James Cochran: In Living Color

Contemporary Turkish novelist, Mehmet Murat İldan once said, “To find extraordinary things, go to the ordinary streets!” These ordinary streets are made extraordinary by the people who walk them – people such as James Cochran, also known as Jimmy C, well known Australian graffiti artist. Jimmy C started his career in the streets of Adelaide, Australia and has gradually become known around the world.

A street art movement started in Australia in the 1970s, inspired by the graffiti on New York streets. Jimmy C began his art career in the streets of South Australia in the 1980s, “I was looking for an identity that I wasn’t finding at home…I found it on the street with my friends. I found it by doing graffiti,” Cochran said in an interview with The Guardian, an online news publication.  Cochran started to hone his talent and began doing murals and community art projects. But it wasn’t until the late 90s that Jimmy decided to pursue a degree in the arts, completing his Master of Visual Arts at the University of South Australia in 2002.

jamesc2Cochran’s first exhibit was in France when he was only 20 years old. “That was like a dream for me to come true, going to France and being asked to exhibit there,” he told The Guardian. This was truly the beginning of his career, a whirlwind which would take him to cities around the world, including but not limited to Paris, Berlin, and New York.

You see, Cochran’s work is not just your average graffiti, but he’s actually developed his own art form called drip paintings, similar to atomic pointillism. Pointillism is a technique of painting in which small, distinct dots of color are applied in patterns to form an image. This technique was first developed in the 1800s.  But instead of acrylic or oil paint, Cochran uses drips of spray paint. The image is made up of individual drips of spray paint. “I started to enlarge the dots or drips into circles, and then I started to play with the idea of the circles becoming spheres, like atoms, a kind of atomic pointillism, where the subject started to break apart or atomise,” he told Very Nearly Almost, an online art publication.When you see his work, it literally is composed of drips of paint. Up close, the image looks like drops of paint carelessly left to dry. However, when you step away and look at the bigger picture you see the beauty created by these drips. Cochran creates these vibrant, eerily realistic portraits of people as representations. Many of the murals he creates are representations of homeless people. “I paint homeless people a lot. There is something really honest about them. It has something to do with the human struggle…They’ve got nothing to hide; what you see is what you get,” he told The Guardian..

jamesc1One of his most prominent paintings is located in London. The painting is a picture of Usain Bolt, 13 feet high and nearly 20 feet wide, truly in living color. Cochran created the work not only to celebrate London’s Olympic games, but also the 50 year anniversary of Jamaica’s independence. The mural captures the vibrance and energy of Bolt, visually communicating his personality, his determination, and his will.

Even though Cochran’s work sells for thousands of dollars a canvas, he continues to paint on the streets. It’s where the extraordinary happens, according to Cochran as he said with CNN, “When you paint on the street there is a lot more rawness to it…Anything can happen.”

-Stormm Van Rooi