Boogie Moli mastered the art of football from a young age.
His family was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and emigrated to the UK when he was 10 years old.
Moli lived in Luton, where he says: “You’re either on the streets or you’re playing football.”
He left home aged 11 to start a dream apprenticeship at Liverpool FC, staying with Raheem Sterling.
Three years later the teenager joined Wolverhampton Wanderers; However, injuries soon plagued his career and he spent more time on the touchlines than on the pitch.
At age 24, a tear in the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) set the stage for early retirement.
But amidst a depression and during rehabilitation, Moli discovered a new love: painting.
Now, at just 28 years old, he feels he has “lived two lives” due to their different backgrounds.
Moli told Metro.co.uk: “There have been ups and downs, of course you’ve hit rock bottom and you have to climb back up – but I don’t just see it that way.” It’s a journey for me, it’s all part of a bigger one Story.
“If you get a cruciate ligament injury like me, you have to take a year off and you have to use crutches.” You can’t run, your options are limited, that will bring you down. But you still have your hands – so you can be creative.
“After my knee healed I had the opportunity to come back but I decided to give up my football career and focus on my art.”
Boogie initially brought a paintbrush to sneakers and began selling them to friends, but soon turned to canvases and developed his own style of graffiti work.
Since he gave up his career, his career as a painter has become increasingly successful.
He has become known as the Premiership’s most successful commissioned artist and artists such as Jack Grealish, Antonio Rudiger, Reece James and Eniola Aluko all call his work their own.
Boogie is now determined to keep rising in the art world and his latest exhibition is taking place at London’s Quantus Gallery.
Moli symbols celebrates sports icons like Pelé, Muhammad Ali and Michael Jordan, but is also underpinned by a multi-layered social and cultural commentary that also includes nods to his African roots.
His hand-picked icons also include Nelson Mandela and the “richest man in history”, the medieval Malian king Mansa Musa, who traveled to Mecca in 1325 with a ton of gold as pocket money.
Boogie began each piece by imagining the background and then building the piece using no more than five colors.
And if you look closely, you’ll see elements of pop art in every portrait.
Boogie hopes people can take inspiration from the symbols he’s chosen, and maybe even pick up their own paintbrush.
He continued, “That’s something I’m proud of and people know these icons to relate to — there’s something for everyone.”
“I hope I’ll be an inspiration to anyone who knows my work and my path.” I didn’t know I could take this path, become an artist and make a living from it.
“There will be millions of others who just don’t see that as a possibility either.” I want to show that ants are possible if you just put your mind to it.
“I’m African, so I always want to represent that side of me and my culture, Mandela is an example of that.” I wanted to bring everything in my world, my icons, together in one – in this exhibition.
“We really took our time planning, we wanted to get it right.” “I made sure every piece was perfect and tried a new technique.”
Visitors to the Quantus Gallery can enjoy 25 new original paintings, limited-edition prints, hand-decorated soccer shoes, and paint-decorated soccer balls to collect.
Boogie joins the Grove Gallery’s impressive roster of artists, which includes Opake, Eve de Haan, Banksy, David Shrigley, Stony, Lauren Baker, Clarke Reynolds, Christian Furr, Frances Segelman and Rob Munday.
Moli Icons takes place from 8th June to 5th July at The Grove Gallery, 11-29 Fashion Street, London, E1 6PX.
The full list of luminaries in Moli Icons is as follows:
Late Brazilian soccer player
Moli: “The greatest footballer who ever lived.”
2. Run DMC
Pioneering hip-hop trio
Moli: “Run’s House was my favorite TV show as a kid.”
3. Canteen Musa
Medieval Malian Emperor
Moli: “I’m really interested in history, I came back to Mensa Musa from Mali who was the richest person who ever lived.”
Moli: “He single-handedly changed the way we see basketball today and created the most iconic sneaker line of all time.”
Boxing Heavyweight Champion a.k.a. “The Greatest”
Moli: “I am a man of morals and what Ali stood for inspired generations and the world of sport.”
6. Nelson Mandela
Anti-apartheid activist and first President of South Africa
Moli: “Nelson Mandela taught me to always hold on to what you believe in and no one can ever break you.”
Moli: “As a child, all I wanted to do in my free time was play soccer and dance like Michael Jackson.”
Moli: “I lived in Liverpool for a few years and learned a lot about the Beatles and their influence on the music and the city.”
9. Marilyn Monroe
US actress, model and singer.
Moli: “A very beautiful woman.”
10. Tony “Scarface” Montana
Supervillain played by Al Pacino in the 1983 film Scarface.
Moli: “One of my favorite films of all time.”
11. Jean Michel Basquiat
Influential New York artist whose Untitled (1982) is one of the most expensive paintings ever bought ($110.5 million).
Moli: “My favorite artist.”
12. Andy Warhol
Pop Art Legend.
13. Keith Haring
Revered artist who emerged from the New York City graffiti subculture in the 1980s.
14. Pablo Picasso
One of the most influential artists of the 20th century; Co-founder of Cubism.
15. Tupac Shakur
Moli: “What Tupac did in his 25 years was crazy; He wasn’t afraid to speak out about things he believed in, regardless of the consequences.”
16. The infamous big one
hip hop legend.
17. Virgil Abloh
Late American fashion designer and artistic director at Vuitton.
Moli: “He changed the face of fashion by merging street culture and high-end fashion in such a wonderful way.”
18. Daft Punk
French dance music duo.
Moli: “They created some of the most iconic pieces of music and I love the masks that hid their faces.”
British singer and songwriter.
Moli: “Because I love her.”
20. Whitney Houston
Moli: “My favorite singer.”
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