Entertainment & Arts

Stuart Semple collection inspired by 'mental' Britain

A Pounding Outside Poundland by Stuart Semple
Image caption The artist says he is inspired by "music videos, television, the news".

He's been dubbed "the Basquiat of the noughties" and, with Sienna Miller and Debbie Harry among his fans, it's no wonder that Stuart Semple's star is rising.

The contemporary artist opens his first major show in almost three years in London on 6 May.

Inspired by consumerism and popular culture, the exhibition sees Semple more grown up, yet still politically charged.

He likes to make a statement and his vibrant new collection of works certainly delivers.

"They are quite different from my other paintings," he tells the BBC.

"I hope that they maybe describe where we are as a culture at this moment in time."

Millionaire

Image caption The artist worked for three years on his latest collection

Semple first achieved widespread notoriety for his memorial artwork RIP YBA (Young British Artists), which boxed up the debris of a fire at the Momart warehouse in east London - including works by Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin.

A year later, he made headlines again when he sneaked a painting into the Saatchi Gallery to protest at the absence of British artists in its Triumph of Painting exhibition.

"I thought, 'you've backed all these amazing artists who I really admired growing up, and now you're telling me they're no good... that's strange'.

"I wanted to make a piece about that and it ended up being quite performative."

By the age of 28, Semple was a millionaire - his name cropping up in conversation alongside Warhol and Jeff Koons.

It's a heavy mantle to carry, but the fact that some of his works sell for up to £100,000 must make it easier to bear.

"When I was at art school in the '90s you didn't become an artist to make money," he protests.

Image caption Semple's paintings are full of garish colours and familiar pop culture slogans

"The kids who are coming out now - they've got a completely different agenda. They want to be famous and make money because they can see that's a viable career option."

An advocate of arts for the masses, Semple wants his work to be accessible.

He's now collaborating with Amy Winehouse's manager, Ray Cosbert, to market himself in the same way as a pop star.

He hopes the fusion of the two worlds will bring in new audiences.

"[My work] is inspired by music videos, television, the news. Things that are familiar to us - things we see every day," he says.

"We live in a place that's gloomy more than it's sunny. Ultimately, it's not the best place to live. It's actually quite mental and we're a bit eccentric.

"And all of those things together, I think, with this crazy history we've had probably make us do something a bit different."

The Happy House, An Exhibition Of New Paintings by Stuart Semple is on display at the Morton Metropolis Gallery in London until 28 May.

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