For recent generations, it’s songs rather than poems we recite from memory. So as Semple calls out tragedies and travesties of destroyed innocence, his mind alights on cultural narratives of vibrant darkness, celebrities and conspiracies, which are perfectly encapsulated by music whose emotional confusion reflects confusing times.

In the show’s centerpiece, A Love Song’s Not Enough, made of acrylic and spray paint on canvas, and spanning six-by-ten feet, a boxer slumps with half-closed Byzantine eyes in a tumble of marble-pale skin, haunting a divided picture plane of greys and distressed rainbows above acres of gestural abstraction, like cake frosting marshland.

– Shana Nys Dambrot (Art ltd. review)


Semple Vs Kapoor

Scroll through to follow the art war story >

The art wars have been raging since 2014 when Sir Anish Kapoor secured the exclusive rights to use the blackest substance on the planet for the use in art. (Vantablack absorbs 99.9% of light using carbon nano tubes) That meant that no other artists could use it to create work.

This sparked Stuart Semple’s imagination and compelled him to create and elaborate piece of internet performance art, tackling the themes of accessibility, elitism and equality head on.


Stuart created the world’s Pinkest Pink – a pigment so pink it can’t be captured by a camera.

Stuart put the paint on a little website he made with one important caveat – to purchase the paint (for £3.99) you had to agree to a legal declaration that you were not Anish Kapoor, you were not associated with Anish Kapoor and to the best of your knowledge, information or belief the material would not make its way into the hands of Anish Kapoor.

What happened next was unfathomable, the project took on a total life of its own with tens of thousands of people purchasing Pink and the world’s media covering the story, from Wired, to GQ, The Times, Metro, i-D, Vice, Aljazeera, Vogue, The New Scientist and just about everything else.

“I like the idea of making art that gives space for other people to make art. This is like a performance piece and a collaboration. Yes it’s about accessibility, freedom of expression, collaboration vs competition.  The way these products look, the way they are distributed, this isn’t some kind of accident. The internet is the gallery now. Social media is the platform and it’s inclusive everyone is invited. It’s for all those freaky kids like me who were told they wern’t allowed in. That they weren’t good enough to express themselves. That they couldn’t have access. Even materials… good art materials, unless you were rich or in the right place you couldn’t have them. That’s rubbish, arts for everyone, colour is for everyone. The old world elitist model is dead. It’s not about how much money you’ve got, it’s about how happy you are. This has nothing to do with me, it’s taken on a life of it’s own and I love every moment of it and everyone who’s got onboard is beautiful.”

Stuart Semple, The Times



Shortly after the worst news hit! Kapoor had managed to circumvent the security on and acquire the pigment – not only that he took to instagram posting a photo of his middle finger dipped it with the caption ‘Up Yours’. Understandably artists all over the planet thought that was very naughty and that made them sad.

A better black?

Artists started writing to Stuart asking him to create a better black than the one Kapoor could use. So Stuart created the best black he could and sent it out to 1000 artists from all over the globe for their advice and feedback.


Several emails later and a bit of tweaking and Stuart had formulated Black 2.0 – Unlike Kapoor’s substance, this was actually a paint, could be used without a science lab (or a vacuum chamber) and was non toxic. (Interesting point – it smells of Black Cherries). Whilst Stuart’s ultra flat, ultra matte acrylic didn’t absorb 99.9% of light it did absorb a whole percentage more light than the black photographic standard and sticks to almost anything. It’s also about 1000 times cheaper than Kapoor’s mega black (being as though Stuart disseminates it for what it costs him to produce).


Before he knew it, Stuart found thousands artists from all over posting things they’d made with his black on instagram with the hashtag sharetheblack and artists like Idris Khan, Nick Knight and companies like Occulus, Disney and BMW using it for things that were previously impossible.




The story ends with being a living breathing community of artists. A place where artists can get materials that were previously unavailable, or a place to grab conceptual artist multiples (depending on how you see it).

At this current time Stuart has created several revolutionary materials which are still made in his studio, and there’s no sign that he is going to stop creating things for other artists to express themselves with.


John Carpenter’s Sci-Fi horror film They Live presents a dystopian future in which the population is bombarded by hidden authoritarian messages. These are visible only by using special sunglasses that also expose consumers as rotting zombies. Semple’s new paintings function in a similar way. 

“Anxiety Generation” (all works 2014) reveals Semple as an assured and accomplished artist. His post-Pop sensibility (he is a child of both Warhol and Koons) embraces a complex layering of appropriated images and stenciled lettering sampled from print and digital sources, as well as social media. 

To cut through our cyncism and give images again the power to disturb is quite a feat; that Semple manages it via the medium of paint is even more impressive. 

His approach is summed up by the famous line from They Live: “I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass… and I’m all out of bubblegum”

– Jonathan R Jones, Modern Painters