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David Powell Main Profile Image

David Powell

David Powell

The Hague, Netherlands

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Photography, Sculpture • Born in Cardiff, United Kingdom • Studied at Slade School of Art, London. De Ateliers, Amsterdam
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Confessions of an Ignominious Eye

David Powell's practice is grounded in sculpture, it incorporates elements of photography, painting,
architecture, drawing, fashion and performance. Powell is exploring what sociologists have
characterized as 'deviance'. Deviance is a violation of social norms, members of a social
group will adversely react when their values or rules appear to have been violated.
Émile Durkheim (1858–1917) was a French...

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David Powell's practice is grounded in sculpture, it incorporates elements of photography, painting,
architecture, drawing, fashion and performance. Powell is exploring what sociologists have
characterized as 'deviance'. Deviance is a violation of social norms, members of a social
group will adversely react when their values or rules appear to have been violated.
Émile Durkheim (1858–1917) was a French sociologist who claimed that deviance
was in fact a normal and necessary part of social organization. "Deviance affirms cultural
values and norms. Any definition of virtue rests on an opposing idea of vice: There can be
no good without evil and no justice without crime. ”Deviance can be relative to place and
time because what is considered deviant in one social context may be non-deviant in another.
Durkheim also observed that 'Deviance pushes societies moral boundaries which, in turn
leads to social change'.
Powell's work occupies a parallel space to an ever deepening climate of social, political and
cultural unrest, it parasitically feeds off the worst kinds of evil and excess while magnifying
societies taboos. With this in mind he can utilize the pleasures of craft making with positive and
negative energies which are set against a global political backdrop that is in absolute turmoil.
What emerges is a sequence of ruins, a pornographic imagination takes hold, a kind of pluriverse
takes shape in the studio.

Pool 2017 - 6.3 x 21 x 50.6cm, photograph, paper, duplex, perspex, plastic

Pool 2017 - 6.3 x 21 x 50.6cm, photograph, paper, duplex, perspex, plastic

Scene 2017 - 15 x 34 x 23.5cm, photographs, paper, duplex, perspex, card

Scene 2017 - 15 x 34 x 23.5cm, photographs, paper, duplex, perspex, card

Clap 2017 - 21 x 22.5 x 51cm, photograph, paper, duplex, perspex, wood, acrylic

Clap 2017 - 21 x 22.5 x 51cm, photograph, paper, duplex, perspex, wood, acrylic

Daisies 2017 - 9.5 x 28.7 x 29.7cm, photographs, perspex, grass paper, triplex, acrylic

Daisies 2017 - 9.5 x 28.7 x 29.7cm, photographs, perspex, grass paper, triplex, acrylic

Mall flowers 2017 - 9 x 9.5 x 21cm, photographs, acrylic, pencil, card, perpex, wood, triplex

Mall flowers 2017 - 9 x 9.5 x 21cm, photographs, acrylic, pencil, card, perpex, wood, triplex

Whizzing 2017 - 13.5 x 57 x 36cm, photographs, paper, duplex, triplex

Whizzing 2017 - 13.5 x 57 x 36cm, photographs, paper, duplex, triplex

Passage 2017 - 6.7 x 4.8 x 28cm, triplex, photographs, perspex

Passage 2017 - 6.7 x 4.8 x 28cm, triplex, photographs, perspex

Pond 2017 - 13 x 50 x 50.5cm, photograph, perspex, wood, board, paper

Pond 2017 - 13 x 50 x 50.5cm, photograph, perspex, wood, board, paper

Installation view 'Inside Out' - Sis Josip Galerie, The Hague 2017

Installation view 'Inside Out' - Sis Josip Galerie, The Hague 2017

Installation view 'Inside Out' - Sis Josip Galerie, The Hague 2017

Installation view 'Inside Out' - Sis Josip Galerie, The Hague 2017

Installation view 'Inside Out' - Sis Josip Galerie, The Hague 2017

Installation view 'Inside Out' - Sis Josip Galerie, The Hague 2017

Installation view 'Inside Out' - Sis Josip Galerie, The Hague 2017

Installation view 'Inside Out' - Sis Josip Galerie, The Hague 2017

Trollied 2017 - 29,7 x 21cm, pencil on paper

Trollied 2017 - 29,7 x 21cm, pencil on paper

Reflex 2017 - 29,7 x 21cm, pencil on paper

Reflex 2017 - 29,7 x 21cm, pencil on paper

Trickle down 2017 - 29,7 x 21cm, pencil on paper

Trickle down 2017 - 29,7 x 21cm, pencil on paper

8 hours 2017 - 29,7 x 21cm, pencil on paper

8 hours 2017 - 29,7 x 21cm, pencil on paper

Upskirt 2017 - 29,7 x 21cm, pencil on paper

Upskirt 2017 - 29,7 x 21cm, pencil on paper

Morning fix 2015 209 x 139cm inkjet on canvas.

Morning fix 2015 209 x 139cm inkjet on canvas.

Golden Lady 2016 163 x 64 x 57cm mannequin, lamp stand, red bulb, gold fabric.

Golden Lady 2016 163 x 64 x 57cm mannequin, lamp stand, red bulb, gold fabric.

FFWD Fashion 2014 - Liverpool photo printed fabric

FFWD Fashion 2014 - Liverpool photo printed fabric

FFWD Fashion 2014 - Liverpool photo printed fabric

FFWD Fashion 2014 - Liverpool photo printed fabric

Totally wired 2014 approx 32 x 61 x 20cm body casts, latex, plaster, wood, nails, wire

Totally wired 2014 approx 32 x 61 x 20cm body casts, latex, plaster, wood, nails, wire

Cockup 2016 approx 36 x 10 x 11.5cm tennis ball, wire, iron stand

Cockup 2016 approx 36 x 10 x 11.5cm tennis ball, wire, iron stand

Skin job 2017 - 28 x 24cm, acrylic on board

Skin job 2017 - 28 x 24cm, acrylic on board

Menace 2017 - 25.5 x 24cm, acrylic on board

Menace 2017 - 25.5 x 24cm, acrylic on board

Happy hour 2017 - various stones, cocktail straws

Happy hour 2017 - various stones, cocktail straws

Happy hour 2017 - various stones, cocktail straws

Happy hour 2017 - various stones, cocktail straws

Happy hour 2017 - various stones, cocktail straws

Happy hour 2017 - various stones, cocktail straws

Happy hour 2017 - various stones, cocktail straws

Happy hour 2017 - various stones, cocktail straws

Stop 2017 - 200 x 140cm, acrylic, inkjet on canvas

Stop 2017 - 200 x 140cm, acrylic, inkjet on canvas

What is it about your studio space that inspires you?

It's an island that you can go to, anything can happen.

What sounds, scents and sights do you encounter while in your studio?

Complex inter-relationships between things, accidents and order colliding always producing surprises.

What is your favourite material to work with? How has your use of it evolved throughout your practice?

The base materialism of a society and culture in ruins, any material is at my disposal.

What themes do you pursue?

Politics of class structure, sociological aspects of deviance, abjection, human behaviour.

What advice has had the biggest impact on your career?

That would be from Gilbert and George back in the nineties, they told me that I was a survivor, I didn't see it until they told me.

If you could install your art absolutely anywhere, where would that be?

In public or private collections, seeing the work in relation to other peoples habitats, their personal surroundings.

If you could only have one piece of art in your life, what would it be?

A 'Dirty Words' photo scultpure by Gilbert and George

If you weren´t an artist, what would you be doing?

Actor, something in film

What are your favourite places besides your studio?

Restaurants, bars, bed.


EXHIBITIONS

SOLO

2017

Inside Out, Sis Josip Galerie, The Hague

'Inside Out' - Sis Josip Galerie, The Hague, The Netherlands

2016

2016 Ch Ch Changes, Sabine Wachters Fine Arts, Knokke, Belgium

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GROUP

2017

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Helicopter project space, The Hague

2016

Douglas Park: Post-Terminal & Ex-Ultimate, (guest interviewer) WEST, Den Haag, Netherlands

2013

Gallery artists, Sabine Wachters Fine Arts, Knokke, Belgium

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WORKS IN COLLECTIONS

Stedelijk Museum, Stedelijk Musem Amsterdam, Netherlands

AWARDS

2013 STROOM Pro Deo Award, Den Haag, Netherlands

2010 FONDS BKVB Basis Stipendium, Netherlands

2005 FONDS BKVB Basis Stipendium, Netherlands

EDUCATION (detailed)

1987 - 1988 Cardiff College of Art & Design, South Glamorgan Institute of Higher Education, UK

1988 - 1992 Slade School of Art, University College London, UK

1994 - 1996 De Ateliers, Amsterdam, Netherlands

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Confessions of an Ignomious Eye. Since the mid nineties David Powell’s work deploys signs that explore and antagonise cultural, political and social divisions. A recurring subject centers around how the working classes are depicted in the tabloid press and deals with the rhetorics behind this representation. Powell has no illusions about social harmony and the images he works with are sourced mostly from online search engines and when permissable, from his friends. The people depicted in his work are inadvertently presenting themselves at their ‘lowest’ potential, all energy has been expended, they are gradually coming to a halt. Wasn’t it one of Samuel Becketts ambitions to ‘stop’? An impossible dream, considering that unrelenting inner monologue. Bad behaviour is a necessary means of temporarily escaping from social and political anxiety whether it’s personal failure, broken relationships, poverty, lack of job security and so on, it echoes what Freud described as ’letting off steam’ or ‘raging out’. Sociologists label these dark streaks as ‘deviant behaviour’ and it is exactly this behaviour that forms the ‘raw material’ of Powell’s work. Powell’s interest in bad behaviour comes from his own experiences of hanging out with various gangs when he was a teenager, skinheads, punks and later when the criminal acts were ‘just getting way to out of hand’ Powell chose to start hanging out with rich kids. One thing that struck him was how quickly uniformity within a ‘group’ (clothing, gestures, taste in music, racial attitudes) seemed to block the individual which he sensed was dangerous, a one way ticket to totalitarianism. Sociologists have characterized deviance as a violation of social norms, members of a social group will adversely react when their values or rules appear to have been violated. Émile Durkheim (1858–1917) claimed that deviance was in fact a normal and necessary part of social organization."Deviance affirms cultural values and norms. Any definition of virtue rests on an opposing idea of vice: There can be no good without evil and no justice without crime. ”Deviance can be relative to place and time because what is considered deviant in one social context may be non-deviant in another. Durkheim also observed that 'Deviance pushes societies moral boundaries which, in turn leads to social change'. Around 1995, out of desperation, Powell began writing stories, the content of which was related to anomalous incidents taking place in public that are not usually talked about or are politely ignored. As Powell is not a writer per se the writing process he used was suitably unskilled for his purposes. The stories were less “written” more “excreted” and signified an obsessional interest in the marginal or noxious event, they formed a fundamental substratum or ‘base materialism’ that is embedded in his entire practice. The encounters he wrote of took place of their own volition in the public sphere, unscripted, unfettered, uninstitutionalized, something prohibitively public became subject to an internalization that then became public once more. The drawings, paintings, photographs and sculptures Powell makes involve many traditional approaches, this imbues the work with an accessiblity that is thoroughly democratic. Powell’s work explores aspects of spectacle, representation, deviance, political alienation and confrontation that are essentially rooted in class structures within society. Growing up in the UK, class was and continues to be extremely prevalent in almost all walks of life, with all the divisions that entailed, for Powell, becoming an artist meant that he could somehow migrate between different classes and see how his own individuality adapted and accommodated change. The works tell of uneasy proximities with ‘loathsome characters’, the person or persons who refuses to fit in, whose mere appearance discloses a surplus of deranged complexes and illogical patterns of social behaviour fraught with a built in ‘compulsion drive’ to reveal in public all manner of bilious filth, contempt, repulsion, fear, rage and innumerable psychosocial outbursts. Such an apparent lack of mediation refutes all the polite machinations of educated distance, in Powell’s practice, this ‘lack’ became a disruptive mechanism. Past and present histories in Powell’s work share a close proximity with one another, the relationship between the two is not exactly a harmonious one. As Freud proposed in 1920 when writing ‘Beyond the pleasure principle’, it became necessary to expand on the compulsion towards unpleasure which led to forming the concept of the death drive. An example to illustrate these ideas is the British ‘lad culture’, a subculture initially associated with the Britpop movement. Arising in the early 1990s, the image of the ‘lad’ or ‘new lad’ was that of a generally middle-class figure assuming attitudes typically attributed to the working classes: an anti-intellectual position, shunning sensitivity in favour of drinking, violence and sexism. More recently, young women or ‘ladettes’ are showing similar anti-social behaviour (a result of more equality between the sexes?): the exact same levels of excessive drunkenness, harassment of other members of the public and Powell’s favourite, when the same women are seen ’urinating’ in public. ‘It takes a lot more work for a woman to pee in public’. This is where the story comes full circle, to the point where the tabloid press picks up on examples of public deviance and uses it as moral propaganda. Which brings us back to the maquettes Powell has been making recently. Maquettes in architecture are usually positive proposals for future buildings, yet Powell’s models are the antithesis of that: they are models of a social and cultural reality in ruins. Maquettes in sculpture are traditionally thought of as preliminary sketches or models for something much bigger, but how often do we find a certain charm that is altogether absent in big budget productions of say, corporate sculpture? So in Powell’s practice, the term ‘maquette’ comes under scrutiny and is subject to many revisions. The promise of an ideological future, the utopian ideal that maquettes bring goes through a brutal process of fragmentation and downgrading not dissimilar to an employees demotion from being skilled to semi-skilled to valueless. The works titles attest to this downturn, ‘Derelict’, ‘Cracks’ and ‘Leaking’. The maquettes have been foreclosed and boarded up; its facades have been defaced. It is clear in the sculptures that another kind of registration of bad behaviour is confronting us. The transformation that occurs displaces the previous on screen presence of the image into a physical encounter. Simulated spaces are quickly and roughly made with perspex, wood, metal, paper, photographs, card and left overs. A dialogue ensues where impoverishment swaps spit with neon drenched cocktail bars. The architectural model makers craft becomes beset with precarious relationships, the most noticable one being that of scale, just about everything is out of sync. Powell works with acts of aggression and violence in such a dense way that it becomes nearly comical. It mercilessly shows us the harshest of realities, stacking up one profanity on top of the other: anti-Semitism (Jewsus, no Jews, there is no Jew God), anti-Muslim (Go home), bible fundamentalist quotes (Lev:13; referring to the passage in Leviticus about the sins of homosexuality), Neo-Nazi (white power, KKK, swastika’s), Satan worship (666, the devil loves you), anti-pedo (Pedo scum, Jimmy the beast) and even ‘common’ outbursts of jealousy, such as ‘whore’, ‘cunt’ and ‘slag’. All these vociferations jostle for our attention. As such Powell’s works group various registers of evil together onto a single, pathetic and violated object, while keeping in mind that many acts of deviance or transgressions occur at night. Historically, one of the first acts of vandalism was justified by the painter Gustave Courbet (1819 - 1877) he proposed the dismantlement of the Vendôme column on political grounds, advocating the destruction of monuments symbolizing "war and conquest". Today the list of potential candidates for defacement is increasing exponentially, the physical object or person now includes the digital self via social media platforms where the overt profusion of antagonistic tweets can quickly snowball into disaster. The public space as a site for protest and activism takes many forms from marches to rioting to temporary occupation, billboard advertising, street signs, municipal or boring architecture are all deemed worthy recipients for defacement. In a wider sense vandalism poses the problem of the value of art compared to life's hardships and general discontent. Vandalism is often done as an expression of contempt, creativity, or both. In replicating these acts of hate crime upon his architectural models and site-specific boarded up windows, Powell becomes an unfortunate messenger. Neither author nor sympathiser, he gets endlessly challenged about the dubious nature of his materials – and by extension his own character. People think he is going too far not recognising the difference between someone authoring these messages and someone else appropriating them. Powell presents us with a hybrid approach to exhibition-making, one that refers to interior design or archictectural bureaus, the traditional white cube, the studio, independent spaces, 19th century ‘salons’ and contemporary musems. The period of the installation process sees Powell rummaging through the gallery’s/institutions various storage spaces looking for usable materials, boards, trestles, tables, personal items, junk, etc, anything that relinquishes the controlling tendencies of neatly arranged exhibitions. We are talking about the kinds of exhibitions that Daniel Buren so pointedly bemoaned in his seminal essay of 1971 - ‘The Function of the Studio’. The options that ‘rummaging around’ affords are quite fundamental to Powell’s conception of the exhibition space as an accessible and natural environment, one that is not a recreation of the studio but attempts to bridge the gaps and problems that arise when it comes to making exhibitions. He scales, resizes and resamples signs from the outside world directly implicating the viewer in the reception process, raising questions such as ‘Do we ignore the bad in favour of the good?’ and vice versa. Powell admits a voyeuristic desire to ‘mimic the harshness of other people’s unscripted social realities through alternative platforms’ as an antecedent to the now overly regulated mediums such as cinema, TV, social media and advertising. Through image sampling, Powell confronts us with facts most people would rather turn a blind eye to. His work occupies a parallel space to an ever-deepening climate of social, political and cultural unrest. It parasitically feeds off the worst kinds of evil while magnifying societies’ taboos. The works attempt to revise the mechanisms that separate order and disorder, seduction and repulsion, history and contemporaneity. Revising mechanisms also plays a role in the wearable work ‘FFWD Fashion’ 2013, for a number of years Powell was documenting the changes in his studio on an almost weekly basis, environments were created that would gradually become subsumed into debris as various productions overlapped and imploded. The decision to ‘do something’ with the documentation was sudden, not planned or theorized. It was a simple decision to see what would happen if the studio documentation was printed onto standard iconic dress designs, whose essential forms were made with as little detail as possible. This was in order to ‘carry’ the print and make it legible. The designs were then outsourced and printed with shots of the studio in its ‘purest’ and most raw state. The work enables a person to ‘wear’ the studio affording it with another kind of registration through social interactions in everyday life. Freud wrote that societies truths are often revealed through jokes and humour. A benevolent superego allowed a light and comforting type of humor, while a harsh superego created a biting and sarcastic type of humor. Moreover, Freud followed Herbert Spencer's (1820 - 1903) ideas of energy being conserved, bottled up, and then released like so much steam venting to avoid an explosion. Powell’s work occupies a parallel space to an ever deepening climate of social, political and cultural unrest, it parasitically feeds off the worst kinds of evil and excess while magnifying societies taboos. With this in mind I can utilize the pleasures of craft making with positive and negative energies which are set against a global political backdrop that is in absolute turmoil. A pornographic imagination takes hold, a kind of pluriverse takes shape in the studio.

Selected Further Reading Susan Sontag - Regarding the Pain of Others 2003, The Pornographic Imagination 1967, On Photography 1977, Notes on Camp 1964 Georges Bataille - The Story of the Eye 1928, The Big Toe 1929, Tears of Eros 1961, Visions of Excess; Selected Writings 1927 - 1939, Blue of Noon 1935, Eroticism 1957, My Mother 1966, Madame Edwarda 1956, The Dead Man 1967 Michel Surya - Georges Bataille, An Intellectual Biography 2002 Jean Baudrillard - Seduction 1979, Simulacra and Simulation 1981, Fatal Strategies 1983, Why Hasn't Everything Already Disappeared? 2009 Nick Land - Thirst for Anninhilation; Georges Bataille and virulent nihilism (an essay in atheistic religion) 1992, Fanged Noumena 2011 Marquis de Sade - The Complete Marquis de Sade: Justine 1791, Juliette 1799, 120 Days of Sodom 1789, Philosophy in the Bedroom 1795 (republished 2005) Nicolas Bourriaud - Relational Aesthetics 1998, Post - Production 2001, The Exform 2016 Julia Kristeva - Powers of Horror (An Essay in Abjection), 1982 Sigmund Freud - The Complete Psychological Works 1886 - 1939 Gilbert & George - The Words of Gilbert & George: With portraits of the artists from (1968 - 1997), 1997 Samuel Beckett - Collected Shorter Plays (1957 - 1984) John Fletcher & John Spurling - Beckett the Playwright, 1972 James Knowlson - Damned to Fame, The Life of Samuel Beckett, 1996 Anthony Burgess - A Clockwork Orange, 1962 Andy Warhol - The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again), 1975 Michel Foucault - Manet and the Object of Painting; With an introduction by Nicolas Bourriaud 2009 Kenneth Willaims - Acid Drops; The classic collection of put downs, 1980, The Kenneth Williams Diaries - Russell Davies, 1994 John Lydon - Anger is an Energy; My Life Uncensored, 2014 David Sylvester - Interviews with Francis Bacon, 1962 - 1979 Hitchcock/Truffaut - The Definitive Study of Alfred Hitchcock, 1983 Penguin Reference - Dictionary of critical theory, 2000 Pierre Cabanne - Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp, 1979 Liam Gillick - Proxemics: Selected Writings (1988 - 2004), 2005


For more information and inquiries about this artist, please contact Artitious by emailing to artist@artitious.com

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