Provoke. An interview with Daniel Gardiner

Daniel Gardiner is a self-taught artist from Bristol, United Kingdom. His art is the fruit of various external stimuli and internal needs, a journey through the contradictions and the shades of human nature. He is the author of iconic compositions in which words and images follow and complete themselves to create a universal language.

Daniel Gardiner in his studio.

In the following interview, we have the opportunity to explore the origins of his creative process.

What is your background and your relationship with art?

A lot of my relationship with art has come through my relationship with my home city of Bristol. Growing up I didn't take much of an interest in the visual arts in a formal setting but I saw a lot of graffiti around my home city and found that very interesting. I think growing up in a city that has a lot of art on its walls draws you into it whether you're fully aware of it or not, plus Bristol is home to great street artists like Inkie, Cheo, Nick Walker and Banksy so you can't help but get inspired by them. The fact that street artists are usually self-taught like myself helped me to think that I could get involved with making art and create something that would give a voice to my own ideas and thoughts about the world and issues affecting myself and others. Later I discovered other artists through taking more of an interest in the history of art and discovered the works of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kurt Schwitters, Cy Twombly and many others. I really love the visual language that Basquiat created. The rawness of his work really spoke to me and Schwitters work helped me to realize that you could use different objects and collage in art, Twombly helped me to see that you could do a lot with simple lines and abstraction. All of these different ideas and visual cues have given me a relationship to art that I am really glad to have discovered and helped me to express myself in new ways and develop a strong affinity with visual art.

What types of art and culture do you like to consume?

I really love music and spend a lot of time listening to different bands, I particularly enjoy punk music as a genre and bands like Black Flag, Circle Jerks, Anti-Flag, Idles, I enjoy listening to them both on Vinyl and digitally but vinyl would be my preferred option. I enjoy both the sound and the DIY nature of the visual language and politics that accompanies it as well creating its own subculture. Visually I try to see different exhibitions in galleries both large ones and smaller ones with local artists in. I enjoy seeing the variety of work that is produced so I can discover something new artists work and get inspiration for my own art. I also enjoy walking around Bristol taking photos of street art that has popped up in different places. A lot of local businesses hire street artists to paint the outside of their shops so there is always something new to see around the city. Bristol also has Upfest which is Europe's largest Street art and graffiti festival that takes place once a year so artists are drawn to the city to paint all sorts of different buildings and make their mark so the landscape is always changing.

What is your artwork exploring, underneath everything?

For me my art is exploring the different issues that affect our world both my ideas about it and the way it functions. But also holding a mirror up to the world so that maybe through my work it helps other people to feel or think about the way it's run by our leaders or think about an issue affecting them or others. I don't want the work to tell people how they should think or feel about an issue too much but have them be confronted by something that is hopefully very honest to provoke them into thinking. So, for instance one of my works has an image of a red faced monster and the words there is always money for war, with this I wanted to communicate something that i think is true and hopefully the viewer will be provoked into a reaction only they can say how they feel about that statement and how accepting they are of it. Hopefully the visual naivety of the monster catches them off guard and they can see themselves reflected in the image. So, are they the monster smiling along with the statement? or are they repulsed by the statement the monster is making. I'm interested in my artwork provoking these reactions in people so that they think a bit more about the world around them and think about things that we just take for granted but possibly how these things might not be good for us.

Is there an artwork you are most proud of? Why?

I'm not particularly the type of person to be proud of my work. I finish something and tend to just move onto the next idea I have so I'm more interested in the next new idea than the one completed. But I would say the piece Ruled by Monsters is one that I think has particular merit in that it was the piece that helped me to have a breakthrough in making a visual language that I thought worked well and communicated an idea that I was happy with. The concept could just be read as like a statement that I was making that our leaders are monsters but hopefully it provokes that reaction I was talking about and triggers people to think and react to the statement, plus the visual image of the smiling monster is it accepting the statement positively or negatively. It also says honestly need not apply subtly in the background and again it was me attempting to provoke so is the monster happy that it need not apply or sad and how do you the viewer feel about that statement. The rawness, messiness and child-like quality I'm pleased with because I wanted it to be both disarming and raw at the same time.

What is your opinion about the future of art?

I think the future of art at the moment is great in that we are seeing more artists get exposure to the public through platforms like Instagram and that in turn more people are engaging with art because of Instagram as well. It's also great for developing an audience for your work and being able to be in conversation with other artists so is creating these communities of people who can feed off and find inspiration from each other. Online galleries and platforms for artists to sell their work has been great because it has given artists a way to have their work exposed to a global audience and create a following which otherwise, they wouldn't have had. I think that more and more art will find its way online and more work will hopefully have an impact on people's lives because of this.

At the same time, I also worry for the future of art because of the Coronavirus threatening to close so many different avenues that artists normally use to show their work. If the smaller galleries and businesses close because of Coronavirus it will be very hard for artists to show their work at smaller venues to garner more experience to add to their portfolios and also these are places that artists rely on for income so we could see less artists able to make a living. If we want to see a robust art industry then we need help from governments to save these places so art can continue to thrive in communities.