Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Art Space Talk: D*Face

D*Face (Dean Stockton) is a London-based street artist who has received international acclaim for his outdoor and indoor art. One could say that D*Face uses London as his own personal gallery and the world as his personal art museum by utilizing spray paint, stickers, posters, stencils and aspects of sculpting in order to spread his visual message directly to the public.

D*Face held his first major London solo exhibition, titled Death & Glory, at the Stolenspace gallery in October 2006-- it was a sold out exhibit that placed D on the radar of the mainstream art world.

Cli Che by D*Face

Brian Sherwin: D*Face, In the past you found yourself in a cell-- a work desk to be exact. My understanding is that at the time you doodled in order to express your individuality. In time the doodles became drawings on various materials. Eventually you created stickers, posters-- your art became something more than just a way to escape your day job. It turned into a message that defines you-- a voice.
Today your day job of old is just a memory. Can you reflect on those early years? What motivated you to take the leap, so to speak? What inspired you to cut your own path in life? Also, is it true that your mother spurred your first interest in street art?
D*Face: The origins of my work were purely self indulgent; a means of escape from the daily grind. Don't get me wrong I had a good job in a creative agency that I'd studied and worked hard to get, it just wasn't what I'd expected. It seems so often the case is that the journey to a place or a point in time is more enjoyable than the actual place when you reach it and I think that summarizes my path from what some would call 'education' to employment.
Those days were really naive and exciting, there was no preconceptions, no such thing as 'Street Art' there was just a few like minded people putting work up, this is outside of the more traditional graffiti, as there was always tags and throw ups going up.

Guns are for Idiots by D*Face
It's was a pretty gradual process, first doodling away in any spare moment I had sat at my desk, then I thought if I replaced the paper (which I was throwing away most days) with adhesive vinyl I could make very basic hand drawn stickers to put up on my way home and on my travels across London, it became addictive and I was putting up more and more stickers and changing my routes to and from work, making all my journeys across London on foot, just to put more stickers up.
I was then spending every night drawing out stickers and I realised I had to figure out how to screen print... it was a very natural growth, built upon my own demand to put my work up, I wasn't even aware people were seeing these characters peering down at them from lamposts and walls, I didn't even care, I was putting them up for my own amusement, I was more interested in how long they lasted, how to make them last longer and how easy it seemed to link up routes across town.
I met up with fellow artist from around the world, The London Police, Shepard Fairey, Faile etc. and as I was spending every night in my loft printing stickers, painting posters, I'd go into work the next day and think what am I doing here, I could be so much more productive if I had the daytime hours and not just the graveyard shift, luckily I had a supportive girlfriend who encouraged me to quit my job to spend more time producing my own work.
Looking back on it now it all came about really naturally and in truth naively, I learnt as I went along, taught myself techniques and methods to produce my work, I've always had a DIY mentality which I get from my father, as a child growing up we didn't have much money so my dad encouraged us to make things and this mentality continued as I grew up and my interests developed into skateboarding and punk music, both of which were born from a DIY ethic, I'd build my own ramps, paint and shape my own skateboards and I guess that mentality has never really left me, I'm very much about being self sufficient.
My mum brought me the book 'Subway art' and that spurred my interest in graffiti, but that was way, way before any of my own activities and the term 'Street Art' was coined, so I'm not sure she could be held accountable for that really, I think skateboarding has more to do with it, but then again she did buy me my first skateboard!
United States of America by D*Face

BS: Tell us more about your thoughts on consumerism and popular culture-- and how your work offers, or at least explores, an alternative. For example, would you say that most people live in contradiction-- in the sense that they strive to be individuals while embracing every message that flashes on the TV screen?
D: The thing is life is full of contradictions, it keeps things interesting, certain people try to live out their lives through products and brands, it's excepted in our society that shopping is a 'hobby' and wearing brands depicts your of a certain 'stature' or 'class'. What I noticed recently with the down turn in the economy is that people are still going to the shops, it's as if their lives have become programmed to do that, no matter whether they have money or not.
I was at a shopping center recently and it was strange, people were walking round the shops but like zombies or vultures circling a giant rotting corpse looking for a 'bargain'. It was surreal, but at the same time really interesting, the backdrop of most shops 'Sale' or 'Closing down' signs covering the windows, made it feel like a film set or art installation.
I really don't want to come across like I'm preaching, because I wear Nike, I drink Coke, but if there's an alternative it should be considered.
My work has always been about a subversive intermission from the media saturated environment that surrounds us, I always saw the characters I was putting up as a break to to the advertising bombardment, it was also my escape from this world, I was surrounded by it, not just in the public domain, but at the time the marketing mumbo jumbo speak that I'd hear at work... it made me really cynical, I guess seeing and hearing it with my own eyes and ears made me want to spread the rot from the inside out.
You know, I've never said 'don't buy this brand or wear that label' what I've wanted to do is get people to consider an alternative or look at the brands that surround us with different eyes. The billboard liberation's I've created are my most direct way of instigating this.

I need a Riot by D*Face

BS: With that in mind, would you say there is hidden riot going on within our collective conscience-- a need to break away from spokespeople and the daily news? Is our society boiling just under the surface as far as you are concerned? If so, what do you think keeps it from boiling over?
D: I often wonder and I probably shouldn't, but I'm intrigued in how a shared opinion or belief becomes a protest and a protest becomes a riot. What the triggers are. I think CCTV has a HUGE part in the control of our society, you could look further and say that television and media reports are also controlling, the information that we're fed and how that's translated and digested.
I think recently there's been situations that could have been one or two steps away from a riot. People cuing up to get their savings out of Northern Rock, if the government hadn't stepped in to secure peoples savings... who knows. Anyway it's all got a bit heavy!

BS: Tell us more about the thoughts behind your work. In your own words, what is the message that you strive to convey to viewers?
D: I don't want to talk too much about it, I prefer the viewer to work it out or not. But behind every piece is a back story that might not be immediately obvious, there's an underlying current, tone or message that I try to convey to the viewer.
Pop Tart by D*Face

BS: Can you go into further detail about some of your influences? For example, I understand that Shepard Fairey's Obey Giant campaign has been a major influence for you. What about other influences?

D: Shepard and his Obey Giant campaign was an early influence, I wouldn't say a major influence, but I admired his methods, determination and mentality, when I met up with him for the first time in 1999, it cemented what I was already doing.
In terms of influence I'd say Jim Philips, Vernon Courtland Johnson and John Pound were unknowingly my biggest influences, the illustrations I'd see in Thrasher Magazine, on the boards I was skating and also on the records I was listening to.
BS: One interesting aspect of your work is that you did not necessarily desire to receive recognition for your art. In other words, you created your art and utilized public spaces due to passion and the need to express yourself-- the thought of financial success and fame did to cross your mind.
Furthermore, you never set out to create a trademark image of your work or 'brand'. Thus, the success you have had with galleries and companies is more of a by-product than anything else. That said, did you have any hesitations about exhibiting in galleries or working with companies?
D: The actual creation and act of putting my work up was purely a creative escape and release, a selfish act really, putting work up in the street was a by-product of my interests in graffiti and skateboarding as a kid... I was content with putting the work up and meeting like minds, I hadn't ever imagined or even considered exhibiting work in galleries, you have to remember that there was no such thing as Street Art when I started and only a handful of people doing anything what is now termed Street Art, so when the interest picked up to the point where I was offered shows, print releases, opportunities to work with brands, I was really surprised and flattered.
Obviously I was hesitant as I wasn't sure that something I'd been doing for my own self amusement should be used in this way, but it made me realise that there was a possible way out from the daily grind and maybe, just maybe I could live as an artist. I wake up everyday looking forward to getting into my studio and thank God that I get to do this... Obviously along the way I've learnt by mistakes as well!!

Skeleton Key by D*Face

BS: So today are you concerned that people would accuse you of commercializing street art or that somehow your work with galleries and companies would conflict with your message? I've interviewed a few street artists and there seems to be an underlining concern that they will inadvertently become the very thing they have opposed-- and that their message will be lost. Is that a concern that you have?
D: Nope. If you feel strongly and do what you do with passion, integrity and love why would you become the very thing you despise? So long as you keep evolving and developing then so will your work. I think my earlier messages are stronger now than ever, what with the economic down turn and mistrust in what our consumer led society has brought us... but as that becomes more apparent and my work continues to develop I feel there's less reason for me to make those points so vocal.

BS: As you have pointed out with your work society is saturated with media hype and consumerism-- it is not hard, even in a small town, to see an ad anywhere that you look. However, one could say that the streets are also saturated by street art-- saturated with regurgitated messages that focus on anti-consumerism and anti-media messages. It is not hard to find works that play a little too close to work that has been created by you and others, so to speak-- as in some artists are relying a bit too much on your work in order to create their own message.
What are your thoughts on street artists who take your imagery in order to make it their own-- while not really offering anything new to the visual dialogue that can be found on the streets? Would you say that some people are going about it the wrong way? Are there any rules? Is it an issue of respect? Furthermore, would you say that some street artists are mere opportunists-- in that they know the market for said work is hot?
D: For sure, but thats just the case with any movement or subculture that starts picking up momentum and interest. I've personally seen allot of people suddenly become 'Street Artist', the last 2 years have seen a massive influx and there's been many 'artists' that are looking at already established artists for inspiration, obviously when it appears that money can be made, motivations change and thats when you start to see a million Banksys or other 'inspired' works. Personally I don't pay attention to it, I'm doing me, I'm always developing what I do and moving it forward, I switch off to the next internet hero.
To inspire someone to go out and 'create' and even better claim public space for their work is more than I ever imagined of my work, so long as those people keep developing what they're doing then thats cool with me. Besides it keeps things fresh and moving and there's been some really good artist that have surfaced in the past 2 years. It's funny to think now that 'Street Art' is being studied at Colleges and Universities.

Stay Up by D*Face

BS: Lets get back to the work-- you utilize a variety of mediums within the context of your work-- everything from computer programs to spray paint. That said, do you have a preferred medium? Would you say that it is important for an artist to try as many mediums as possible?
D: I always enjoy screen printing, I love the process and imperfections, I also love painting with enamel paints, you can get such a good quality of line, they're pretty much a constant in my work. It's really important to me to keep developing, trying and learning new methods or rediscovering old techniques, each yields new ideas and results and if you don't try you never know.
BS: What about your process in general? Can you discuss how an image comes into being? For example, do you create preliminary sketches or do you work intuitively directly upon the surface? Is there a difference between creating work on the street and creating work in a studio? Or do the two mesh together?
D: My work generally follows the same pattern of development... everything springs from a thought, these can be triggered from various places, just living in London, watching the TV, reading books, the birth of my little daughter... everywhere and everything... these ideas I write down in a little black book or as a note in my phone, I'd then doodle these ideas out, at least the ones that stick, then draw them up to a more finalised visual, these are then traced out and painted out or scanned and turned into a screen for printing. If I'm working on a show, then I'd see what ideas sit together and develop them, but the truth is I still see every idea as a street piece, or at least how it could be executed in the street. I guess that still sticks with me!

Dead Head- Winston Churchill by D*Face

BS: Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your art or the goals that you have?
D: The greatest goal is to be able to live as an artist and love what you do everyday, both my parents hated their jobs and as a child I guess that must have left a great impression, not to get trapped like that wishing your life away. I'm lucky enough to have found a way out the rat race and live life loving what I do.
You can learn more about D*Face by visiting his website-- You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page--
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin
Senior Editor
New York Art Exchange
Myartspace Blog on Twitter on Twitter on Twitter

1 comment:

Dulce MarĂ­a Rivas Godoy said...

Congratulations! I like your way.