James Bullough is an American born artist who grew up in Washington DC and now lives and works in Berlin, Germany.
As a kid growing up in the exurb of Washington DC, Bullough was fascinated with the innovative graffiti art that he used to see around the DC subway. He began developing an interest in making his own art inspired by the edgy urban art, which came innately to him. He started studying the mastery of the Old Masters and illustrating extraordinary oil paintings of urban contemporary art.
His work is about creating captivating contrasts and juxtapositions, which he achieves by integrating the momentum of one image and the technical of the other. In most of his works, Bullough leans heavily towards photorealism combined with 3D effects, producing paintings that strike a balance between realistic figurations and stylized intervention. He works with oil, latex, acrylic, spray paint among other materials.
Bullough’s transition has been like any other artist; from doing small pieces on walls of train tracks around his hometown to massive murals on the sides of tower blocks. He moved from the United States to Germany in 2010, after quitting his job as a middle-school teacher in Baltimore, the US. With the desire to focus on his artwork full-time, he’s never regretted the decision, acknowledging it’s the best decision he ever made in his life. It was best for the world; perhaps we couldn’t be seeing his stunning pieces of art that exist today.
While in Berlin, he found himself concentrating his efforts to the spray can as opposed to his initial paintbrush. His seamless transformation from painting photorealistic oil murals using a paintbrush to creating photorealistic spray-paint murals has attracted the attention of many art fanatics. In his first three years in Berlin, he worked with another American born and Berlin based artist Addison Karl under the name JBAK.
The pair gained popularity for their various works and wide-ranging murals across Germany and the US. One of their major artistic accomplishments in Berlin is his ‘Totem’ mural, done at Landsberger Alle 228B in 2014. This epic mural bursts with color and imagination, featuring three individuals all standing on each other’s backs – forming the totem. It looks more of an acrobatic art to a Layman’s eye and stands as tall as 11 stories. The duo had to employ a crane when they painted the mural and the job took over a month to complete.
Today, Bullough works as an independent artist, balancing his time between mural painting and studio work. A quick look at his work will show you he prefers to paint people in his trademark colourful style. He especially decorates women onto dull walls, crushing the blankness with the magnificence of beauty of the smooth delicate skin of women and long flowing hair. His Desi mural in Brooklyn, NYC is a perfect example.
Bullough also has eyes for other ventures apart from art. In 2014, he introduced a new project to the world as co-creator and host of VantagePoint Radio. The interview show focuses on urban art and the graffiti/mural artists who occupy the genre. Each episode features an established artist or a group of artists in the contemporary art scene and Bullough sheds light on their lives and works.
Since his departure from the US, James Bullough has returned to his mother country for several exhibitions. His last visit to Los Angeles in May 2016 saw him exhibit a series of works called ‘Breaking Point’ at the Thinkspace Gallery, which was nothing less than jaw-dropping.
Thinkspace Gallery – Breaking Point
In this series, Bullough captures fractured moments of existence; disruption and personal break through the expressive body motion, asking his models to channel individual memory and to remember encounters of “breaking” at the time of their capture.
Working with dancers from Berlin, he starts with the body movement, captured in an expanse of negative space, then disguises it further, grafting, striating, and dividing its surfaces and planes. The models remain mysterious and faceless all through, an exclusion planned to reaffirm the typical universality of the emotive physical motion.
This masterpiece shows how his style has evolved significantly over the years. Previous works featured graphic inclusions and interruptions, with areas of the subject clearly removed. His recent works are more dynamic as he shifts and activates the interrupted segments of the figures rather than delete them. Areas of the body are superimposed, shaking with transitional movement as opposed to being static.
Generally, Bullough has attended many exhibitions in Germany and the United States. He was also invited, among other international artists, to exhibit his works at the Stolenspace Gallery in London, the UK in December 2015.
His illustration of photorealistic imagery challenges the viewer’s perception of reality by shifting and breaking up the bodies he paints. Bullough is simply proving that tower blocks and city walls shouldn’t be a dull opaque white, but instead a playground for creativity.