We ask Akse, the man behind Bowie, Heisenberg, and other fantastic works of Manchester street art, about his favourite paintings and why he’s going to be painting more family portraits in future.
How did you get into street art?
I started as a traditional graffiti artist in the early 90’s in a suburb of Paris through hip hop. I moved to Manchester in 1997 and with time I started painting more public spaces so I naturally developed as a street artist.
What inspires you?
People inspire me, whether it is through what they have achieved in life or through their art (music, acting, painting) which is why I mainly paint portraits and a lot of my subjects are musicians and actors.
Which are your works have been your favourites?
My first Heisenberg (2013) has got to be on my list because it helped me to be where I am today.
The Bowie tribute inspired by a photograph of Gavin Evans is also one of my favourite because of the impact it had on local people and beyond. It’s been overwhelming, but the best reward I got was the retweet of the mural by Iman as well as a ‘smile’ from his son, Duncan Jones. This is just priceless. I love his first movie, Moon.
My second Heisenberg (2014) is also one of my favourites. I had never been very pleased with the likeness of the first one so I redeemed myself with this one.
I love the Richard Harrow I painted at Sea Sand and Spray in Blackpool in 2015. I’m very pleased with the end result taking into account the size and that I only had two days to complete the piece. I also got a thank you from the actor Jack Huston – again priceless!
I love the Samuel L Jackson as Jules Winnfield I painted in Shoreditch in London also in 2015. Pulp Fiction is my favourite movie and Jules my favourite character so I had to paint a tribute piece. I carefully selected the reference picture for this piece – the Ezekiel monologue is just epic.
The portrait of Wayne Rooney I painted at Wembley for the FA to commemorate his goalscoring record for England is also a special piece for me for what it represents. I feel honoured and privileged to have been selected to do this. It was a great and unique experience to paint inside the stadium. It is now on permanent display at Wembley.
The last portrait I painted of Juan Mata is also special because I unveiled the piece for him at Hotel Football a few weeks ago even if it wasn’t finished at the time. I only had four hours to complete the portrait before the unveiling. I don’t often meet the subjects I paint so it was a special moment for me.
— Bleacher Report UK (@br_uk) May 19, 2016
Finally, the portraits of my son are very important to me, obviously. I just had a second boy five weeks ago, so I’m going to have to paint more family portraits now.
What do you hope people take away from your works?
I hope people can discover a bit more of myself through my paintings. Although I intentionally keep my identity private, people can tell a lot about who I am through my works.
View more of his work at www.akse-p19.com