The Stolen Space gallery has been at the forefront of the London contemporary art scene for the past few years and its curator, the artist & illustrator known as Dface has been, in our opinion, one of the top curators currently in London. We find out what it takes to be a gallery owner in the current UK economic climate and learn how some risks can payoff.
- Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
D: My mum bought me the book Subway Art when I was a kid and she didn't realise what she had done because this was one of the most important things that influenced my life. As a white kid growing up in the suburbs of London, this was the inspiration.
I tried copying the letters and handstyles and wanted to be a graffiti artist without fully realising what it was all about. I would knick paint from my dad's garage and dabble in some painting but I was never any good at it. During highschool I got into skateboarding, which was another factor that directed my life. I loved the visual elements of skateboarding and wanted to try and make skateboard graphics. I managed to blag my way onto a two year foundation course in Illustration & Animation which helped to give me some direction and led onto doing a degree in Illustration & Design. I ended up working as an llustrator and designer in an agency and got really fed up with the creative process which I didn't find to be very creative at all. By the time the brief had filtered down to me, the design was pretty diluted and didn't allow for much creative input on my part.
So I continued doing some of my own work on the side, just stuff like stickers and posters, which gave me some creative release. The agency had machinery, photocopiers and marker pens and whilst I was working there, I would just rinse them for all my own projects. I did this for years, teaching myself how to screenprint in my loft as well as vinyl stickers. After a while, my personal work began to surpass my regularly paid work and I just wanted to concentrate on the personal side. My girlfriend, who was very supportive, told me to just quit my job and try to push the personal work full-time and see where it would take me.
- What's your favourite medium to work with at the moment?
D: It has to be screenprinting at this very moment. I think that my art translates well with screenprinting, as I am trying to achieve a very clear and clean look which can be very time consuming if you try painting in that way. But it can change, like for instance exploring more sculpture and then to mixing hand painting with screenprints. It's hard to give an overall medium that is actually better than the rest.
- Tell us about the concepts for the installation you did where your D-Dog has smashed into a car. What show was it for?
D: It was made for the "Death & Glory" show that I did in Oct 2007 in which all the pieces for the show were loosely based around a military theme. The character has been put up around London and many other countries, from small stickers to large posters to a vinyl toy and I wanted to try and create one that looked like it could actually be piloted. We spun this story that it was a military experiment, called a Drone Dog, that had been sent out to fight wars but all of the Dogs had gone AWOL and never returned to base. However, one happened to crash land onto a car right outside the gallery; it allowed me to have a sculptural element to my show.
The creative process isn't just about painting canvases or producing graphic imagery, for me it's about exploring other methods from 3D sculptures, to making ice sculptures in the Arctic Circle. Everything to me can be seen as open ground for experimenting because if you don't explore and try out new methods, you will never know what is wrong for you and what works best with your style.
- What concepts are you trying to achieve with the gallery that you run?
D: I run a gallery called Stolen Space which was originally an umbrella for my own art and other artists. I liked the idea of artists "stealing space". Originally, when my wife was writing for Graphotism, we decided to put an ad for products that came under the brand of Stolen Space.
These products couldn't possibly exist but we tried to make them look sellable. Stuff like oversized markers, bombing belts and huge stickers. This went for about two years until I got the gallery sorted. It was a place where I could show artists whose work had seen and heavily involved with. Even though alot of the art had originally come from the streets, I felt that if treated carefully, it was possible to transfer it into the gallery. I wanted to provide a creative melting pot where artists could be represented fairly and have a gallery that is artist run and led. I met Jason, who is a partner in Stolen Space, and I told him of my ideas for a gallery and how it should be run., starting small and maybe having satellite spaces. He said that this was all possible with the Truman Brewery Complex so we took a small storage space and converted half of it into my new studio and the other half into the gallery.
3 years later, we are still going strong and our client database is growing strong; something that doesn't happen overnight. Our ethic is to show artists that are unknown next to artists that are known and give everyone an equal chance to get their works seen and raise their profile.
- What are some of the most memorable shows you have been involved with?
D: At the Outside Institute, my old gallery, I brought over Seen for his first London show and the launch of the gallery, that was pretty monumental. It was great to hang out with Seen and we have become good friends. To have someone that, as a kid, you really admire and then to have him as a friend is a great experience.
The UK themed show where we had 30 UK artists, each with an equal share of wall space was an amazing show too and it looked fantastic. Conor Harrington's first solo show in London was great, I have alot of faith in Conor and it was a great pleasure to help him realise something that I had promised. I had originally wanted him to do a solo show at the Outside Institute, but then we had to close down. So with Stolen Space, we were able to give him the solo show that he deserved and it was a real success. Also, the Shephard Fairey show was great. He is someone who I draw inspiration from as well as being a friend of mine and I had wanted to do a show with him for more than six years. The event was pretty historic and to stand back from it and see the finale really pleased me.