Plenty of us had wild childhood aspirations; ideas of what we wanted to be when we were older that seem far fetched, if not ridiculous, in hindsight. Few of us had a gravitational pull to something that began at a young age which we carried along with us until it was something we were able to make a reality. But that’s something that happened to multimedia street artist D*Face.
Formally known as Dean Stockton, D*Face was drawn to graffiti throughout his childhood; something that he in part attributes to Henry Chalfant’s coverage of New York graffiti in his books “Spraycan Art,’ and “Subway Art.” This fascination evolved into an natural affiliation with skateboarding during his teens, and the stickers and graphics of skateboard decks and DIY nature that came with it. The multimedia techniques heavily used in skateboarding culture is certainly something that stuck with Stockton, as he’s revered for employing a variety of mediums throughout his work.
There is a playful element to many of D*Face’s works, which are all the while supported by a strong backbone of a concept. “Read & Destroy” is an ongoing project which harks back to Dean’s childhood, using books he’s had from young age. It involves hybridising books by chopping parts up to create new sections of texts and titles; thus reinterpreting old books into new ones, the only rule of thumb being that each book must cost no more than £1. And simple, self-imposed limitations like these encourage creative results to prosper. Employing multiple mediums is a recurring theme throughout D*Face’s oeuvre of work. Works like these were coined “Combines,” for the artist Robert Rauschenberg, who was a key pioneer in the pop art movement. Many of D*Face’s artworks share aesthetic similarities to some of the pop major artists, most notably Roy Lichtenstein who was famed for his cartoon-style freeze frames. But Dean doesn’t just emulate styles in order to create a pastiche. He not only combines mixed media but pays careful attention to the context and concept that support the artwork.
D*Face’s penchant for “fucking with things,” often comes down to subverting infamous iconography, just take his interpretation of the image of the Queen that we’ve almost become immune to from seeing it on a banknote. Defacing the image by adding wings to her head, a tongue poking out of giving her an altogether new shaved hair ‘do adds a completely new dimension to the piece. Even D*Face’s logo integrates that trademark D from the Disney logo. This appropriation brings the works into a new context which in turn evokes new feelings and acts as the vehicle for a different concept. When we become indifferent to images that we are so used to seeing in one context, bring them into a new context and it turns the whole thing upside.
Not literally, unlike the images of church’s Stockton brought into his Australian exhibition (???) as a variation on the hackneyed inverted cross, appropriated by plenty of no gooders and Satanists. It’s a shrewd play-on-images that explores the ridiculousness of the values bestowed upon a symbol – people aren’t offended until they’re told why they should be.
A critiquing of consumerism runs through the veins of D*Face’s work, as it did through pop art. But any critiquing of consumerism is arguably significantly reduced when it enters an art gallery, a paradoxical consumerist market. When D*Face presents his work in the street, in the same locations that advertisements occupy, and even the walls around them, he’s competing directly with those billboards, and the subversion could not be any distinct. From his logo to his artworks, and the concepts that carry them, D*Face is treating the whole world as his playground.