“Is it art, is it memes?” reads the bio on Times New Roadman’s Instagram page.
It’s a good question for the 27 year old painter from Bournemouth who has rocketed to prominence through the pandemic. His clever, funny, meme-based art has meant that he has become one of the most socially shared artists in the world over the last two years.
And now he is hosting his debut exhibition, at Electric Gallery, launching with a special opening night on April 7th.
The show will feature over 40 of Times New Roadman’s original works. They’ve never been seen in their original form before but will be very familiar to his massive, 40,000 strong social following.
And he’ll also be launching his very first limited edition print - available exclusively via Electric Gallery. The print is entitled Local Mum and there are only 75 of these prints available, plus a small number of Artist Proofs. They are all signed and numbered by the artist. That’s him holding one in the image above.
We caught up with the artist on the eve of the big exhibition to find out more about the man behind Times New Roadman…
Hello Times New Roadman. Can we call you Times for short? And is anyone allowed to know your real name?
Times for short is perfect, otherwise it is a bit of a mouthful. Unfortunately, my parents were not very culturally aware in the 90’s, they thought they were giving me a very Irish name – but in reality my name is very similar to a famous musician. So my real name will remain a mystery out of embarrassment.
We're excited to be hosting "The Worst Of Times, The Best Of Times" at Electric Gallery. from April 7th. How does it feel to be launching your debut exhibition?
I’m actually pretty ecstatic. It’s been a very weird journey from making art in my bedroom in lockdown to now being in a gallery. Also, it’s quite serendipitous it will be in South Woodford as I have family ties to the area. But as quite a low energy person, I am actually really excited to see people enjoying the works in the flesh and not on a smartphone.
You are so prolific that it was a hard job picking out 40 of your pieces to appear in the exhibition. Do you paint every day?
It was a lot harder than I originally thought. It is actually scary to see how much I have made in the last couple of years and selecting just 40 was pretty tough. However, I am really pleased with the selection and feel they are a good microcosm of my work. I feel there is a good blend of everything I’m about – as both a person and a painter. In lockdown I was painting every day. Life has got in the way since then but I’m still painting a bloody lot.
Where do your ideas come from?
My ideas actually come from a few different places. The most common one is just by simply observing it. I have the notes app on my phone and anytime something/someone irritates me I store it in there and make something about it. It’s quite common I will be out and just clock something really irritating that also irritates others.
Meme culture also plays a big part. I love a meme. Easily digestible and to the point. So they’ve 100% had an influence. It is probably impossible to not be shaped by them in some way.
A lot of other ideas stem from music. Everyone says that sentence that ‘they don’t have a specific genre they listen to’ and that does, annoyingly, ring true with me. So I get quite a lot of ideas from an array of songs/bands both currently and in the past. Same goes for TV and films actually. My formative years were misspent watching hundreds of films and series.
Additionally, I love sport. Always have and always will. I’m a huge cricket and football fan so a fair few ideas come from there. Granted, I don’t think my demographic/anyone cares for my love of Celtic and getting out for a duck.
How would you describe your art?
I actually have great difficulty explaining it. Weirdly, I might not be the best person to ask.
Do you have any personal favourite pieces?
I actually have a few favourites. From the upcoming show my favourite is probably ‘You’re not in Skins, you’re just at Bristol Uni’. I just feel that is a perfect representation of uni students in Bristol – I was one. Quite a few of the pieces are actually about myself – however no one really knows who I am so that’s a silly little in-joke I have with myself.
Your art is often laugh-out-loud funny. Is humour important in getting your message across?
I wouldn’t say laugh-out-loud funny, but that’s probably me being too close to it. I would say I strive to be humorous. But I’ve always enjoyed sarcasm/satire. I feel it’s the easiest way for me to say what I want to say. It’s how I would say it in a conversation so I just incorporate it in my work. It comes naturally I suppose.
Your work is sometimes compared with David Shrigley's. Which artists inspired you to take up painting?
I have cited this person a few times before, but my main inspiration for starting art was actually a singer. Eddie Argos, he was the lead singer or this ironic punk band called Art Brut in the mid/late noughties. A fellow Bournemouth native too. He did some art on the side and I always liked how rough round the edges it was and felt it was art that it was the perfect representation of him as a person. When my interest in art was developing I also started to love Shrigley and a few others. Also Instagram has been brilliant with viewing other peoples’ work.
My parents always dragged me around renaissance art galleries on family holidays. As impressive as they are, sadly Caravaggio never inspired me to pick up a brush. However, when we went to Paris when I was about 13/14 we went to the Pompidou gallery and I started to view art a bit differently.
You're releasing your very first limited edition print at the exhibition. What's the story behind "Local Mum"?
The story is actually very close to home. My mum in lockdown was proper obsessed with getting her steps in for the day. She was a bit before the lockdown, but it proper evolved in lockdown. It became an event the whole family was invested in. Like peoples Wordle scores now. It was the toast of the family WhatsApp. Could Debbie reach the hallowed 10k steps? A mean feat in lockdown mind. Turns out this was being replicated by lots of mums in lockdown and in turn it was quite a popular and relatable piece.