Observations: Style guru Jaybo takes the Mickey and shows he's streets ahead

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The Independent Online

It's Hokusai's The Great Wave off Kanagawa but not as we know it. In the playful hands of the Berlin-based street artist Jaybo, the white foaming tops of the famous Japanese woodblock print have been replaced by hundreds of Mickey Mouse white-gloved hands, all, well, waving. Last summer, the artistic joke was projected, spectacularly, onto the dome of Berlin's cathedral by night.

It's what Jaybo – also known as Monk – calls "fast communication", the principle that lies at the heart of his art. "Everybody knows the piece so how can I make it surprising?" he asks. In this case, he says he was inspired by the souvenir stalls around the cathedral, hawking tacky snow-globes.

The enigmatic artist started out as a hip-hop musician in his native France with Reality Brothers ("kind of acid jazz over hip-hop beats...") before moving to Berlin in 1986. There, he set up a streetwear label, Iriedaily, and the influential Berlin 'zine Style and the Family Tunes. All the time, he was leaving his "punk stencil art" behind him on the streets.

He only began to think about art seriously around two years ago and earlier this year had his first London exhibition, The Pocket Show, featuring miniature paintings on crushed cigarette packets, old Coke cans and matchboxes. Next, he's showing his "Headscapes", spooky appropriations of Francis Bacon's portraits – all red smeary lips and howls – done in spray paint on canvas. "They're just a mix of all the people I know," he says. "Some people see Michael Jackson, others see their mother. In Germany, people think graffiti is vandalism. I wanted to show people you could use it to make art."

On the street, Jaybo constantly changes his style – on one corner a Mickey Mouse hand bursts out of a Warhol box of Brillo washing powder, on the next wall, Manga girls battle with square-jawed comic book heroes – to preserve his anonymity (he never tags his work). This exhibition is his "big reveal". "I'm finally owning up to my work," he laughs.

To 8 August, Signal Gallery, London EC2 (www.signalgallery.com)

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