Last updated on April 1st, 2022 at 07:14 AM
BRIT punk artist Mark Sloper has launched a collection of works based on historic Union Jack flags used during the evacuation of Dunkirk and the Second World War.
The 56-year-old London artist known as Illuminati Neon has created the art after discovering a flag used on one of the little boats part of the brave flotilla.
And has dedicated the launch to the war in Ukraine with a warning that history can so easily repeat itself.
The Dunkirk flag was discovered in a Essex antique shop after a house clearance following the death of the original owner and dates back to 1940, created by a company called Shelby Cheesmans.
Illuminati Neons’ collection is headlined by one historic flag entitled “Miracle of Dunkirk” which was proudly used on one of the boats that saved the British army from annihilation early in the Second World War.
The artist, famous after HRH The Queen saw her painting and asked that her punk portrait changed as she didn’t like the tattoo on her neck, was moved by the flag’s history and its patriotic significance.
The flag has been upscaled and carefully framed so it will forever live on shining brightly with the artist’s signature neon in red, white and blue. The Dunkirk flag joins a collection of other flags with historic significance including ‘London Calling’ using a WW2 war flag, Anarchy A using VE Day celebration flags and Land Of The Rising Sun using a beautiful silk Japanese war flag circa 1940.
Mark Sloper, based in Shepherd’s Bush, London, said: “The Dunkirk flag is piece of history that in these turbulent times reminds us how delicate life is and how history can so easily repeat itself. Ukraine needs its own Churchill to repel the barbaric Russian invasion, lest we forget.”
He added: “When purchasing the flag you’re buying a pivotal piece of British history. I never imagined I would be able to source such an historical piece. My grandad Leslie was jumping out the back of planes so wasn’t rescued but lots of his army friends were rescued from Dunkirk beach. The spirit of Dunkirk lives on in that flag and sharing the story of bravery keeps that incredible story alive.”
Artist Mark Sloper who regularly exhibits at London’s Saatchi Gallery famously created an image of Her Majesty with blue hair, a nose ring and the loveheart inking. The monarch, 95, found the artwork ‘hilarious’ but asked for the tattoo of husband Philip’s name to be altered to show her royal crest.
His in demand hand-embellished canvasses are influenced by the English artist and anarchist Jamie Reid, whose controversial ‘God Save the Queen’ album artwork for the Sex Pistols was based on Cecil Beaton’s Silver Jubilee portrait.
His collections of original paintings feature controversial images of the royal family, Princess Diana, The Queen, The Joker and other rock and roll iconic designs.
Last year he rolled out nationally as headline artist for Castle Fine Art, with his ‘Art of Chaos’ available at over forty galleries across the country.
Mark said: “My art punk Queens are beautifully constructed with sparkling jewels, newspaper headlines and the fabulous HRH Elizabeth II looking splendid and regal, but of course retaining a little punky attitude.
“It’s my homage to punk – not only the way we looked, but the way we thought and treated others. A little bit of Shepherd’s Bush punk ghetto is illuminating walls globally. The Art of Chaos is straight out of my studio to 40 galleries nationwide, the pressure is on… but hey its all selling! There’s naughtiness and punk in all of us, lets celebrate it together, put it on your wall, I’ll certainly brighten up your day.”
He added: “I love the ceremony and the old-fashioned English respect for our lovely Queen. Punk rockers such as the Sex Pistols have been misunderstood as anti-royalist but I celebrate the monarchy and love the Queen. Rule Britannia! The Queen has seen herself reimagined by me, and I still have my head.”
Mark’s work is collected by celebrities including Sir Elton John, Sting, Boy George, Danny Dyer, Anthea Turner, John Terry and Sex pistol drummer Paul Cook.
Actor Danny Dyer said: “Beautiful art from punk nut mark_illuminati. Look him up people, he’s a proper geezer.”
TV presenter Anthea Turner said: “I love art and galleries, especially when its one of my friends exhibiting, I genuinely love his work. When I look at Mark’s punk Queen at home it always makes me smile.”
And Paul Cook, Sex Pistols legend, said: “For someone so rough and horrible, I can’t understand how he makes such lovely art. Steve Jones in LA and I have punk Queens in our homes. He’s nicked all his ideas from us the Sex Pistols and must owe us a big commission by now!”
When British punk rock took over London’s cultural scene in the 1970s, the world turned up the volume and listened. Spearheaded by bands like The Clash, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Sex Pistols and The Damned, this ear-splitting fusion of anarchy and expression defined a generation. Its working-class angst spoke to a young Mark, and after a chance encounter with the new wave musician Adam Ant at the age of just 11 led to him touring with the band, Mark became drawn to the punk subculture, eventually becoming close friends with some of the movement’s pioneers and troubadours, including the Sex Pistols and the Stranglers.
A career in videography beckoned, and Mark went on to work as a cameraman and a director of photography for bands like the Police and Frankie Goes to Hollywood before joining the BBC. During his successful film career, Mark has directed and produced documentaries on Billy Fury, the Beatles, John Lennon, David Bowie, Sid Vicious, the Sex Pistols and more. These legendary figures, along with his friend and fellow neon artist Chris Bracey, inspired Mark to create the Illuminati Neon brand.
Featuring punk-inspired imagery emblazoned with neon, vintage memorabilia and song lyrics, his original artworks have commanded the attention of the art world and is currently represented by Castle Galleries.
Hand-painted in oils and acrylics at his studio in Shepherd’s Bush, London, his fluorescent creations are just as anarchic as their namesake. The handblown glass neon is formed using a centuries-old technique, echoing the exhilarating mixture of modern and classical that shaped the punk rock aesthetic.
Mark, who became an artist late in life at 45, added: “Every piece tells a story about that transformative era: my experience of it, the people who made it and became my friends, and the honorary punks who personified its anarchy, chaos and rock ‘n’ roll long before the movement had a name.”