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Scars and Stripes - D*Face in LA

16/09/2014 10:46 BST | Updated 15/11/2014 10:59 GMT

Jimi Hendrix once said, "When you're dead, you're made for life."

The mythologising of celebrities who burn bright and die young - to which the guitar maestro referred and which turned out to be a self-fulfilling prophesy -is the theme of London street artist D*Face, aka Dean Stockton's forthcoming pop-up exhibition in Los Angeles.

Entitled Scars and Stripes, the show will echo the artists's long-time fascination with how the myth and ideology of stars who died before the age of 30 live on past their death. They are represented in the artist's trade-mark comic-book style portraits with a hint of the macabre.

"What they represent today is so far removed from what they actually were or tried to stand for even," he tells me as we wander round his studio in London's East-End.

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He has chosen icons of popular culture that have influenced him but also best typify his theme - Marilyn Monroe, Buddy Holly, Jim Morrison, Tupac Shakur, Sid Vicious and Kurt Cobain (above) to name but a few.

"Sid Vicious typifies the point I'm making. He was in the Sex Pistols for a blink of an eye yet he's gone on to become representative of punk completely. His contribution was minor even to the musical abilities of the Sex Pistols but his physical representation is much greater than that. Yet he was a hugely jaded, flawed young man, a pretty sorrowful character."

So what does this say about us and our society? Is it that we need heroes or villains in our highly commercialised western culture and create gods out of people we never knew or even met? D*Face insists he's not making a judgment, but that it just happens, particularly when the subject is dead.

"There's something sad in that people who have created something unique and interesting for the most part, go on to be represented as something they never wanted to be represented as. I'm just questioning our relationship to it. My portraits simply ask, if they were here today, how would they feel about their representations?"

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With several Hollywood movie stars featured in Scars and Stripes, among them James Dean depicted with a metal face (above), LA seemed the perfect venue for the exhibition.

What's more, it's the home of Pat Magnarella of PPM Art Projects to whom D*Face is signed and which has diversified into art from the rock music business. This enables the artist to further establish himself with an audience not necessarily used to frequenting art galleries.

It is not just paintings that are on show. D*Face has been developing sculptures to what he calls "museum standard". Indeed, he has a museum show scheduled for the Spanish city of Malaga next year where, incidentally, his largest mural graces a 120 foot building.

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There are, however, some retrospective elements in the new exhibition. His Last Embrace before Departure has been removed from its housing block in Malmo, Sweden (above). Once again, a sense of loss is evoked.

The publication this year of his book, One Man and His Dog, a retrospective of his work over the past 15 years was a grounding experience for D*Face, one that gave him renewed confidence in his artistic technique and direction.

"For me, it's about development, exploring, finding new, discovering old methods and works, going back on old pieces and asking why I enjoyed making that or whatever time did that bring to me."

That confidence has had a direct effect on his current work. He has reached the stage in his career when he can start bending the rules.

"I've tried to loosen my style a bit in this work. Some of the pencil lines and some of the brushwork I've left in because I feel more confident about myself. When you're younger you're more liable to be guided and persuaded but when you're older your opinion becomes what it is."

Scars and Stripes will show at 315 S. Robertson Blvd, West Hollywood, California 27 September - 12 October. Two limited-edition prints will be available to purchase on 27 and 28 September.

All images here are used with the permission of the artist.