For his recent show at StolenSpace Gallery we talked to one of the top street artists based out of London who has been very active in creating elaborate fine works of art for his gallery and street art works, DFace.
”New World Disorder” marks your new exhibition as well as an end of an era before StolenSpace Gallery relocates and the artist studios are demolished. Brick Lane is renowned for its thriving street art, what do you feel it gave you?
Interesting, because in 2005 when we moved here and it was a very different place, we thought about what we were bringing to the area… and I believe we did with the gallery play a part in what its known for and the general gist has been about that, but really you’re right, it’s brought a lot to me, I wouldn’t solely say the street art as much, but more the fashion, the subcultures, the music and of course the graffiti… its always got something fresh going on, something that constantly keeps you stimulated, I find the whole area really inspirational, I would say as it becomes more ‘retail’ focused, the vibe has started to become more ‘shopping/shoppers’ orientated, particularly the weekends, specially with the vintage flex, which has the danger of becoming a terrible jumble sale, and as the artists move away and the rent rises the small bespoke individual stores can’t afford to stay here, it does unfortunately start to loose some of its soul, but we’ve had an amazing run and as much as it’s the end of an era, it’s the start of a new one.
Do you have a favorite story from the studio or area overall?
Jeeezzz, thats too hard to answer. There’s literally been hundreds of memorable moments, I mean just having a studio complex shared with Conor Harrington, Chloe Early, Ronzo, Word To Mother, not to mention all the artists that have rolled through over the years, from Seen to Antony Lister, to Jose Parla… literally the place is paint daubed with memories…
The show covers a lot of terrain in your career, comparing your older work with your most recent stuff, how would you describe the evolution?
Thats a hard question to answer, obviously I understand and see the evolution and it seems very tangible and obvious to me, I guess my book due out in September will make the evolution of my work clearer, going through all the old flicks and shows has allowed me to refresh the threads that run through the themes in my work. I guess the simple evolution is from the basic sticker or poster, which I’ve always seen as getting the public to question their relationship to it/ the environment, trying to disrupt the everyday… which in truth was all when and good while people didn’t understand the narrative of ‘street art’ but now when it’s become part of our vernacular, you know 3 ‘Street Art’ tours rounds Brick Lane a week ‘here on your left used to be a Banksy, here on the right is X’ for me its hard for it to retain impact, I needed to search for more in my work, to not only keep me interested but hopefully the public as well. Importantly when I took my simple character work into a gallery environment in the early days, for me it lost all impact and context, so I started to look for a way to free myself from purely character driven works but still retain or achieve an element of confrontation, but still keep a thread that to the attuned eye, could lead back to my early street work.
For this show you have real WWII helmets that you have adorned. How were you able to acquire this piece and what made you decide to paint on it?
I brought the helmets in Los Angeles at the Rose Bowl flea market back in 2011, I saw them at the time and was instantly drawn to the aged aesthetic, the stories they must carry, the bullet holes (which no one could verify were authentic), I bought them without having any real idea of how I would use them, it was really an instinctive purchase, it was after I got back home to the UK that I started to become interested in the analogy of Military tactical exercise, ball sports and a pack mentality; supporting a team and the ‘colors’ that they wear, which when coming from the point of view of the kid picked last for any team, lead me to question a ‘tribal mentality and the ‘ultimate team’ which would have to be ones ‘country’ with the ‘team colors’ being the uniform and flag and the sacrifice people are prepared to give up for their country… this was really more me questioning this and what to what degree I’d go for my country, having had both my father and grandfather fight in WW1 and WW2… my father conscripted in the army and my grandfather who lied about his age at 14, to enable him to get a position as deckhand on a battleship, where he worked his way up the ranks to chief petty officer, seeing many battles and close scrapes, till he retired.
It was whilst explaining this analogy to a friend that he asked if I’d seen ‘The Tilman Story’ which I hadn’t, when I looked into it and watched the film it really connected all the thoughts and comparisons I’d made between ball sports and the military; tactical fighting vs team tactics, the individual leaders/captains and the sacrifice people are prepared to give up for their country or team. It brought me onto this imaginary post apocalyptic tribe, who had no concept of religion or brands, a crucifix being as relevant as a McDonalds logo and as equally unimportant… that really and simply brought me onto creating these opposing tribes who would adorn their helmets in an appropriate tribal, ritualistic manner… sounds heavy but I don’t want it to be seen as such and really I think as an immediate visual it isn’t , it should be intriguing and could be seen as a collection of artifacts, but with a serious undertone. My 6 year old daughters favorite museum is the Imperial War Museum, she loves seeing all the uniforms the areas made to resemble bunkers or houses in the Blitz, obviously she doesn’t understand the context or implications of it all, but finds it fascinating none the less. It’s that I’m going, that it can be appreciated on different levels and by different ages.
Massive shout to MASS APPEAL… long time follower.
Text: Keisha Raines for Mass Appeal / Photos courtesy of Ian Cox