Graffiti crew member turns life around to become celebrated painter

Kojo Marfo’s Ghanaian-inspired images fetch £100,000 (HANDOUT)
Kojo Marfo’s Ghanaian-inspired images fetch £100,000 (HANDOUT)

A Londonartist has turned his life around going from graffiti crew member to celebrated painter with his work being beamed on giant screens on Oxford Street after winning a competition during lockdown.

Kojo Marfo’s Ghanaian-inspired images fetch £100,000 and he has had successful shows across the globe including in Mayfair and Miami.

His work is being beamed onto digital screens on Flannels designer store until the end of the month as part of an art installation set up by W1 Curates.

He has had successful shows across the globe with his artwork (HANDOUT)
He has had successful shows across the globe with his artwork (HANDOUT)

He moved from his native Ghana to New York as a teenager but was sent to relatives in London after his aunt found a can of spray paint and confronted him for being part of a graffiti crew who had been operating across the city.

Marfo, now 41, lived in Streatham and made ends meet by working in retail for shops such as Gap and Sainsbury’s while still dreaming of becoming a successful artist.

In 2020, living in lockdown he won a competition entitled ‘Isolation Mastered’ organised by Mayfair gallery owner Jean David Malat.

Celebrities including Bush singer and art collector Gavin Rossdale, who has one of Marfo’s works hanging above his bed at his London home, have praised his work.

Rossdale, whose band sold 10m records in the US said: "He possesses a vitality that thunders through his paintings.. a celebration of life and all its possibilities."

Marfo said of his days in a graffiti crew: "I almost wanted to go to prison I was so young and foolish that I just wanted to be respected by any means. A guy in my village had spent time in a US jail and had been deported. But this is what made him respected and admired. That was what I had wanted."

However, he said after years working in shops mainly in the West End, he could barely believe his work was to appearing on Oxford Street.

He said: "It is incredible seeing something I have created being beamed up Oxford Street. For many years I worked in in shops near that area folding clothes, tidying displays, serving customers, dreaming I might make a bug success. It’s such a big buzz seeing people walk past my work, take photos of my work, upload it to their instagram, enjoy it and be inspired by it. All I ever wanted to do is paint."

The display on Oxford street outside Flannels designer store is curated by W1 Curates along with Jean David Malat.

Other artists who have had the honour of similar displays on Oxford Street include Tracy Emin and Anish Kapoor.

Mr Malat said: "Kojo’s work is all about diversity and inclusivity and W1’s goal fits perfectly with that... the display is monumental."