These new photos you posted look more sketchy and dirty, which is a minus in my book. (The sloppyness looks lazy!) But the colors make up for it in the end!

At 9:02 am, June 19, 2006, Blogger Tom said...

Kevin: they're definitely within the last month or so, since I have some photos from about six weeks ago and they weren't there then.

I agree with both of you that these are getting messier. Maybe he's taking too many drugs now. Or not enough.

I used to like his earlier characters, like the angel (bulbhead?) and "bigfoot". They had a personality and wistfulness that made a real change from the usual graffiti. The current angry faces and blobby monsters aren't as interesting.

Maximus: I agree that Mephisto is a real artist, but that's part of the problem. Street artists like him (and Misery and Trust Me and Flux) are a bit too much artists and not enough street; they're fine arts and design students using the hipness of graffiti and stencils to angle for a contract. I liked the early Neonate because while he was step up from plain old tagging, he wasn't quite as slick. As for what's happened to Mephisto, you still see the odd "Air Guitar" stencil or cutout, but maybe he's too busy designing Primo ads.

At 12:52 pm, June 20, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looks a bit like our hometown boy:


(but don't get me wrong, i don't think it is.)

At 10:12 am, May 02, 2011, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have just started using the name angel bulbhead, and then I go and find this...........


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