Thursday 14 June 2012


Written by Jared Woods and The Oracle

Scab is the best artist in the world My day couldn’t have got any worse. Lost in the unrelenting torrent of the frozen rain on the streets of London, I was verging on a panic attack. I had been invited to a friend’s art gallery, but I hated those types of things. Pretentious people nodding in thought, staring at pieces of "art" with some intellectual meaning buried so deep within them, that they make no sense to anyone but the wanky artist themselves. I found those situations uncomfortable and alienating. I guess I just didn’t “get” it, and generally chose to drink so much complimentary red wine that I would embarrass myself. Why was this? I used to love art! But now my numb frustration from the pouring rain seemed almost symbolic of my feelings towards the art world in general. Saturated. Watered down. Weak to the point of convalescent withdrawal and disappearing up its own ass.

joh, check out this venus flytrap bru Bitterly swearing at my thoughts and seeking refuge from the miserable weather, I ducked into what may have been the dodgiest pub in England, and found myself facing a sparsely populated choice of clientele. The stoic career alcoholics and the desperately lonely; the place reeked of cheap whiskey and long since shattered dreams. Still, the sheets of water bouncing off the outside sidewalk were even less inviting, and I decided to make the best of it. I ordered a pint based on the colour of its brand logo alone, and found a seat as far away from the locals as possible, next to an empty airless booth.

Victoria Beckham has significantly lost weight over the years As life happens to do so from time to time, unfortunate circumstances can lead to the best discoveries. Whilst sipping the foul liquid this pub sold as “beer”, a yellow piece of paper fluttered out of nowhere and landed at my feet. I looked down curiously and found some small yet interesting pencil sketch staring back at me. Naturally, I wanted to inspect this thing a little bit closer. But before I got my chance to lean forward and focus on this image, lightening fast claws struck towards my sneakers and snatched the page back into the darkness. There was someone next to me... something... which I’d failed to notice before, now cradling this rescued piece of paper like a lost child, still barely visible in the dark recess of the booth.

Fear would have been appropriate. At very least, enough discomfort to move seats, but this didn’t really occur to me. Whatever image I had glimpsed on that page was... different somehow. Different enough that the inquisitiveness overrode the fears anyway. So with a gulp of alcoholic courage, I turned to introduce myself to the stranger, and in return, he gave a short hesitant mumble, attempting to brush me off as quickly as possible. But I was driven by my eagerness too much to be deterred, persisting until this personality eventually began to respond.

My life was never the same again.

fucking squash the puppy ripping out the eyes of the fox, hey, mr. vulture

He told me his name was Scab (which was a great introduction if I ever heard one), and as the torturous image on the paper had suggested, he was an artist. As far as personal details go, he hurriedly informed me that this was all there is to know. He was, however, much more willing to share information when it came to the scraps of paper he had bundled up around him. How about that? Only ten seconds into the conversation and he was already displaying the trademark of a true artist: creating out of necessity rather than bolstering personal status or propagating recognition. “Would you like to see?” he offered me in a South African accent, noticing my eyes on the bundle of paper. He took whatever face I made as a “yes” and began leafing through the pile, extracting dirty scraps of paper and large canvases from a paint splattered rucksack which appeared to have no limits. Like fucking Mary Poppins or something. One by one, he carefully offered me what I can only describe as fragments of his mind: distorted and bloody visions echoing soundlessly into my unprepared psyche in great contrast to the delicacy in which he handled them. I was overwhelmed - torn between my debilitating astonishment of his genius, and an intense urge not to touch his work at all, worried I may catch something. The horror was far too tangible and corporeally filthy, but it was moving me. Whether to the point to tears or regurgitation I cannot say, as I am still unable to distinguish the one from the other when confronted with Scab’s work.

her babies were tearing at her breast whilst feeding The first thing that would strike anyone in my position was that Scab’s mediums know no bounds. His origins, he told me, are in roughly drawn comic books, produced to vent his frustrations as a child who then slipped into the dirty underbelly of London’s underground graffiti scene. Since then, he has moved into to delicate pencil sketches; deeply intuative photography; oil painting; many forms of professional illustration and mural work; animation; plasticine creations; and modifing found objects - among many other things. This makes it impossible to describe his style in any general way, but the more I allowed my eyes to consume his offerings, the more reoccurring themes started to appear. He has a definite fascination with a few specific things: almost every piece presents a myriad of distorted characters with nightmarish proportions; exquisite expressions on grossly exaggerated features which somehow retain incredible realism and breath-taking detail; a common flash of genitalia seamlessly resides on an unlikely part of the body; disease ridden corpses; unsettling renditions of agitated mental disorders; death; gore; madness. All these themes so cliché in words that they requite a special kind of delicate attention to avoid the pit of mediocrity. And while none of this could be considered too healthy by anyone’s standards, I felt strangely refreshed by this brand new ownership of the doom metal aesthetic.

cute bunny bunny organs fed to owls

The body of work he had on his person was immense, and I became fearful of the array of visuals entering my already quivering lobes. A burst of a Venus Flytrap grins several terrifying grins from signature protruding gums; an aerosol piece depicting a scrawny mosquito shits out countless lava (affectionately titled “Victoria Beckham”); an adorable puppy is crushed, eyes budging, newly appropriated as road-kill on a filthy sidewalk; a vulture tears the insides from a mother fox, witnessed only by her terrified newly orphaned cub; and two evil looking children rip at the breasts of their amputee mother, as her body shrivels into a painful nothing and her vagina bleeds below her (“It’s called The Miracle Of Birth” he tells me with incongruous adoration). I note that he speaks of his works minimally - not as objects, but as his friends, affording them introductions as if formally inviting them to speak for themselves.

sucking at the wound with a straw Despite the churning of my stomach, I also found a hugely compassionate side to Scab’s work. His creations are shocking, sure, but they have that deranged sympathy which ties into the inevitable truths of the real world. This impression was further cemented by two separate oil paintings. The first of which was a rabbit feeding its young; the second of a mother owl eagerly feeding its own chick the remains of that very same rabbit. This is as heart-warming and innocent as it is upsetting, an honest representation of the harsh realities within the cycle of life. And all of his work is intimately laced with this distinct undertone of humour, a painful childlike quality which can be as confusing and awkward as it is playful and honest.

He then produces an album cover illustrated for the band Mucofloris, featuring one sinister character joyfully sucking fluids from the injuries of another individual, using nothing but a plastic drinking straw. And then I think... well maybe he’s just fucked up after all.

pedophile behind a tree the prolapse queen

Regardless, I try to explain to him how he never appears to use gore just for gores sake, and how each piece validates its disgust with an element of purpose. He pauses, and then silently rummages deeper into his bottomless rucksack, presenting me with art of a slightly different nature - his cocky way to substantiate my remark without too much arrogance, I suppose. These examples were void of his blood-and-guts concepts, and rather a collection of offbeat images contradicting his other works, rearranging my preconceptions thus far.

the bone ladder to the baby child of your dreamsFirst a massive collection of collages emerge. Scraps of every magazine, cut-out and stuck together in a light-hearted fashion, sometimes nothing more than a man peering from a tree or a £20 note featuring a slightly edited version of the Queen, in the most peculiar of ways. He then introduces me to some of his photography, classically shot in black and white, just another notch in his lengthy belt of means to channel and create. It didn’t even end there, as more and more of these specimens found their way into my hands. An amusing short comic strip featuring the exploits of “Sour Cat”, depressed in a dead-end paper-delivery job. A delightful and intimate collaboration with the portrait artist Rachael Berry sees a menagerie of “undiscovered” creatures brought to light in impeccable detail. Various delicate nudes, interrupted by a thoughtful elongated mouse standing on its hind-legs, and then a series of 15 discarded fragments of wood brought starkly to life by vastly different expressions, emblazoned colourfully onto their former lifeless bodies.

cat in a dead end paper job breastfeeding a baby pig

Yet still, whilst these examples were generally non-offensive, Scab seems unable to fully escape the dark mumblings of something mischievous and tormented. Small details might skip the eye at first. A swollen vagina, for example, cut from a magazine assumes the place of a hairy moth’s mouth, which goes entirely unnoticed until you remember that moths do not generally have vaginas for faces. This type of discomforting aura is present throughout his entire collection, if you choose to look for it. Although I wouldn’t always recommended it.

a mouse bigger than a man Eventually the inevitable question broke the surface of my battered head, and I couldn’t stop my tongue from asking one specific personal detail. “How do you earn a living?” I delved, all too aware that any undiscovered artist will generally struggle to find the right market to pay for their talents. “I paint playground murals,” he responds despondently, vaguely aware of the ironic hilarity this stirs. He produces a photograph of one of his recent paid works, a fantastic psychedelic piece spanning a lengthy wall. Featuring myriad oddities: a large chameleon with gleeful children changing colour on its back; a huge glass pipe filled with water, carrying kids and assorted fish with the current; and the tentacles of a delightfully morbid green octopus, minding its own business. This kind of bright imagery could easily be absorbed for hours by any child, yet it still nurtures that unmistakable Scab undertone. Which, I imagine, could cause some concern in an oversensitive parent, perhaps reluctant to expose their offspring to such a twisted fairytale. I know it would for me. Something so awe-inspiring grants instant access to the imagination, and in that sense, potentially a massive influence on developing minds.

Basically: incredible.

the wood gang a moth's vagina

While he definitely expressed enjoyment in this type of work, his mood visibly lifts as he tells me in excitement about another string to his bow. He puts forward a few photographs of his latest adventures: people who have offered themselves to be permanent canvases for Scab’s mind, forever marked with the tattoos of his creation. These caught my attention in a more selfish respect, as I’d already envisioned my next inkage, and promptly asked him if he was any good at drawing trees. “You know, the old oak kind? Freaky and Autumn bare?” I should have known the answer. Within a few seconds he was scribbling something with a dark pencil on lose paper he had pulled out of thin air. I watched him work, the intense speed and focus coupled with a visible joy for doing what he does best. And before I could realise what was happening, he handed me the rough outline that had not existed only moments before. I took one look at the tree staring back at me; my own idea interpreted exactly as I’d envisioned it (had I the imagination to do so) and choked. “This is it,” I thought out-loud. “This is what I want.” He gave a small laugh (the first laugh he’d offered all evening) and agreed to do it by silently handing me his business card with a drunk-looking donkey on it. I wasn’t sure at the time, but I had just made a new friend.

is eating clay safe Touched, I continued to admire the piece, but in my periphery I was aware that Scab’s hidden face was darting around, ensuring we were alone. He asked me if I wanted to see something special, sounding much like a harmless flasher preparing to expose himself to my unsuspecting innocence. Without waiting for me to respond, he heaved yet another stack of paper from the bottomless bag and began to hand them to me somewhat cautiously.

“It’s called Johnny Cockhands,” he informed me. A perverse and elaborate graphic novel of sorts, cold in its colouring and presentation, portraying a most miserable character who is cursed with the affliction the title suggests: cocks for hands, and he is blatantly unhappy about it. In case you missed that, let me recap: HIS FUCKING HANDS ARE COCKS. The words themselves are by poet Steve Gregory, and Scab’s harrowing interpretations accompanying the tale have been under construction for many, many months, now on the verge of completion.

sad octopus with other ideas chameleon kidnaps kids

As if I wasn’t already drowning in the sheer quantity and dizzying proficiency of what I had already seen in our conversation, this was the poisoned cherry on top which would surely kill me. Instinctively, I pried as much as I could, but Scab refused to divulge any further. Perhaps regretting having revealed this precious work in progress, he gathered the pages back in haste before I could imbibe them fully. I was shook up, not only by his demeanor, but by the uncontrollable desire to see more of this narrative. Should I beg him? Pay him? Mug him? I borough these thoughts aside, but couldn’t get rid of one thought in particular: This guy is going to be huge.

owl tattoo Eventually I awoke from this state of awe for long enough to realise that the rain had now subsided to a drizzle, and patches of fading light broke through the grainy windows. I looked back at Scab who didn’t seem to notice this. He was engrossed in something else, and I decided one “beer” was enough for me and quietly made my exit. My mind had been significantly raped enough and I saw no reason to disturb him any further. I heaved my still sodden coat across my shoulders and walked out into the evening air, uneasy and exhausted. Time had flown by and I had missed my previous engagement, but I knew that something much more special had just happened. Something which left me feeling strangely rejuvenated by a new faith in art, a glaring contrast to the betrayal I had charged it with just a few hours earlier. So much so that I had already began to doubt any of this happened at all.

However, it did happen, and I proved this a few weeks later as I managed to secure an appointment for our second meeting. Yes, Scab has made his mark forever on my right calf with that tree tattoo I spoke of earlier, and it is with great pride I have become a permanent fixture in the Scab portfolio - with which I am no less obsessed. Our subsequent meeting was by no means any less extraordinary, and in some ways even more confusing than the first time. So much so that it would take another entire article to describe it, which I may write one day. But what I will say is that Scab appears to enjoy inflicting pain as much as he enjoys drawing it, and he certainly knows how to use needles. Point proven as I’ve literally had every single inked friend beg for his phone number since then, but I haven’t got his permission to give that out just yet.

Johnny Cockhands he has penis fingers

Since all of this, my own research has seen him compared to the likes of H.R Giger, Mateo Dineen, Jhonen Vasquez or even Mark Ryden (to name a few), but I find these comparisons far too lazy. Still, to place him in this calibre is most justified. He is possessed by what he does, and like the aforementioned artists, his results breathe with life, albeit sometimes a slow wheezing breath. One can practically smell the realities of his creations wriggling beneath the eerie silence of the pages, and you have to wonder how the world looks to someone like Scab. I mean, is anything really as it seems when everything is potentially something else? No, I don’t think so.

Tree tattoo All this aside, I feel it is impossible for me to sell Scab properly. I could never do his talent justice with any of the words in my vocabulary. But if what I have already said was not convincing enough, let me assure you that Scab is the most criminally undiscovered artist I have ever come into contact with. From our first meeting right until this moment (and the very reason I felt compelled to write this article), I can say that he is without a doubt my favourite artist on the planet. His work is like a disease, daring you to turn away in fear of something contagious, but is instead so busy breaking your heart that you can’t help but linger, hungry for more. And like his name suggests, scabs will grow on your cornea. They will hurt you. They will cause you discomfort and nag at your frayed nerves, but you won’t stop picking at them, tearing off pieces of yourself in the process. You will crave the injury, finding affection for the scars they leave behind, and eagerly inflict more wounds just to remember what it felt like in the first place. And when this happens, you will remember the time I told you this:

A tumour that festers as deep as Scab, can not possibly go ignored for any longer.

Visit Scab's site here, and Like his fan page here.

elongated clay figure pigeons are evil

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zombies hand gripped his wrist miniature moth tattoo

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go to the dentist hippos have big jaws