David Bray is an illustrator and designer whose works are a glimpse into another world, a surreal landscape of cartoon characters and pin-up girls. His surreal new show Wrong Turn is open now at Stolenspace Gallery.
BM -Text is almost always present in your drawings, but often it seems to have little connection with the drawing itself, what is the relation between the two elements?
DB - In my mind there is a connection, two separate elements from the same story. I try and invoke the drawings with a narrative. Maybe this gets lost as the drawings develop but the text remains - like a chapter title or a header. There is a hint of misdirection with the text.
BM – You often draw onto unorthodox papers, e.g. lined paper, hotel paper, postcards etc. This gives the work a spontaneous and haphazard quality, which contrasts nicely with the exquisitely drawn forms. Is this an intentional thing or do you just draw on whatever you have to hand?
DB - I'd like to say it was intentional and could claim a more intelligent reasoning! I draw on whatever is to hand, there’s no reason to not draw just because you don't have the posh paper. I'm glad that you see the spontaneous nature - it very much is to get the drawing down as soon as the idea comes, so it is using what is to hand. No point in waiting to get to the art shop to get material. No point in procrastination. Not all the drawings come out right, and not all the ideas are particularly smart - but the itch needs to be scratched.
BM – I have noticed that you seem to sketch a drawing first before you draw it, and then exhibit the sketches as well as the more polished drawing. How important is this process of sketching and then exhibiting both?
DB - The quick sketch is to get the idea on paper before distractions fritter it away. Old brain needs cue cards. I never use to show these naive little sketches, but they have their own charm and thought, and they add another to dimension to the whole.
BM – What relevance have the cartoon characters which you often parody, to the artworks that you juxtapose them into?
DB – I was obsessed with cartoons as a child and would copy them repeatedly. Maybe something about this repetition was comforting against the chaos of the outside world. I'm dragging back the comfort of childhood and soothing my fevered brow as the bills stack up and real life comes calling.
BM – In the press release I noticed that some of your influences are very sexual, (Eric Stanton, Nobuyoshi Araki) and oddly perverse (Eric Gill). Why do you think that sexuality is such a great source of inspiration for a lot of artists?
DB – We are all perverts. I see a similar influences in your work Mr. Murphy.
BM – Did you really meet the Yossarian character or is that a reference to Catch-22, and if so can you please tell me a little more about the encounter?
DB – I went with Georg Lubitzer to the States because he wanted to make field recordings of soil for a project he is working on. I don't ask why, but always glad to be on board. Unfortunately 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 a hint of hostility but I think when they realised we were not C.I.A. and just a couple of European idiots it became an interesting week.
They introduced me to the Illuminatus Trilogy amongst other things and when we left they handed us a list that we needed to use in our next respective projects. I've stayed true to the promise I rashly made.
The main man up the mountain was calling himself Yossarian, and 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. I was drawn in and fell right in line, which 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 the 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 path.
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. On the list that Yos wrote, the first 3 lines were 'find wood', 'find paint', and 'find brushes'. Within a week of returning home all this stuff had appeared, previously hidden but now ready and available. It 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. The drawings became a blend of these elements and subjects.
BM – The title Wrong Turn suggests that you are taking a different route with your artwork, or that you regret what has gone before. Is this the case, and if not what does the title mean to you?
DB – the show is called Wrong Turn...without the error in direction none of this would have happened. But this also reflects that the new body of work is a swerve to a different route, a different way of presenting my ramblings.
I don't regret anything that has gone before, I’m just looking for new ways to test myself and keep myself interested. If you stick on the same path, the familiar route then you create a rut - there is safety in the security of repeating yourself but sometimes you have to climb out of the ditch and try run up the hill. You might not make it to the top but at least you gave it a go. For me to talk about running up hills is actually quite wrong. A better analogy would be shuffling to the pub but ordering a gin and tonic rather than the usual.
David’s show is on at Stolenspace gallery until the 12th of April.