TNC Interview 2021
Photography © Jake Green
There is something really rewarding and inspiring when we get the opportunity to talk with artists like Stephen Anthony Davids. Self-taught Davids work is lifted immensely by a style and vision that is entrancing and tells a story that is as emotionally rich as it is touchingly detailed.
Hi Stephen thank you for talking to The New Current, how has this time provided you with any new creative inspiration or opportunities?
The last 18 months have allowed me to reflect on my practice and have quality time in the studio. A big inspiration has been through seeing so much variety of other black artists work online and becoming more accessible to mainstream. Whilst BLM being in the media was a pivotal moment and the killing of George Floyd and the outpouring from it triggered a conversation; for me it forced a reflection into the complexity of the black male identity
As a self-taught artist, what were the biggest challenges you faced building a name for yourself on the London art scene?
Bias, classism and being seen as a legitimate artist by many who view those who are from outside the Art School system with question based on an inherent snobbery. Whist the issues of race within the structure of those in the establishment is something that has been part of the journey, it has been the issue of class and perceptions people have of you based on a pre-conceived bias that is in the Art world.
The challenges are presented by those who are unable to see beyond their own bias based on what they do not understand. The challenges I have faced has been navigating a scene (like any scene) which has hierarchies and sub scenes that seem to governed by knowing the right curator or having attended the right college at the right time. I haven’t mentioned the egos.
Because of this access has been difficult as Art School affords you an in road and gives a level of legitimacy to people when they initially meet you. By being outside of the circuit you have to rely on sheer gusto, tenacity and a desire to keep on pushing through.
Ironically, it is the challenges that fuel my desire and continue to inspire me.
How much is your work influenced by your East London community?
My work is influenced a lot by the diverse East London and wider communities I may move amongst. I have a genuine interest in people and with my consultancy work as a Behaviour Consultant in Education I am always observing behaviour and how people interact. This influences my approach to the characters I draw and paint where part of my work explores isolation, identity and culture.
Can you tell me a little bit about your work?
My work provides observations of social history - rooted in present day London and paralleled with other cultures and eras - addressing questions about inclusion and equality, in relation to race, gender and socio-economic status. The inclusivity of my approach to art is reflected in my love of folk art and reverence for the form, character and artistic potential of found objects, onto which I paints or makes light interventions that emphasise their inherent narratives.
Davids’ paintings are immediate, personal expressions, a result of a compulsion to work in the moment. On the other hand, they are also cumulative, amounting to an interrelated body of work that is like an archive: an accretion of artistic, cultural and historical material manifest in paintings on surfaces and objects that enhance the symbolism. Solitary figures are David’s primary subject, with a focus on the eyes as a vehicle for communication and expression. The physical traits and social situations that he reflects are memories and observations accumulated from a life full of rich experiences.
Is it hard to let go of a piece of work once you've completed it?
I always ask a collector who purchase my work to send me a picture in situ. However there are works I have kept in my personal collection that are key pieces that are pivotal to my artistic development and I couldn’t sell.
I saw your work at an installation in Madrid and you have have exhibited in London, New York, Paris and Belgium, what is the feeling you get when you get to exhibit your work in these fantastic cities?
I love all these cities and any time I able to show my work it is an honour for me to show what I can do the public.
Where did your passion for art come from and how much has your approach to your art changed since you started?
My passion for art is natural I have and I was born with it. As a visual learner you learn by reading or seeing pictures. You understand and remember things by sight. You can picture what you are learning in your head, and you learn best by using methods that are primarily visual. I am equally passionate about design, culture, history and music. My passion for art a love of creating and paint, visual story telling through the pictures.
"Be influenced by what you see, what you hear and what you are taught but develop your own language that becomes a signature to your work."
Do you have any advice or tips you would offer an emerging artist?
Resilience and to carve out your own path. Be you. Be influenced by what you see, what you hear and what you are taught but develop your own language that becomes a signature to your work.
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from your work?
SAD is having fun and has something to say.