25 Mar In conversation with David Bray
StolenSpace Gallery proudly displays ‘Wrong Turn’ a solo exhibition by London-based artist David Bray. Bray’s inspiration for this exhibition developed when traveling around America and meeting a man named Yossarian who helped and enthused Bray with ‘Wrong Turn’. A warped sense of humour and tone of voice is evident through his work, using basic drawing tools, such as pens, pencils and paper, Bray creates delicate and time consuming drawings which explore emotion, utopia and a world of fantasy through his subject matter.
SS: With your father working at the Royal Academy of Arts, you grew up amid art and creativity. How was your relation to the art world and in what way did it influence your choices? Did you ever feel overwhelmed?
DB: Growing up I was pretty much surrounded by art and artists. I didn’t really know any different. As a kid you’d meet someone, and it was just a funny man with blonde hair and round glasses. I didn’t particularly know about their reputations or what they did, or particularly care. I would have been more interested in the Smurfs and the 6 million dollar man turning up at the house. I was always drawing, and knew I wanted to do something creative. That I ended up at art-college doing graphic design. I don’t think I was much of a designer – more interested in what I was into rather than trying to impart information on somebody else’s behalf.
SS: Do you have any particular artists who influenced or inspired your work more than others? In which way?
DB: There are loads. Some are for stylistic reasons, others for subject, maybe just colour palette. The main one though I guess is Helmut Newton. Everything he has ever done is there: Beauty, humour, darkness, and a narrative.
SS: Where do your characters come from? Are the ladies you depict in your work taken from reality?
DB: From reality, from life drawing, from art, from photography – wherever is necessary to get it looking right. I think I hoped that the drawing would be at such a level that you stop noticing the drawing and start noticing the humour or questioning what’s going on with the subjects, what their story is.
SS: Your works are mainly delicate and beautiful drawings. Can you explain more about this choice and the path that lead you to that? Can you tell us more about your style and the technique you use?
DB: Its weird, I have never seen them as delicate. You know me, I am not a particularly delicate person and I certainly don’t look very delicate. I’m more of a bumblebee than a butterfly. However I guess the fine line work and detailing is quite fragile. I tend to use pen/pencil, whatever I have to hand. The nature of whichever pen I’m using tends to dictate the line. I was very short of funds for a while, so I started using the free biros from bookies. I like the idea that from something quite utilitarian you can create something unique and beautiful and otherworldly and fantastical. Its always been a part of what I do – cheap felt tips and jotter pads from the corner shop, free biros, avoiding the art shop but trying to create something ‘classical’. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. However it is all about playing and having fun and not getting stuck in a rut.
I guess if I just had big chisel markers I’d be trying to create a fluid line with that the new pieces for ‘Wrong Turn’ are more graphic but I hope that the line used has the same flow. I’m not even sure I’m answering the question any more! The lines I create are just the lines that come out. Drawing is not a very conscious thing. The less I think about it while I do it the better it appears to work.
SS: Is there any message behind your work that you want to communicate?
DB: Be excellent to each other.
SS: Some of your artworks show dark elements. Is this related to life’s dark side in general or is there any hint to personal experience?
DB: My life has generally been a candy floss funfair, no darkness here. I think growing up in suburban London in the 1970’s and 1980’s has scarred me. Everything seemed normal on the surface, but just underneath bubbling away was always the threat of latent violence and being behind closed doors in these places everyone was a bit fucking odd. There were only 2 and a half TV channels and no internet. Computers were the size of buses and not for the likes of us – so there was more opportunity for idle hands to get busy.
SS: Do you listen to music while you draw? Do you have an artist/ band/ genre that inspire you more?
DB:I always listen to music. No particular band or genre – depends on my mood when I get up. On rotation right now is the soundtrack to ‘only lovers left alive’. I am quite lucky, I used to do a lot of music stuff for bands and get sent stuff for free. A couple of labels couldn’t pay but send all their new stuff. I like getting music in the post. I’d prefer being able to pay the bills, but music in the post is good. Like Christmas every month.
SS: Last year you spent few weeks on a trip getting lost in America. Can you tell us more about it, any interesting and exciting adventures?
DB: I went with Georg Lubitzer. He was off to the states because he wanted to record the sound of car tyres on American soil for a project he is working on. I didn’t ask why, but I’m always glad to be on board. We are very poor at orientation and took a few wrong turns. One in particular that led us up a mountain to a small encampment / community. At first there was a bit of suspicion with the hint of hostility but I think when they realised we were not the C.I.A or a couple of European idiots it was an interesting week. They introduced me to the illuminatus trilogy amongst other things and when we left handed us a list that we needed to use in our next respective projects. I’ve stayed true to the promise I rashly made.
SS: You also mentioned the encounter with a character who gave you a list of things you should use in your work. It sounds as a magical encounter with a mysterious and mystical creature. Can you reveal more about both the character and the list?
DB: The main man up the mountain was calling himself Yossarian. He was the most ‘alive’ person I have ever met. He seemed genuinely interested in the things we were up to in our everyday lives. I’m not sure he thought too much about a lot of what I’d been up to, and said he would create a list of elements that I had to use to ‘open the gate that I found myself barred by’. He was very insistent and I was drawn in and fell right in line. So this is why the show looks like it does. Each piece has what looks like randomly placed elements, but these are actually placed specifically to map star constellations. These constellations contain a message from earth to the universe (so I’m told, and who am I to argue. I’m not going to argue with the universe. I’m from Bromley) there are many other codas that I barely understand / understood but visually they work and make a cohesive show so I think I followed the right
SS: Can you tell us more about your ‘Wrong Turn’ show at StolenSpace Gallery?
DB: Everything is painted on found boards and framed in reclaimed timber. The paint used was found while clearing my father’s garage – the same with the brushes. The list that Yos wrote, the first 3 lines were ‘find wood’ ‘find paint’ ‘find brushes’. Within a week of returning home all this stuff had appeared, previously hidden but now ready and available. This made me feel quite weird to be honest. For every influence I told him I was currently into he wrote a ‘counterpoint’, with versus against it. So if I said ‘Eric Stanton’ he wrote ‘versus Eric gill’ and so on. So the drawings became a blend of these elements and subjects. The show is called ‘wrong turn’ because without the error in direction none of this would have happened.
SS: Any plans for the future you can share with us?
DB: Looking for this gate that will apparently open up.