D*Face Comes Stateside to Find His Happy Never Ending
BY: ANNA NOLAN | IMAGES COURTESY OF SPRAYING BRICKS
LA has played a huge part in commercializing everything from true love to enjoying a cool beverage. Nothing anyone does anymore can really be detached from how it is supposed to make you feel and that is exactly what D*Face’s work is inspired by. The prominent UK street artist born Dean Stockton first took to the streets in 2005 to express his frustration, and has, since then, given pop art a second life all over the world.
D*Face’s first US show, Happy Never Ending, opens September 23 at Corey Helford Gallery. The show will summarize his global street art career, with a focus on romantic imagery, and will even include a wedding ceremony on opening night to add to the spectacle. Just before the exhibit’s big debut, we talked to the artist about the universality of romance, his adoration for California, and how he’s translating street art for the gallery’s walls.
Your art has an obvious Lichtenstein influence. What is it about the ’60s art aesthetic, or pop art generally, that inspires you?
My inspirations are Lichtenstein clearly—comic book art, and the artists that he was inspired by. The first artwork that appealed to me as a kid, in a gallery context, was pop art. My mom would take me to gallery shows and show me Alex Turner and be like, “This is art. This is real art.” And that’s the stuff she still likes to this day.
What I liked about that work is that it spoke to me in a voice I understood. I was a kid growing up in London, heavily inspired by and looking to California culture. So skateboard magazines, like Thrasher, had a massive influence on me. Skateboard artists, like Jim Phillis and Vernon Courtlandt Johnson, were the people that I looked to.
I didn’t even know them at the time. I didn’t realize there were people who approved skateboard graphics as a living, because nobody had ever taken the time to explain that to me. When I saw pop art in a gallery context, I thought, “This is something I understand, that I can relate to. I understand the references that they’re making from the things that I’ve been picking up visually.”
I’m a hopeless romantic and dreamer, and I like nostalgia and I like vintage. Those things are always prevalent in my work.
How do you think your work has changed since your initial breakthrough in 2005?
You know, I guess I’ve found a style that I like to think is very much “me” and identifiable as “me.” In 2005, I was very much directly referencing those pop artists whereas now, I don’t reference their work. It’s more like I have my own visual identity within that world. I think I sit within that on my own as opposed to then, when I was taking a direct piece of Lichtenstein or Warhol and manipulating.
You previously said that “romance is comparable to a shop bought commodity.” Can you elaborate on what you meant by that statement and how you worked that idea into your art pieces?
I’m nostalgic and romantic, and I believe in trying to win somebody over, and trying—not to make them love you—but trying to make them realize what you are to them. Nowadays, you just get straight on Tinder and swipe right, swipe left and try and match somebody. It’s very much a commodity, and it cheapens the idea of finding a partner. It cheapens the idea of how you find somebody that’s a partner.
There’s nothing wrong with it. I’m not, in any moment, saying you shouldn’t do it. Christ, if I was nineteen, I’d be all over Tinder for sure, because it’s such an easy way to pick people up. But it doesn’t mean it’s right. I don’t think it’s right. When I was nineteen, you’d meet a girl at a party or a college and you’d start talking to them, you’d generally have to meet the parents, and there would be very much making sure you’re the right match before you swipe left, swipe right.
It can be really brutal—making a judgement on someone in an instant. I see it as being what you’re currently into. It’s like Ikea furniture. They’re never going to be future antiques, because they’ll have completely fallen apart. They’ll be complete rubbish, because that’s how they’re manufactured, that’s how they’re made.
I feel there’s an element of romance that’s been lost within our societies today. What I try to do in my work, in this body of work, is bring the idea of romance back into it, bring the idea of a life partner back into it. I’m not necessarily saying that they’re good things. I don’t know that you should have one person for life. I’m just asking the question. I’m putting it out there.
In terms of your paintings, you often depict men in your romantic imagery as skeletons. Why is that?
People see them as being physically departed, or physically dead. That’s not necessarily how they are. They could be metaphorically dead, as in, you’re no longer in that relationship. These characters are somewhat part of me. Often people say, “Oh, that’s you in that painting,” but the idea is that it is about relationships, it is about romance, and it is about life and death and how people are treated. I guess part of that is making a painting that will supersede me. These paintings are going to be around for a lot longer than I’m going to be, one would hope, so there’s something in there about legacy as well.
Street art lends itself easily to anti-commercialist messages, because of its relation to pop art. Of all the experiences that have been commercialized, why focus on romance?
I don’t know if I want to be banging on to people, “Don’t drink Coke. Don’t wear Nikes,” because I wear Nikes and I’m drinking a can of Coke. It is a complete contradiction. Life’s tough enough already, without people ramming home everything that’s bad in life and everything you shouldn’t be doing. I don’t think it’s necessary, for myself, to be overtly trying to make political messages and statements. I have done in the past, and hopefully they resonate and stand stronger for me not doing it too much.
Romance and love is something that people can relate to in any way in every way, and it doesn’t matter what your race is, what your age is. You know whether you’ve been heartbroken. You know whether you’ve been deeply in love. You know whether you love that person. I think they’re pictures that people can relate to very easily.
Is there a particular inspiration behind your show at Corey Helford Gallery?
The paintings are based on murals I’ve painted around the world, so, realistically, you’ll see a back catalogue of work painted on canvases from the last five years. Each of them is directly linked to me. Each piece has a reason. Most, if not all, are related to the idea of relationships–things that I’ve witnessed or been a part of.
The difference for me is that when you work in a gallery, the work has to stand as art, and art alone, within the canvases and the body of canvases and sculptures and installation. During the opening, I’m going to marry someone. I’ve got ordained. We’re going to marry someone in the gallery, within the installation. It’s going to be very surreal, and I’m quite nervous about it.
What is next for D*Face?
From this, I want to carry on doing public art. I love making murals in the public domain. That’s something that’s really special to me, that interaction with people that won’t come to the gallery or have knowledge of my work within a gallery. I want to push myself three-dimensionally. I have some concepts that are very much removed from what you would recognize as being part of my body of work that I want to experiment with. Lots of talk of animation, live motion.
Any closing thoughts?
Go out and make a romantic gesture with somebody you love.
In case you missed it, D*Face’s art is sprawled across buildings all around the world.