He went from graffiti outlaw in 1980s New York to a revered artist whose work is loved by millions and has featured on the cover of Time Out magazine - now legendary street artist George ‘SEN-One’ Morillo has teamed up with a Leeds artist to create new work at Sunny Bank Mills.
Morillo began tagging subway trains as an original member of the Incredible Bombing Masters (IBM), one of the most respected graffiti crews in Hip Hop history, at age 12, when graffiti was considered a crime.
But as ‘vandalism’ evolved into art, so did Morillo, becoming an international influence and gaining a host of fans - including former First Lady Michelle Obama.
After speaking at an event for Leeds youth arts and music charity MAP, he met city artist Nicolas Dixon. The pair immediately hit it off and decided to collaborate on a new piece for the arts space at Farsley’s Sunny Bank Mills.
Morillo said: “He was down to paint, and so was I, so we said ‘let’s do it’.”
The piece brings together both artists’ tags, Sen-One and Dicko, and elements inspired by both of their home cities, including a train to represent the New York subway.
“Right now Leeds it taking off,” Morillo said. “It feel natural to be here, the energy is flowing.”
For Morillo, graffiti was part of a culture which had its own language and meaning, and your tag meant everything.
He said: “For us it wasn’t art, it was life, it was our culture. We believed we could die the next day and it was about leaving our stamp behind, our mark.
“It was a violent time, and graffiti, DJing and break dancing became elements of how we battled each other. It became an outlet - it was better than killing each other.”
Mr Dixon said it was an honour to work with one of the originators of graffiti art.
“It’s great working with a living legend,” he said. “I feel like I’ve known him my whole life and it’s not even been a week yet.
“Now we are making plans to collaborate further, and I’m hoping to go to New York to do something with him there.”
George ‘SEN-One’ Morillo will be speaking at Outlaws Yacht Club on New York Street on Wednesday September 12 at 7pm to raise money for MAP.