The Bush 5 Pound Note
The Story of A Pleasant artist, a Bush and £5 Pounds!
by: ‘THE UNKNOWN’ Artist
It all began in 2003 following a series of trips to the United Kingdom in which the street installation artist known as ‘Pleasant’ was invited to contribute his unique style of underground visual art to a series of exhibits. Following not long after the inauguration of George Bush Jr. and 9/11. The United Kingdom was firmly in the grasp of the worldwide hysteria following those world shaking events.
In the winter of 2003 while taking the number 53 coach from Whitehall artist ‘Pleasant’ overheard tow passengers discussing the possible sale of the UK shop chain called Marks & Spencer to the American Walmart corporation. Which already purchased the British chain Asda a few years earlier. During the discussion one of the two passengers shouted that the, “Next thing these yanks are going to do is put ole Bush’s face on the £5 pound note!” “Hooray for Queen Bush!”, the “Bloody bastard”.
As a result of what turned out to be an excellent example of Britishness. Pleasant decided to do just that, in protest of what many in the UK seemed to believe could be great western expansion or neo-colonialism in the form of corporate takeovers of established British brands. In the style of Pleasant satire the artist created a mock £5 pound note with as expected, the face of Queen Bush on the front. Created from ink, digital manipulation, glass and paper. Pleasant created his new art piece and unveiled it at the anti-war march on Trafalgar Square in February of 2003. Little did the artist know that this would be the beginning of several years of craziness from British immigration border control and more!
But first a little bit about ‘PLEASANT’ Art. Pleasant is regarded as an figurative-expressionist painter and an underground installation street artist. An alumnus of the New York School of Visual Arts, Pleasant studied under the tutelages of celebrated Illustrator Jack Potter and New York abstract painter Michael Goldberg. Both of which were contributors to the New York School and staples of American art history. Over the years Pleasant has met many influential people who have further enriched his life and art. The Artist has travelled extensively for many years residing for extended periods of time in Scandinavia, Eastern, central Europe and South America. Pleasant’s travels helped to inspire him in his art and introduce a dimension of genuineness and real life experience into his expressionist paintings, installations and graphic design artworks. Some artists Pleasant has exhibited and or collaborated with have included, Makoto Fujimura, Max Zorn, Dame Darcy, unononeeins (Fashion Moda NYC) and The London Police to name a few. A contributing member of the popular Sticktogether collective/gallery, an Amsterdam based arts organisation started by celebrated Tape Artist Max Zorn and featuring 23 of the worlds most talented Street Artists.
Pleasant’s work has evolved over the years into an unusual blend of various styles and mediums that push the barriers of what is deemed “acceptable” often walking a fine line between social-political commentary and satire. Through an unusual blend of late 80’s ny street, contemporary central european and old southern folk style, you receive a very engaging Pleasant art experience. Pleasant is often considered to be an “underground artist” who often keeps his whereabouts and the majority of his upcoming projects unpublished until the time of it’s unveiling. ‘Jalal’ Pleasant is a member of a family of nationally distinguished artists and award recipients. Pleasant’s Grandfather David Carter was a widely recognised sculptor who exhibited at the Library of Congress in Washington DC. Pleasant’s Father, the late, William M Pleasant, Jr. (www.pleasantart.org) is a nationally recognised painter, graphic designer whose artwork is currently on exhibit in the Smithsonian Institute, Washington DC, as part of the permanent collection.
With the name ‘Jalal-Azamat’ Pleasant and a recreated ‘Bush’ £5 pound note. You can indeed imagine what kind of chaos followed the march on Trafalgar Square. Not long after unveiling the £5 pound note, images of Pleasant’s creation appeared in various locations on the internet sparking attention from various galleries in the usa and eu. One that stood out included the Ronald Feldman Gallery of New York City. We will revisit this subject a little later in the story.
The ‘Bush’ art piece was presented in an installation titled, ‘Suspended Thoughts’, a collection of art works documenting Pleasant’s entire emotional journey through the events before and after related to the creation of the £5 pound bush note. Several exhibits took place, some of which included the Clerkenwell Literary Festival, Limehouse gallery, A street Installation in Amsterdam and later in the usa at the Varga Gallery in Woodstock New York and Artist Space, also in New York City.
Pleasant’s first name is Jalal. Named by his father, a devote Bahai’ and one of the founding members of the Bahai’ Center of Savannah Georgia. Following 9/11, Pleasant found it increasingly difficult to obtain simple task, such as purchasing a ticket at Epcot Center or receiving references for design jobs. To his amazement and shock. Many people chose to believe that the name Jalal absolutely translated into Pleasant being a muslim. On many occasions Pleasant received harassment and at times outright attack as a result of being mis-perceived as a muslim, which he is not. But the worst was yet to come. Following a trip to the Louvre and Disneyland Paris. Pleasant began a journey from Paris to London to see additional art exhibits.
During his return trip back to the UK. Pleasant passed thru the port of Dover England. It was there where the artist was detained for 17 hours. The Immigration officers searched Pleasant several times, asked trick questions about his town of birth, Savannah Georgia and insisted that his birth certificate and passport were fake. Pleasant was then questioned about his ethnicity and religious background and that of his friends and family. Pleasant was declared an “Iraqi, Iranian and a Bangladeshi” citizen all at the same time! This led to the artist being sent away from the UK without an official reason. At one point during one of the searches the border officer asked Pleasant what he may find buried in his travel bag. The official said, “Will I find any drugs or illegal substances in this bag?” Pleasant replied, “No, however you shall find brochures and receipts from art museums, galleries gift shops.”
At the conclusion of the search the official looked up at Pleasant, looking almost like he’d seen a ghost. He then stated that he only found receipts from art museums, galleries gift shops! He then told Pleasant that it would be far easier for him to believe Pleasant to be a criminal trafficking drugs from mainland europe into the uk, rather than him actually being a visual artist traveling to experience and be influenced by the arts of the world. Pleasant found himself stranded in France for 4 days alone. Walking along the highways, dirt roads and flipping coins to decide which direction to go in. (We are talking pre iphone days people.) Pleasant eventually made his way back to Amsterdam. The most supportive, tolerant and appreciative city Pleasant had visited so far. There, unable to find a vacant hotel in short notice, Pleasant slept on the street for a couple of nights and met many amazing people who listened to his story. One of those people was named ‘Marc’, a long time resident of the famous but now defunct Slangenpand free art space (Snakehouse 1985-2015) A place where street artists, poets and experimental music artist could present selections of their craft to the public. Het Slangenpand was shut down in 2015 to make way for a Starbucks and condos. In a nationally broadcast flurry of riots, water canons and paintballs. The Amsterdam police took a bulldozer literally to the art gallery’s door and took the building. Ending the landmark’s decades long creative influence in the city of Amsterdam. On I returned to the USA Pleasant made a formal complaint to the UK ind. Over time an investigation took place and the UK ind denied everything. Yet they still gave no official reason why Pleasant was detained and treated in the way that he was. Also following that experience Pleasant was unable to return to the UK for quite some time. When Pleasant was detained in the port of Dover there were many other Muslim people in the detention center.
Pleasant sat beside a Muslim woman who for 17 hours never moved. Her face remained buried in her hands. Pleasant could not help but cry. Her hands were covered in scars and her shoes were torn and tattered. The artist sat and watched a grown middle-eastern man sobbing in the corner. it was something the artist would never forget. When he was released and sent out of the UK. Pleasant watched as the woman and the men were taken away on a bus out of the UK. He would never see them again. He saw the Sri Lankin woman scream “no!, no!, No!” and collapsed; there was nothing that he could do. Pleasant cried and cried for days.
Later after this experience Pleasant created an oil painting about what he saw. He titled the painting: The day that I saw the thru the deported Muslim woman’s eyes. After painting this painting, Pleasant was attacked by gallery owners on both sides of the Atlantic, but mostly in the USA. Pleasant was told that he did not have the “right” to paint about “those people”. With negative experiences with Don O’Melvany of the, now defunct, O’Melvany gallery in West Hollywood to complete dismissal, following initial interest in the £5 Pound Bush note, by Ronald Feldman of the Feldman gallery in New York City. It was clear that something was going on with Pleasant as a result of his Bush note. At the same time images of the art piece started to disappear mysteriously from the internet.
Pleasant’s time in New York City had been spent with Austrian curator, Stefan Eins (Founder of popular 1980’s Fashion Moda Street art Gallery in the south bronx of nyc). A long time friend of Pleasant’s relative. Pleasant became friends with Stefan for several years until the two had a creative falling out in the late 2000’s. The two presented art in and around New York City for a period, including putting on a popular performance art piece in the renowned Dumbo Art festival. In 2004 Pleasant was asked to visit the UK consulate in New York City. With Stefan in tow the two artists visited an official who to the shock of both Pleasant and Stefan from a cabinet pulled out a file on the artist. Though Pleasant was not offered an opportunity to look at his file. However as the agent flipped through the pages Pleasant obtained glimpses of xerox copies of his personal art website and then sure enough, there it was, a full page scan of none other than The £5 Pound Bush note!
The agent asked loads of questions about Pleasant’s background and why he created the £5 pound note. It was explained that Pleasant “defaced the image of the Queen”. The artist was also asked if he considered himself a risk to the social order of the uk! One of the most absurd though unsettling questions the agent asked was if Pleasant and Stefan, who by the way was Pleasant senior by more than 25 years, were “gay lovers”. When Stefan asked the agent why that was important. The agent quickly responded and said that it was of no importance. Yet Stefan then asked again why the agent brought up the subject. To which the agent remained mute. Years after the Bush note horror Pleasant continued to experience difficulty with uk border patrol. Especially with some of the reactions that he received from a few IND officers. Who have on 4 different occasions tried to make something out of nothing related to the information of the past immigration issue. They have leaped into subtle hostility towards Pleasant for no reason while jotting down various scribbles into his passport. Some UK immigration officers seem surprised when Pleasant explained to them that his immigration difficulties from at that time, 3 years ago were completely resolved. When Pleasant passed thru immigration the immigration officers react to the information as though it happened yesterday.
During Pleasant’s 2006 entry thru Heathrow airport, as his passport was being reviewed, The immigration officer turned to his associate at the next immigration booth beside him and asked her if, “If an American has had past immigration difficulties, is he allowed in?, do Americans need a visa?” As an American Pleasant never expects to ‘breeze thru British immigration’, however he didn’t expect to be harassed either. After a while the UK border agency realised that they went a bit crazy on an artist of note. Though despite receiving a four page letter apology (though still denying everything) hand signed by the immigration director of the UK. Pleasant was deeply inspired by the chaos, censorship and fallout from his £5 Pound Bush note. The original art piece never sold and the gallery owners who claimed interest in the art piece ignored Pleasant for decades. Though as sad as the outcome was then, it was a profoundly inspiring experience for Pleasant. Who has gone on to create more art and create an even greater impact in the art world since then. Pleasant also received moral support from a number of important sources which included the then exhibitions administrator of the Tate Modern , Harrods Owner, Muhammad Alfayed and the celebrated comedian, actor, Richard Pryor. Whom Pleasant established a friendship with over the years.
Ironically enough more than a decade later the artist known as ‘Banksy’ produced his version of a £5 pound note. Which of course sold for thousands of pounds. But as always in these matters, those who originate the new are often the ones least associated with it.
Pleasant recently attended the 2016 Art Basel Miami fair. As a represented vip at the Aqua Art fair Miami and member of Sticktogether. Also represented by the renowned GO gallery, Pleasant and his supporting creative team made up of Illustrator Dame Darcy and Becca Cook as the Queen of Right Now. Entered the Untitled and Scope Art fairs, presenting part of their performance art piece featuring a creation of Pleasant’s, titled ‘The UNKNOWN’ Artist. Originally conceived in 1990’s New York City. Pleasant’s masked Unknown persona often pops up in random locations in contrast to the surrounding environment. An installation within itself, Pleasant loves to shock and create discussion around the meaning of art, space, perception and it’s purpose to cultivate and to inspire. Look worldwide for Pleasant Street art, often in the form of the Spaceman of unity with it’s message asking us to ‘BE PLEASANT’.
On the hot seat of the Trump election. Pleasant has a new work of art planned to be unveiled soon. Perhaps the chaos shall begin all over again for the UNKNOWN artist and his Pleasant art? Stay tuned for new UNKNOWN Artist series paintings, officially to be unveiled in mid 2017 + ‘THE UNKNOWN’ Feature film coming soon. Currently Filming in Georgia, Amsterdam, South America, London, Los Angeles, Venice Italy and New York City.