Tearing Up, Sticking Down, Peeling Back: An Interview with D*Face
Last week we previewed the triumphant return to Los Angeles by London-bassed street icon, D*Face. The artist has had a lasting impact in LA for years, with murals and exhibitions on his CV and the city embraces his pop meets urban art aesthetic. Painting Over the Cracks, on view at Corey Helford Gallery, gave us a chance to speak to the artist again about his process and craft, how the pandemic helped reinvigorate his practice and why LA is special to him.
Evan Pricco: You have a long history with LA so must always be nice to make it back here. Did you make the work with a particular LA audience in mind?
D*Face: Damn it’s good to be back, for a while there it kinda felt like I might never make it back to LA! During those lock down years, It really made me appreciate all the amazing places I’d gotten to travel too and the incredible people I’ve met on those travels, LA has always felt like home from home to me. I grew up on Thrasher Magazine and skate films of the early 80’s, so California has always held a very special place in my heart.
For sure I try to tailor each show to the location and its audience, as much as one can do, especially with a city like LA, just because there’s so much to riff-off here. Hollywood and classic film definitely play a big part in this show - that’s probably the most obviously tailored part of this body of work and installation. I also tend to try and give people something unexpected though, too—having worked on this show for the past three years I’ve had a while to experiment and part of that is my own self-indulgence, I mean ultimately its all self indulgent, im making work that I'm into, keeping myself interested and amped and not wanting to only create one type of artwork for the show. There’s a big chunk of the show that really is new territory for me and that naturally comes with that slight feeling of anxiety— will people be into this or do they just want to see what they expect me to do. All of my shows have at least one piece that leads to a new body of work, this show given how big it is, allowed me to explore a few new directions pretty thoroughly, whilst retaining what I hope is the aesthetic that people appreciate from me.
What does "Painting over the Cracks" mean to you? I understand the term "paper over the cracks," but I think this is an interesting nod.
Painting Over The Cracks just felt more appropriate to me, mainly because after twenty plus years spent painting almost one hundred murals, I’ve done my fair share of actually painting over real cracks in real walls. I still wanted it to mean the same thing as the original phrasing though—that act of ignoring or hiding an issue in both the literal and metaphorical sense, putting on a brave face and pretending that “the issue” doesn’t really exist. My thinking was that after living through an unprecedented, historical moment in time, that saw us globally locked down as a result of the pandemic, we’ve all probably witnessed a few “cracks” of one kind or another appearing across society and culture—some fresh and some older.
In many of these cases it felt like the approach was to apply a big dollop of metaphorical paint to cover them up, only for the cracks to reappear worse further down the line. This show and body of work is a collection of my own personal observations and feelings from the last couple of years. The idea wasn’t so much to create a visual love-letter to what’s been lost, or a celebration of the change that the pandemic brought about—I think there’s been good and bad in both. It’s more of my own acknowledgement of the altered state of society, looking backwards and forwards.
You have been showing for years and in the street art spotlight for such a long time. Did the pandemic give you a chance, at all, to be nostalgic about what you have been able to be a part of? Or was it a good chance to just slow down? Or did you speed up?
Funny you ask, there’s actually a series of works in the show that are pretty much dedicated to exactly that. I broke my wrist skateboarding at the start of this year and it meant I couldn’t paint for a few weeks, which when you’re in the middle of preparing a show, is a big blow! I've often joked about how its if I race motorbikes, go skating etc. so long as I don’t break my wrist… and then boom, I do exactly that, so whilst laid up, feeling very stupid, I thought about how artists adapt to change and circumstance, like Matisses paper cut series, so I needed to find something to occupy myself with and keep on creating, and if there’s one thing that’s abundant in my studio, it’s stickers. They’re basically where it all started for me, literally hand making my own stickers and putting them up around London, and that’s something that’s persisted my entire career. So, I started playing around with the stickers I had stashed up over the years, ripping them up and making these mini collages in a sketchbook.
That act of tearing up, sticking down, peeling back and rearranging them created this odd and kind of ironic sense of rejuvenation, bringing a new energy to an aspect of my work that has been second nature for pretty much two decades, it connected the visual aesthetic of stickers built up on a skateboards and scratched and scraped away, to the stickers on a lamp post, layered up and weathered, it felt really authentic to me. From that, and when my wrist was on the mend, I decided that I could take these little collage pieces a step further by painting them at a giant scale and twisting the connection to the original, painting in all the cracks, layers and tone. They were a challenge to execute but it was a very welcome hurdle to overcome. They’re some of my favourite pieces in the show.
What is this particular show about? I know you have had so many shows in your career, and maybe the nerves have gone away, but how did the approach for this show come about?
The nerves definitely stick around but this show has been an awesome journey and I’m really excited for people to see it. During lockdown I’d been creating work, I’m producing and working on pieces and concepts just to keep myself occupied if for no other reason—I try to avoid stopping for any length of time, as for me it really effects how I work, I like ideas to bounce and trigger new ideas and concepts, I riff off that pace. I’d been discussing a new show with Corey Helford Gallery for some time and they reached out to me about locking a date in my schedule, that and reminiscing about the big blue LA sky and all my friends I hadn’t seen in years, the timing felt spot on. I’ve had a long history working with CHG and they’ve really gone above and beyond to fascinate my ideas on this show.
I certainly don’t expect or take people or my audience for granted, especially not during these times, so Im always apprehensive and nervous for the opening night. Hopefully the people of LA will turn up and enjoy the new work as much as I enjoyed painting it!
Anything you are doing around LA to keep us looking around? Or any stops you have to make in town?
We finished the mural in Beverly Hills just last week, which I’m told is the first or at least the biggest mural ever in that area, which is pretty nuts. There’s a plan for another street installation which is coming together even better than I’d expected - really excited to start showing that off and see the reaction it gets. It’s been a minute since I’ve been in town so there’s a lot of places to see and a lot of people to catch up with. There’s never enough time to do it all so you can bet I’ll be back again in the very near future.
D*Face's solo show at Corey Helford Gallery in downtown LA is on view through September 10, 2022.