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Artasty interview with Jonathan Darby
Hi, Can you introduce yourself for us? (Where you from etc…)
Hello. My name is Jonathan Darby. I live in the shire and I play with flowers and rabbits. When I am not doing that I make large socio-political paintings.
What’s your background? Art school? Self learner? Art for Dummies?
I went to a really nice hippy Steiner school, it was awesome, I think I loved it, but I got expelled. I didn’t pursue art seriously at that tender age but one day when I was sketching Bart Simpson riding a massive wave I decided that I wanted to take on something more challenging. So I applied to Central Saint Martins and did a foundation course and then a BA in fine art.
I never learnt or was taught how to draw or paint. I’ve been sketching since a very early age. I remember I had a massive period between the age of 6 and 9 where I only used to religiously draw Bart Simpson surfing. One day I found a dusty copy of Martha Cooper and Henry Chalfant’s Subway Art on the bookshelf. I developed a fascination for graffiti and I remember constantly browsing the book. I would copy lettering from the masters until I began to develop my own style. By the age of 12 I was well and truly hooked, sketching at any opportunity. I only started to really take things further once I started university.
How will you describe your art for somebody who doesn’t know your stuff?
I make large images, always figurative (faces mostly), depicting people in a socio-political context of manipulation by external forces. I paint people who have been exploited/conditioned by mega agencies such as the political war machine and corporate commerce. I am currently focusing on children in my work. I believe that the future is very much determined by the experiences that children are having today. This is the subject matter that my current work deals with. I find that combining the innocence of children with the devastating realities in which they live in very profound. Therefore, I often juxtapose and intertwine symbols of human distress with beautiful images of people.
What are your favourite materials to work with?
I like scraping paint. It makes me feel good. Splatts are fun too, who doesn’t enjoy splatts?
I work with acrylic, spray paint, emulsion and a couple of secret ingredients.
How long does it take you to produce a piece? Do you start out with a sketchbook or do you freehand all the way?
A piece usually takes me several nights to complete, I don’t really use a sketchbook. I usually come up with an idea and then envision an appropriate image. The initial marks are very loose and free. When I begin to paint the image I usually start by making a mish-mash of paint on the canvas, anything goes, any media, and any kind of marks. Once I am happy with that I begin to paint a figure on top of the mish-mash. This part is not very free at all as I am careful not to fully paint the figure, I like to let the mish-mash from behind come through and I leave bits of the figure unpainted so that the underlying layers still show. When this is complete I overlay and intertwine logos and imagery that reflects the context of the work.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I have always been absolutely obsessed with drawing the human face. I have such a strong impulse to portray human emotion/life. I still find it incredible that one can make a living thing or produce life by making a few marks on a surface. It still blows me away and gives me the same excitement as ever. This impulse combined with the satisfaction is why I make art, I need to have that feeling.
Do you paint/draw/work outside sometimes? Where can we see your stuff?
Not yet, I am about to paint the wall outside Signal Gallery tomorrow. I have a solo show there and it has become a tradition for the artist to paint the outside wall. COME CHECK IT.
Who influence you the most, any favourite artist(s)?
I don’t have any particular artists that are a direct influence on me. I love figurative work, VERY MUCH. Generally the urban arts is where my focus is. There is a lot of great stuff around at the moment.
My parents too. I am back at home with the parents where we have a fantastic studio space. Both of my parents were artists and they are my ultimate critics, RUTHLESS.
Living as an artist is sometimes difficult financially, any part time job?
No, I suck my parents dry of every last drop of cash, food, sanity. No joke.
What do you think of the current “Street Art” movement?
Vibrant, Fresh, Juicy as ever. I thinks it’s a very exciting time to be part of the urban arts movement. As resources are becoming more accessible, artists are becoming more and more ambitious in their ways. Things are getting bigger and badder, in the most positive ways. It is quite obvious that a strong socio–political voice/consciousness is present nowadays, I think that’s a great thing.
Best Gallery in the world? and why?
Hmmmmm….very very tricky. PASS!>>
Best City to paint outside? and why?
Black Rock City, Burning Man, Nevada. No matter how bad the dust storms and hurricane winds, you will never ever ever be lacking inspiration in burning man. Never.
Beer and Fag or Tea and Biscuit?
Beer and Fag, no doubt.its happeining right now, as we speak.
What are your plans in the near future? Any upcoming exhibitions?
I have been working on my first solo show for the past couple months, the show is at Signal Gallery. I just delivered all my work today and the show runs from 17th Sep – 10 Oct.
I have just been offered a residency in a very nice location in Australia for the next couple of months (which I will be taking) and I have received an invitation to take part in a show in a well-respected venue abroad but cannot reveal the details just yet.
I am planning to start exhibiting abroad from now on, as I need to spread the seeds.
I see my work moving away from a consumerist focus and heading towards a more humanitarian theme. Eventually I would like to take my work to the relevant environments and create site-specific work. I would also like to make work as a direct response to what I see when in these environments of humanitarian trauma. I want to use my work as tool to expose what is happening and bring awareness.