Jo Henly, aka Miss Led, is an artist, illustrator, live artist and street artist! After studying on the Goldsmiths course in Portsmouth, Jo was shortlisted for multiple exhibitions and was involved in prestigious London shows including one at the Saatchi Gallery.
Now, a fine artist and illustrator for some of the largest brands on the planet (think Google, Clinique and Selfridges), Miss Led actually started her career as a street/live artist; Jo reminisces “In 2007, I was aware of a Street Art-style tournament, where painters would create work in front of a big audience. It was called Secret Wars. Being friends of the wonderful team at Designers Block, who I knew mostly from the parties at that time (which they held in their incredible old and decaying pub Kingsland Road) I got in touch and said I’d like to be involved. The terms were a little different to what I’d imagined. It was more taking part than being involved. My idea a relaxed scribble on a wall on the sidelines of an existing party was a big contrast to the reality – a testosterone fuelled football-style tournament where the winner would have to battle four rounds in three hours, covering over 24ft x 8ft of white wall. From 16 artists, down to one!
The organisers tried to dissuade me, but that just pushed me to want it more. I didn’t care that no other girls had competed, or had always faltered before the start. I’d use that to my advantage and just turn up. As long as I was competing I was winning in that respect, right?
The other guys, street artist and spray painters had been doing this kind of stuff since they were fifteen. I practiced with massive sheets of paper on my lounge wall and in my studio and a drew until I knew my four designs without reference. I wanted to make the audience question whether I was free styling or not…
I was the shortest contestant, it was hilarious. I had a guy carrying around a small plinth so I could reach the top. My whole body shook like hell, it was so nerve wracking doing something I’d not even tried before and in front of something like 1500 people.”
Henly ended up disproving everyone’s doubts about her ability, so much so, she won the entire tournament! Becoming the first woman to enter and win the competition. In advance of her brand new collection of artwork Eye Contact, Miss Led talks us through her five favourite street artists right now.
1. Plastic Jesus
On everyone’s radar in street art right now, you might know him from his most famous statement ‘Stop Making Stupid People Famous’ – you can find this on everything from t-shirts, to mugs as well as stencilled on roads and walls. His bold stencil pieces comment on politics, society and popular culture – he’s definitely not afraid of making a statement! But does it with humour, and by keeping the work looking great (it’s very visually appealing) his provocative nature connects with people rather than excludes. His use of colour in Graffiti is a Crime is quite arresting!
I love these guys, I’ve followed their work for the past fifteen years or so, and they’ve definitely been an inspiration to me over my career, the way they have effortlessly managed to straddle street art and gallery exhibition is rare and impressive. Their take on popular culture and contemporary lifestyles married with commentary on religion or current affairs is always on point – the way they use the Challenger space shuttle motif for example makes them distinctive and ‘of a time’, yet they continue to be so relevant. I’ve returned to their work more and more of late as I’ve been screen-printing my own artwork for the first time with my new project Eye Contact.
3. David Shillinglaw
I saw David’s work when he painted at Latitude Festival a few years ago, it struck a chord with me I think because I’d painted live on the Main Stage of the Big Chill previously and so I have a sense of what an amazing experience that is for an artist! His work is an absolute riot of colour, icons and patterns – like his brain has exploded on canvas… in a good way. I think he crosses lines between pop art and street art, a bit like Keith Haring in that respect. Definitely one to follow.
Chris Bowden, or Beejoir, pastes his work all over the world – I’m pretty sure he’s got something on every continent. Very politicised, as you’d expect, and very attractive – he’s a skilled silkscreener and uses gold quite a bit in his work, what’s not to love about that?! His stuff is bold and striking, you can love his pieces simply for what they are without a thought for what they represent.
5. Miss Van
I love Miss Van! I find her work incredibly emotive and moving. I’ve been following her since a trip to Barcelona in 2002 – a city I adore and have a strong pull towards. Seeing the women Miss Van creates and paints on streets all over the world is a amazing. She really paved the way for women in the graffiti scene, her work is an incredible mix of sadness and irony, the grotesque and the beautiful which somehow manages to hold an awkward but interesting grace and elegance.
No list of street artists would be complete without a reference to Banksy, ever in demand, ever popular, he never fails to surprise me with where his work pops up and his piercingly relevant commentary. After his Dismaland exhibition last year, I think we’re all waiting with baited breath for a new print release, aren’t we?!
WIN: a piece of limited edition artwork by Miss Led, one of just an edition of 50, this silkscreen, hand embellished piece entitled ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ could be yours by simply clicking here to visit the Culture Label website.