Guy Denning’s art is emotion caught in its most tangible state. That moment when what we feel pushes to the surface.There is an understanding between his subject, himself, and the observer. A mutual acceptance of the fragility and strength of humanity. And how sometimes those two are indistinguishable.
Ara: When did you first create something from nothing?
Guy: I’ve never created something from nothing. Everything I make is formed from the world around me. Even as a child, I would paint or draw according to what was either in the popular culture, (tv cartoons etc), or what generally interested me.
Ara: How do you capture emotional explosion?
Guy: I don’t know how I do what I do- I just do it. I paint and draw every day and it’s come to the point, (I’m almost 50) where it’s just another normal function of my life.
Ara: Your canvas is sometimes newspapers or yellow envelopes. What is the significance? To me, they sort of remove the elitism of art because you are using something common. I believe I even saw a Smiths’ album.
Guy: I originally started using newspaper out of necessity-it was free and I was drawing on a daily basis. For preparatory work, in the times when my work was not being exhibited or selling, it was simply impossible to entertain the idea of spending money on drawing paper when there were more important things to buy to live.
Ara: How do you find models for your work? Are they people that you pass on the street? Do you know any of the subjects?
Guy: My subjects come from all over. Some of them are paid models and occasionally I ask strangers if I can photograph, draw, or paint them. Mostly it is friends and family that pose for me and I pay them in paintings and drawings. We all seem happy with that arrangement. I also take video captures from current affairs programmes on the tv… if I’m taking on a subject like political protests.
Ara: Yes, I noticed the political aspect in your art. Maybe even an anti war message hidden in the images.
Guy: Politically, I consider myself an anarchist/pacifist and sometimes that expresses itself through my work. Sometimes it’s direct and clearly expressed and sometimes it’s just there in the background. I don’t make my work to ‘talk’ to people, I make it for myself. I’m fortunate to be living in a time when I can share it with the world, at virtually no cost, through social media.
Ara: Where are your beliefs about war and politics rooted?
Guy: On a family holiday to Switzerland in the late 1970’s, when I was still a child, we visited the first world war cemetery at Verdun in France. Until that moment, my only understanding of war was mediated via Hollywood films, children’s war comics, and plastic toy soldiers. That visit changed my life; it formed many of my later political and moral opinions.
Ara: The faces in your paintings are so profound. I see anger, despair, loneliness, madness… all sort of caught at the peak. Do you use your subjects as a sort of release for your own emotions? Like living through your art?
Guy: I don’t know, I don’t analyze it – I just make the work and in so doing paint what I choose to paint. I’ve had a history of depressive episodes that I was heavily medicated for but I eventually made the decision to live without the medication. Perhaps my work is a kind of cheap personal therapy.
Ara: I see drug addicts, prostitutes, the mentally ill, and the destitute all over your work. Is that where a lot of your art is born… through deep empathy for those in pain?
Guy: I think everybody feels empathy for those who are suffering. Sometimes it may not stretch beyond concerns for immediate family, (perhaps out of a sense of realizing that an individual can’t fix the world) but it’s the natural human condition. We are social animals with that sense of community built into us. I used to be very involved in trade union work and other social support networks. Perhaps there’s an aspect of my work that has taken over that hole in my working life.
Ara: What do you want others to feel when they look at your art? Do you want them to connect with the people in your paintings?
Guy: I don’t think a viewer can truly ‘connect’ with a figure in a painting, but perhaps I can present something that they feel relates a narrative or emotional sense that’s relevant to their experience. Like I said before- the ideas, narratives, inspirations, and texts that go into any piece of work are mine, for my benefit. The only thing I want the observer to understand is that I have tried my hardest to resolve the personal issues that led to the making of a piece. I don’t demand that everyone understands or likes my work, but I hope they understand that I try my best to make the strongest work with a particular idea and my capabilities at the time.
Ara: Do ‘you’ connect with the people in your paintings? If so, do you disconnect after you finish a piece?
Guy: When the painting leaves the studio I have decided that I have no further interest in working on it. I have only two pieces of my work that I’ve decided to keep- and that is for technical reasons rather than subject matter.
Ara: Where can fans see your work? Where have you exhibited?
Guy: I had a solo show last May in Paris but the best place to keep up to date with where I’m exhibiting is probably via facebook, twitter, and the internet.
Ara: Name a poet, a song, and a piece of art that describes your view of the world?
Guy: Poet/ T.S. Eliot “The Hollow Man”, song/ Swans “Failure”, piece of art/ Kathe Kollwitz “Woman With Dead Child”.