Show me your moves:
The phrase scaling up carries several meanings. RUDE and H E X Prints had their say. Now Donk is helping us explore a more literal sense of it.
He explores his big format screen printing and later pastes up the artwork on the street. It is not unusual to walk around central London and see one of his projects, so keep your eyes peeled.
CHIMPAN: What’s “scaling up” for you? What does that expression mean?
Donk: Scaling up is not just literal, it’s metaphorical. A much bigger statement. A much bigger statement. Scaling up is about just growth. It’s allowing yourself to take risks. To potentially fail dramatically, perhaps even out of desperation. Ultimately, it’s about willing to commit.
C: In a busy world of street art, is size and scale a concern of yours? I assume it is, since you don’t really paste up anything tiny.
D: It really depends on the image. Some are meant to be bigger than others. It’s just the way it is. Each image has its treatment and it is only when pasting it up that I decide how to treat it. If the image itself is not massive, you can go about it through other methods, like repetition. Some pieces lend themselves quite nicely to that approach.
C: When did you start screen-printing?
D: It was only a while after I’ve started doing my paste-ups. I’d had my art photocopied and then distressed down, giving them a raggedy look. Sometimes even colour washing the photocopies in the living room. I’ve only started screen printing 5 years after my street art endeavours began.
C: I can see that you usually screen print in big formats. How come? Is that part of your scaling up notion?
D: I find no problem in proportionally scaling up my work. And it’s the same with screen printing.
I like printing big. I feel comfortable and it’s so intuitive that I went big straight away. I’m impressed when I see other printmakers doing something small.
A bit of a struggle for me is actually scaling down. People can already connect to my work on the streets, so the next natural step is to develop a deeper connection with people and my scaled down work. And that leads into the question of how to keep doing what I like on the streets and still get sell the prints I love doing as well.
I don’t really have a scaling up plan. (Donk laughs) Every now and then someone approaches me with a project that will potentially make my work reach everyone! That sounds good at first, but that’s not me. I want to stay true to my work.
I guess scaling up for me actually means scaling down size-wise!
C: What’s your biggest piece?
D: The “Higher Ground”! Coincidentally, that was the first time I’ve done a space specific piece as well. It’s just by the River Lea going to Hackney – I love that canal – and it shows a distressed and broken beauty. Proper of a film, in a no man’s land. I quite like how this piece can be so theatrical with its duality of depressing and optimistic notes. It has a pathos essence to it. Helps us transcend our reality.
C: How do you choose a wall?
D: You don’t really have a choice. When you see one that has some character and you like it, you just go for it. It boils down to how you think your work will fit. And sometimes it will fit in several and different ways. Repetition. We all love repetition and continuity. Shepard Fairey uses that technique a lot. That and some other techniques like cut-outs, for instance.
C: What’s next for Donk?
D: Something championing photography. I’m entertaining the thought of representing a certain idea. You see a lot of that in the 80’s graffiti scene and in photography. I’d like to combine the “candid” concept with photography. Nothing iconographic nor celebrity-stuff. Just everyday people.
It’s a challenge to transfer the everyday into heroism, yet it’s in our lives. It’s certainly in the background of what I do.
C: You sound like you admire Vhils’ work.
D: Yeah! I know of his work and respect it enormously. I love artists who glorify humanity. What it is to be no one. Everyday people are heroic in their own way, and I want to portrait that too.
C: What advice would you give to other creatives looking to go big?
D: The best advice would be to “try it out”. The hardest bit is to step outside. Just go and scare yourself. Paste something on the wall, you’ll feel much better.
In my case, I felt I wasn’t very happy. Having some creative issues and feeling predictable. It was me going “I’m really bored!” I needed to scare myself. Sure, I was in a reckless place doing reckless stuff, but it got some momentum and here I am.
Oh, and thin paper! (in between laughs) Don’t try to stick any heavy paper on a wall… Plus, it’s cheaper. No need to spend more money that necessary.
Date: 6th Dec. 2019
Author: Zé Monteiro