Philip Jones, aka Suspect, is part of the first generation of ‘street artists’ in New Zealand. Initially trained as a graphic designer, he began to present his work on the streets of New Plymouth in the late 1990s. In 2003 he was charged for ‘graffiti’; at his sentencing, the judge warned Jones that he would be imprisoned for any further offences. Jones took that warning serious and turned his talent to more legitimate and accepted art forms.
Jones has since developed a popular reputation for his freestyle art works. These combine illustration, graphic design and graffiti and involve a wide range of materials and techniques. His paintings are layered and energetic and document the many influences on New Plymouth’s counter culture community. Examples of his work may be found throughout the country; as canvasses in private homes and on the walls of many public businesses. More recently, he travelled and worked in South America and South East Asia completing both private commissions in business environments and developed networks with street art communities in those locations. Jones has also operated his own street art gallery, regularly holds pop-up gallery events in New Plymouth and youth workshops.
In the last few years, Jones has been the resident artist for the Taranaki Arts Festival. In this role he has made portable murals that are positioned at key festival sites. He also contributes to the biennale WOMAD festivals creating temporary creative zones within Pukekura Park, works collaboratively with visiting artists to make visual arts-based murals that record those events and is a regular in the WOMAD art wall project. Based on these experiences, he was selected to contribute to the Splore and Wanderlust festivals over the 2015-16 summer period.
Jones’s work now has a more permanent and prominent position within New Plymouth city and a strong public profile in the local media. Through his partnership with Powerco, he has ‘characterised’ powerboxes in the urban environment. He also collaborated with well-known Taranaki landscape painter, Peter Lambert, to complete a large-scale mural for the major capital works project, the Huatoki Plaza Mall.