Guy Denning (1965 - )
There is a rebellious & defiant attitude to Guy Denning's work, which provoke discussion & debate due to his politically charged subject matter. His first show featured paintings connected to the 9/11 terrorist attack. Although created at the time of this atrocity, a period of time needed to elapse before the public were ready to revisit this trauma & Denning timed this to perfection as the discussion created from this show propelled him into the mainstream art scene.
< 'The Dependence', 2012
His subjects seem to possess a long standing anguish, which has consumed them to the point of acceptance. A subtle comfort is displayed within the acceptance of their reality, which relieves them from the burden that a victim may carry. A certain power manifests itself in this refusal to endure further suffering.
Starting with numerous sketches of his subject he then begins to paint in portraiture form. Using powerful brushstrokes he takes us away from traditional portraiture into a more abstract surrounding conveying strong emotions. He goes on to scratch the paint in different directions to introduce a true intensity to his work similar to that of Rebecca Blow.
He proceeds by attacking, layering & disfiguring the initial portrait outlines by adding bold lines & reckless scratches to give an impression of a tainted soul. This expressive display is further enhanced by techniques such as blacking out eyes and mouths, which evoke a dramatic sense of darkness & despair. Further embellishments such as the use of stencils and collaged text provide his paintings with greater depth.
Never shy in bringing a topic to the forefront of public attention, Denning has chosen such subjects as the insecurities abhorrent to celebrity culture, the pharmacological treatment towards mental health & sexual politics to communicate powerful sentiments. He continues to provoke controversy by providing a forum for interesting debate.
'fanno lamenti in su li alberi strani', oil and collage on canvas (two panels), 2010
Vanity Fair by Guy Denning The Story of Odette, 2010
Our father, Forgive us our fuck-ups, Surge successful. Stop now. Watch this. The cardinal virtue of media temperance'
And let us lie well remembered
'Ambitioned like a rat gnaw', 2013 'La plus longue chute', 2013
September Dossier Jocelin's nail, 2009
1.) As an international artist having exhibited in Italy, Germany, France & United States what comparisons have you made from the wider art scene?
It's interesting to see how insular each country's respective art world seems to be. Wherever I go I am asked if I know the work of various celebrity artists, but with only a few exceptions they are generally unknown to me. If I raise the names of the UK's supposed top artists they too are frequently unknown outside of the UK. I suspect that this is a phenomenon that will disappear with the advent, and increasing use, of social media like Facebook spreading any given name, message or image far more liberally than traditional nation-bound media. Even language is not the barrier that it once was with freely available, and instantly working, translation tools for anything viewed online. I think that any distinctive national characteristics, or fashions, of a community's art will slowly start to dissolve away as culture increasingly becomes homogenised. Though the greater spread of a potential audience is appreciated by those showing their work this way I think the enthusiasm has to be tempered with an awareness of this potential problem. As soon as we have a single global culture we will be back in the same space where variety is lost at the expense of the uber-celebrity.
2.) Evocative work, what would you say is the overriding emotion in the creation of your work?
I make each piece of work independently. Personally I do not feel that there is an overriding emotion in my work beyond the aspiration to affect people. I can only paint from my own experience; I can't predict the response of an audience as their interpretation will be driven by their personal issues and cultural identities.
3.) I understand that you were not accepted into art education at a younger age. Has this experience influenced your style of work?
It hasn't influenced how I've made the work beyond the fact that I've chosen for myself which artists to draw technical lessons from. I've never been interested in whatever's been fashionable - just what's been interesting (to me). I think that in my early twenties I exposed my eye to far broader diversity of art production (not just painting) than most of the students that were my contemporaries. In fact, many of the people that I know from that time who were successful in their applications to art college, were more interested in the social side than the academic side of that time of their lives.
4.) Are you inspired by any of your peers in the contemporary art scene?
There are pieces of work by others that have given me a lot of ideas technically and subject wise but I can't say that there are any contemporary artists whose work has consistently 'inspired'. There are only four artists in history (and my history, because of my age, is invariably tied to the western canon of art) that I could say have stayed with me from my youth as being inspirational: Kathe Kollwitz, Francisco Goya, Franz Kline and RB Kitaj.
5.) You have contributed in progressing the contemporary art scene by participating in artist led movements, such as Stuckism & the Neomodern Artist Group. How do you view the importance of art collectives & what impact can they have on the wider art community?
All artist groups in art history are interesting in that they usually come with a simplified underlying dogma that highlights an aspect of the cultural or social zeitgeist that they inhabit. They're important in that they can act as some kind of glue to a disparate bunch of isolated artists who may feel they need a community to work with, particularly with regards to Stuckism and the neomodernist movement that were formed independently of each other - but with certain (though not all) shared aims. They should be looked at as temporary affairs though - and kicked against as much as they kicked against whatever brought about their appearance in the first place.
6.) Do you embrace modern technologies in your preparations?
Certainly. I can research the written references in my painted work now far much easier than I could before the internet. If a political subject needed thorough research in the 80s and early 90s it would take a great deal of time and patience at local libraries whereas now it's instant - and quite literally at the tips of my fingers. I can also capture news images from video available online whereas before the internet I would be stood in front of a TV screen with a manual camera - and a large bag of luck...
7.) How do you see your work developing in the future?
I don't know. If I had certainty about where my work was going I'd cut out the journey in the middle and just do whatever the end result was meant to be. All I can hope to do is to make increasingly stronger paintings that mean as much to an audience viewing as they do to me painting...
8.) What advice would you give to an aspiring artist at this time?
Don't expect miracles. Just put the work in and treat it like it's a job. If you have to do it then nothing will stop you. it might mean painting at night and supporting the obsession with crap jobs in the day - but that's the price of the need to make whatever you have to make. If you can walk away and not do it then it's probably not that important to you - find something else to do other than art. Be true to yourself.
9.) What do you do when you are not painting?
I worry about wasting time that I should be spending painting.
10.) Can you sum up the modern day art scene in 3 words?
There to take.....
In interview with influential artist Guy Denning.