Whose Art is it anyway?

By Rachel Burnett, project participant and mentor.


David Dyer self- taught Artist is observing life and making a statement. His work is temporary, transient graffiti collage, silent powerful art which speaks volumes about marginalised and alienated people in the community trying to break down barriers and find their own voices through art.

His recent project ‘In the name of..’ lasted only a few hours yet left an indelible impression opposite Nottingham Contemporary Gallery on the opening night of the current ASCO and Geoffrey Farmer exhibition.

I managed to find out more about this interesting, up and coming artist/filmmaker. Once a trained counsellor managing a young offender’s project, a former boxer and coach, poet and filmmaker, David spent a year submerged in the exhibitions and evening programme talks at Nottingham Contemporary in a bid to learn about Art and become a self -taught artist.

“When I was at school I found it difficult because I have Dyslexia, so I would get sent out of class and draw…being creative helped me to express my feelings in a safe and healthy way…it’s so cathartic…people say art saves your life – I think it does..”

As a teenager David was in and out of young offender’s institutions, as an adult he battled with alcohol and drugs but turned his life around. Whilst he was in recovery, Nottingham Contemporary provided a safe space and an opportunity for him to learn about art.

“They facilitated me for a year – I had no understanding or concept of art and the staff helped me to grow and find my own voice….I asked a lot of questions! And I was often challenging! But the staff were knowledgeable and enabled me to empower myself….I would often sit in the gallery library during the day watching films and reading the art books – it kept me focused, inspired and clean…I was there 5/6 times a week..”

“From there I started with pencil drawing, my first attempts since school, I was inspired. I learnt there were no limits or conditions of what art can be – I loved the freedom of expression – I didn’t know that before…at school I was taught that art should represent reality, you know take one form of drawing, or painting….whilst drawing I found my style was similar to Gaugin and Matisse – so I thought maybe I can do art..”

David says he is influenced and inspired by Warhol, Turner and Banksy to name a few eminent artists…

After a car accident David was made redundant from his Job at Framework a homeless charity, he bought a video camera with his redundancy pay and started making social documentaries, he joined Confetti Media Group but was unable to do the courses because of his dyslexia. David set about teaching himself and has recently submitted three films to The Broadway Bang Festival Nov 2013.

So what was the idea for “In The Name Of…”?

“I researched ASCO, currently exhibiting in the gallery, I liked that they used photography like film stills and graffiti to make political statements, I like how they use art to free themselves from oppression…I chose the opening evening to show “In the name of..” – it somehow echoed and reflected ASCO’s early work…”

So what’s it about?

“It’s a statement about the state of the world – famine, wars, riots are depicted in the imagery and show that wars and violence are crimes done ‘in the name of’ terrorism, race, religion and how everything is done behind the cloak of government and religion. I chose the church wall because it’s now a wine bar…there’s a certain discomfort there for me…”


And what did the familiar image of the crucifix represent..?

“Jesus died for our sins, there are our sins in the images I chose…I thought it was the most religious thing on the wall! (Laughs)…”

So what’s your artistic process..?

My art is about having a vision and doing it…simple…I knew it would be taken down but for me the process was about doing the piece. Originally I was hoping it would stay up for a few days, but there’s no control with street art…I was going to spray the title ‘in the name of ‘ on the wall but I didn’t want to cross a line, I was only prepared to go so far…there is a fine line between art and vandalism…”

How did you feel when it was removed..?

“I ended up liking the image that was left behind in the removal process! It left its own mark. They tried to take it away but it still remains…like a poignant reminder…”

“The point was made, the art became something else, it evolved into something more…street art doesn’t always last but like ASCO I was reclaiming a public space with art…”

“I spent a year planning the piece, I would sit by the wall and envisage how it would look and work…it makes me feel good…it’s a gift to the public, it may make a stranger smile for a moment or think about things…The piece fulfilled my need for self- expression and in this sense the work was a success…”

What do you think about Nottingham Contemporary’s recent venture to engage with local Nottingham community groups like the Women’s Centre?

“I think gallery funding of community projects like Loudspeaker are really important because they enable people who are not in a financial position to make art and helps them to turn their dreams into reality…it’s brilliant that local people can be empowered through art…

Do you think there should be a programme in the gallery for local Nottingham Artists to have their own platform..?

“Yes I do….the gallery was built on the original Nottingham Town Hall site. Street art began its roots with the public writing graffiti on the town hall walls to express their opinions and feelings about politics and the law…I think it’s a great idea that the gallery is engaging with local community groups and opening the doors….it encourages people to try art, boosts their self- esteem, enriches the local economy and culture and makes art relevant to the people of Nottingham….Local people who have never been in an art gallery before are more inclined to return…”

David recalls a memory of visiting a friend’s house years ago….” This man had art all over his house and walls…but no one got to see it…I don’t think art should be exclusive, it should be inclusive….who knows where the next Turner is and whether he’s been and gone…”

His next project will be on a wall somewhere…out there…in a public space.



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