DonKLondon [United Kingdom]

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I have a habit of sticking things to walls!” that’s what he said!

When did it all begin? And how did you first become interested in street art/graffiti?

Well along time ago but not very far away. I was a teenager in hackney during the eighties and became very passionate about the hip-hop scene and like most other boys at the time I tried my hand at both breakdancing and graffiti. My enthusiasm for breakdancing plateaued pretty quickly but I stuck with the graffiti and was involved with an early North / east London graffiti Crue called Newave arts which was started with some school friends. I grew away from the scene but these where the seminal years which helped to fire a love for street art.

One of my early exposures to this idea came via the book subway art which came out when I was at school. This amazing book just showed up with all these crazy maverick graffiti writers in it, some with incredible individual style’s others with prolific or daring output, but the one that really got to me and stayed with me was the Puerto rican writer Lee Quiñones who painted train cars with giant tribute messages to his mum and girlfriend. I just connected with the simple emotional honesty and commonality of these touching messages. I hope there is something of this spirit in what I am doing.

Which artist/s influenced you?

So many artist and creators have and still do influence me. They may not be direct influences but I’m sure they’re in there somewhere. Musicians, writers, photographers, fine art artist & street artists. Here’s two of each Wu tang clan, John Grant – John Fante, Cormac McCarthy – Duane Michals, Andres Serrano – Robert Rauschenberg, Hieronymus Bosch- Lee quinones – Banksy. I did a degree in photography in the 90s and one of my lecturers was Peter Kennard. I have great deal of respect for his work.

What style is your work?

Well I fall into the paste up tradition of street art, something quite graphic reproduced or printed into paper then cut out and glued to the wall, but beyond that I don’t really know where my style fits exactly. The content of my images are photographs I take myself as photography is my profession. I get an idea that won’t go away, then I photograph the elements I need and play with those until I’ve constructed something I’m reasonably happy with. At this point I start to reduce the image back to something more graphic via xerox or screen-printing methods. It’s a kind retrograde process. Ultimately it’s still work in progress that I am yet to name or define.

Are there any particular cultures that have influence your artwork?

All cultures interest me. I think there is magic, mystery and the plain bizarre in all of them, European, American, and Arabic or Far-Eastern it’s all stupidly complex and rich. I mix or combine what might seem like quite contradictory cultural references within my work to try and find unexpected visual harmonies. I think living and growing up in London can promote that kind of inquisitiveness. I’ve always liked the anachronistic things the things that seem out of place but somehow still work. London is an anachronism in itself.

What is the source of your inspiration these days?

Well I’m quite neurotic at times so that’s always a good source of inspiration. I’m more of a street worrier than a street warrior.  Iconography, religious and otherwise and history in General are a great source of imagery. My relationships with my friends and family are inspirational particularly my relationship with my son.  As I said before music and of course London itself with its daily supply of thrills & horrors.

What do your pieces usually focus on?

Well I use symbolism in my images to try and keep them quite open ended or open to interpretation. But there are key themes which interest me. The passage of time or transients is one, similarly growing up & growing older is another, and there are also references to multiculturalism. My son is mixed race or of mixed heritage so this something that concerns me. I play with visual ideas like stories and try to balance my own take on urban history & nostalgia with aspects of human strength and vulnerability. Ultimately I’m interested connecting with the private emotional journeys we all take. All of my images have some personal meaning to me, but I like the idea that the viewer can connect and attach their own meanings! I hope to communicate something sincere but ultimately entertaining.

What is the riskiest thing you have ever done?

Other than getting out of bed in the morning, I’ve done lots of stupid things that at the time seemed quite stupid and in hindsight where quite stupid. A drunk bloke up a ladder is seldom a good thing and that’s happened a few times.

I was pasting up a large scale piece one new-years and it was freezing, icy and it started to snowing heavily; the paste was freezing before I could get the poster onto the wall so I was rushing. Basically I slipped my legs went away from under me whilst carrying the paste bucket which went up into the air.

I ended up on my back covered in the glue and seemingly unable to get back up; it seems glue and ice makes for a very slippery surface. My girlfriend who was nearby was at least highly amused.

Are you generally satisfied with your finished piece?

Very seldom am I satisfied but I always put a positive slant on things and come away thinking I’ve Learned something useful for the next time; I’m an Eternal optimist!

Do you listen to music while working? Or you need a quite environment?

Yes I always have music on the go as I love the idea of a soundtrack. I try to make my images evocative in a similar way to music. Music is my first love. I have zero aptitude for it so I’m stuck with what I do. I don’t think I could work in silence I’d feel like a monk.

Where your work is usually located?

My Work has largely been put up around London, but I hope this will change over time and that I will get the opportunity to work elsewhere and with other artists. I do tend to paste up wherever I do manage to get too though. My girlfriend is from Lisbon so I have had pieces there. Lisbon is great by the way; if you haven’t been you should really go.

Do you find it difficult to do your work in the streets?

Well apart from the unsanctioned nature of the work and falling off ladders I’d have to say yes and no. You do battle with the elements and of course pasted paper is not the most resilient medium. To me this fragility complement’s and at times amplifies the emotive nature of the work and helps to distinguish it from the high end advertising posters. It does mean however that posters will disappear on impact sometimes, which can be frustrating and a little embarrassing. I do sometimes cut strips or tassels at the bottom of the posters as a form of added decoration. The idea was to create an element of movement as they catch the wind, but also to add a touch of added melodrama and it’s a bit of a party!  If street art can’t be a little eccentric what can!

Have you ever had any problems with authority cause of your work?

Well it is a bit of an occupational hazard but I have always managed to walk away! The police have stopped me mid -paste up before and told me to take work down or be arrested! That was a very large paste-up in kings cross but I was just happy to have been given a choice really!

Do you have a formal art education?

 Yes I did a degree in photography in the 90s.

If YES! Do you feel that you benefited from it?

Yes I definitely benefited from it in a number of ways. Firstly it gave me confidence to at least start to believe I might be able to do something within photography. I think creative photography was going through quite a strong period at the time with some really impressive art photographers publishing work. Even though I came out off my degree very raw and technically limited I had at least been opened up to the potential of the medium.

Would you rather paint alone? Or do you prefer collaborate with others?

I would love to collaborate with others. I think there is a lot of potential within collab’s or mashups! I hope to be working with Polish street artist Ne-spoon pretty soon.

Have you ever collaborated with other artists?

Not yet but as I say I will be soon and it is something I am definitely open to.

What do you see as the future of street art / graffiti?

I’m not really sure, it’s changed so dramatically in my lifetime so who knows what will happen in my sons? Hopefully there won’t be some kind conservative backlash or Orwellian graffiti purge of the streets. I think not. I think it’s become too much a part of the culture to be cleansed away. My concern is that it becomes all to consume and loses its potency somehow; I guess it’s up to the artists to stop that from happening.

How do you feel about photographers / bloggers in the scene?

It’s all good I guess it’s free publicity and all the people I’ve met to date have seemed very decent.  I think if your passionate about something and you want to share that with others then that’s generally a positive instinct.  I suppose in all mediums you need a group of people who are documenting, disseminating, curating and even critiquing!

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