‘Preg’ makes his mark on streets

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PRESIDENT Putin peeps over the wall, looking furtive, with a can of Novichok spray.

Next to him Kim Jong Un is also hiding behind a wall, a large mushroom cloud exploding from his head, while to his left a small woman in a bee outfit floats serenely by, like Mary Poppins, borne aloft by a drone and accompanied by a swarm of bees.

Hull graffiti artist Preg, who is bringing the walls of Hull to life.

Hull graffiti artist Preg, who is bringing the walls of Hull to life.

Hull’s legendary Bee Lady, Jean Bishop, is taking a pot of gold back to Age UK headquarters.

Welcome to the world of Preg, star of Hull’s thriving graffiti scene, who has been bringing city walls alive with his quirky take on life and issues du jour.

“I wanted to do the Bee Lady really big, but never got the opportunity. It’s my way of saying thanks for raising all that money,” he says.

The artist, 65, real name Preston Fox, has never been able to resist the lure of an empty wall, wherever work has taken him.

When he used to work as a gas engineer in Saudi Arabia and Egypt he would sneak up onto the roof of the high-rise apartment blocks he stayed in and find an empty wall to scribble on – discreetly.

“I’d get my pens and my pencils and charcoal and doodle on the walls – they weren’t in public view. You just have to do it quick like Banksy – he does it quick and clears off.”

He has wanted to make art ever since he was a child but it was only in his late 40s that he went back to college in Hull to do a degrees in visual studies.

“It was the best thing I’ve ever done, “ he said. “There was criticism for every day for five years and that it what I needed.”

For the last 15 years he has made a living as an artist selling abstract paintings and other works to London galleries. In the last two his graffiti has taken off to the point where he no longer signs his work, as there were complaints he was getting all the attention.

It all started when Hull City Council allowed him to paint an image of Amy Johnson’s plane on a wall in Humber Place.

“It went from there – no one stopped me and I started getting a lot more political.”

Now his biggest problem is finding fresh wall space. Apart from a smattering of fresh graffiti round some of his work – which he welcomes as “street cred” – he has not been stopped or challenged.

He has only been painted over once. Earlier this year a pro-Palestinian piece featuring a Dalek – the new Doctor Who was about to come out – got whitewashed, from the looks of it professionally.

Preg took the opportunity to do a new piece in the same spot – this time focussing on paedophilia in the Catholic Church.

The 3 Hail Marys shows a figure of Justice carrying scales, with the Pope in one and victims clinging onto another. Maybe it is a sign of the times that has not been touched.

“I do get excited when I am making any art,” he says. “I suppose it’s what makes me feel good, it’s my drug.

“The public has been great. What I didn’t realise was how knowledgeable people are about graffiti in Hull. They know everything and like it – except when I rough them up the wrong way.”

We leave him considering his next piece of art, an image of a girl painting a comment on a wall, stood with her back facing away from the artist. “I’m not sure what the comment will be. I have a few ideas. My work is about what people are talking about.”