Akse P19’s Photo Realistic Street Art
Akse P19 (pronounced axe) has become one of Manchester’s most prominent street artists in recent years. The popularity of his work has come about for two main reasons. First, it’s his style: instead of illegible lettering, or simplistic stencils, Akse produces photorealistic murals on a large scale that can’t help but catch your eye.
The second thing that has boosted his popularity is his subject matter: characters from popular culture that perfectly capture the zeitgeist. He has painted memorial pieces dedicated to musicians such as David Bowie and Amy Winehouse. Recently Akse captured headlines for his portrait of Arya Stark. He has also done a series on movie psychopaths that included James Gandolfini from The Sopranos, Kevin Spacey from House of Cards, and Christian Bale from American Psycho. He paints from the TV shows and films he loves. When he did a series of portraits from Breaking Bad, just as season five was released, he had no idea how popular the show was until photos of his work went viral.
Who is this enigmatic artist painting the streets of Manchester and beyond? Akse was born in Paris to parents of Vietnamese origin (Vietnam was colonised by the French in the late 1880s). In the early ’90s, he studied chemistry and eventually achieved a PhD in the subject, which perhaps explains his love of Breaking Bad. While studying he took part in the Erasmus project, which brought him to Britain. He was attracted to Manchester because of “the vibe, the energy, the people, the community” according to an interview he did in 2017. He began painting in 1992 and the following year joined the P19 crew. He moved to Manchester permanently in 1997.
Now in his late 30s, Akse is continuing to create stunning works of art in between the demands of a full-time science career and having two young children. Fatherhood has given him a new passion beyond chemistry and film. One of his ongoing art projects is to paint a mural every year of his eldest son. Akse hopes to paint all over the world, including in Vietnam.