Contextual Enquiries: Self conducted interview


Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Daniel Berry and I am a painter. Most of my art to date has dealt with figurative subject matter.

I have always been drawn to darker traumatic art from gothic renaissance painters such as Albrecht Dürer, modern painters such as Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon to recent contemporary painters like Kwangho Shin, Chloe Early and Antony Micallef. 

I am particularly interested in figurative painting because, as a human being, painting people just comes naturally. I wouldn’t say I was a portrait painter per se as that is a pretty restrictive label, and I don’t like the idea of being held to one subject or medium. Even calling myself a painter feels restrictive sometimes.

How do you work?

I’m not a morning person so I’m up and ready to paint for about 10:30-11:00am, but I will probably work up to 11:00pm. I use a converted room in my apartment at the moment.

I won’t work for less than 6 hours a day, 3 days a week. I will average about 30 hours a week in total. I’m not the fastest but I’m getting quicker. Painting on an A1 scale can take me between 2 days and a couple of weeks. 

Why Art?

This is always difficult question but I am acutely aware of the need to answer it. I need to make art, I feel that I am biologically and physiologically ‘put together’ in a way that makes art something I can’t turn away from. It is difficult to deny the importance art has in life, it requires forward thinking,  90% is the scrutinising and analysing inside your head, art is all about transferring those thoughts into something tangible. 

I do also recognise the importance of the role of the viewer/audience. It is up to the viewer to judge what is represented, to dissect their own reaction, and to examine how the image presented resonates in their own conscious. That reaction is intrinsically linked in the evolution of the artists own practice.

Explain your current practice? 

My practice is definately in a state of constant change. I deal mostly, but by no means exclusively, with paint. There is no point over analysing my reason for using paint. I use it because of its immediacy, it needs no explanation, but through contemporary art that immediacy can be challenged, distorted or simply built upon. Every now again the relevance of painting in contemporary art is questioned and perhaps accused of being archaic. To me this akin to finding music irrelevant when all of the existing notes have been played. There is much more to painting than depicting the sky as blue and the grass as green.

My art reflects the interests I have in life. I have always been interested in current affairs, the media, what it portrays and how we assimilate what we are seeing. In the past I have distanced that interest from my art but now I completely embrace it. 

One of my most important considerations is the ethics involved in portraying an image of say a landline victim and painting that said person. I think research is of the upmost importance in this consideration as without researching the subject, any attempt to recreate them is hollow. I want to focus my work on the human aspect whilst not necessarily aiming to send a political message. 

What theme is your current work taking?

The start of my research surrounded Pol Pots ill fated revolution in Cambodia. I was stuck by not only the scale of the destruction that followed but by its current place in history. It has been forgotten like so many other similar tragedies as we have become indifferent to watching them unfold around the world. I have used photographs, films and stories from the past and the present, from the Cambodian genocide and the Holodomor (Great Hunger) in Soviet Ukraine to recent conflicts in Central African Republic (CAR)  and The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). 

It is to protest against the fact that these images can be and have been forgotten again and again as history continues to repeat itself.  My work is a narrative of untold stories, unspoken memories and an inspection of why we have become so used to images of horror.


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