Daniel Clarke is most certainly one of our favourite aritsts, we’re stoked we could have him grace the pages of our print publication. This interview took place while Dan resided in Berlin but since then he has moved back to London further increasing the chance of skating with Dan in person. We wanted to make his interview viewable online because his work is amazing, he’s very good on a board and we think you should all support this freelance artist during these tough times for self-employed workers. With regards to another very important subject Dan spoke on #blacklivesmatter and we feel his inspiring words need to be read by everyone.
“Identity has always been a tricky subject for me off the back of racism but seeing other people step up and share their experiences has given me confidence in things changing. That’s why we have to keep this conversation alive and let it not just be a trend. I know that my mother experienced racism a lot worse than I have but she managed to fight it and she’s stronger because of it to this day. That’s always been inspiring to me and why we have to keep fighting it and educate ourselves and the next generation to follow so that things can take a turn for the better. Remember this isn’t a fight between black and white but a fight for black people to have equal rights and if you wanna contribute but not sure how, here are some organisations fighting for the cause:
Introduction & Interview by Guy Jones
Photography by Joel Peck
Dan Clarke; probably one of the most authentic gentlemen I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. I was nought to fan when his banger of a shared part with Arthur Derrien in Jacob Harris’ ‘Eleventh Hour’ video dropped years ago. Upon actually speaking to the man in person and discovering his incredible artwork only made the appreciation grow. Buy his work and support something truly worthwhile. He also switch bigspin flipped Big Ben road gap and got chased by a massive dinosaur through London city centre, how many people can say that? Here’s to you handsome!
Yes Dan, hows it going? What have you been up to lately?
Yes Guy! Things are good thanks, just back from London after a month or so. Was really good to be back with friends and family and even got a skate in at the reopened Southbank which felt good.
Shall we get the ‘preferred choice of medium and would you like to experiment with other materials’ question out of the way?
Sure thing, I think my answer for this changes all the time, but right now my preferred mediums to work with are gouache or acrylic paint, both of which I’ve been using a lot recently. Combining it with paper collage or also digital (Photoshop). I’d quite like to work more 3D if I had to choose one new medium. I moved into a new flat at the beginning of last year and started building furniture for the place and painting it which turned out to be way more fun than sitting at the desk drawing.
You made the move to Berlin a few years back, what was the reasoning behind this? A lot of people presume it’s because of your love of brutalism but others think you have a techno rave alter ego, can you shed any light on these rumours?
I wish I could tell you an amazing story which fitted well with this brutalist techno rave character but it’s a secret and I’ll have to tell you the boring one. It began when I visited Berlin back in 2016 when I was between flats and a friend was renting their room out for a month while I was here, so I took that on. During that time I found out that the NGO Skateistan was based here and contacted them. I ended up staying an additional 3 months volunteering for them which lead to a fixed part time job. After 3 years I’m still working for them and it’s been really good, it’s hard to imagine working somewhere else.
It is a common misconception that you are obsessed with brutalism, how did this rumour start and what are some actual influences and movements close to your heart?
(Laughs) It’s definitely a misconception but I can see how it makes sense. I guess it began in 2011 when I did a project about the Heygate Estate in Elephant and Castle. I was there looking for spots to skate and while I was there I got talking to a guy called Adrian, who was one of 5 remaining residents (of 3000). He told me about the whole situation with what had happened there and how the government had basically cut funding to the estate which lead to it’s neglect and demolition in 2012. This destroyed a huge community who were then displaced across the UK. Through talking with Adrian I ended up making a book which was a collection of stories from the ex-residents of the estate, alongside drawings of the estate itself. I guess that’s how the influence began and having that in my portfolio lead to being asked to create more work like it. I’ve kinda moved away from that now though as it had it’s purpose for that project.
We’re obviously huge fans of your work and after having purchased prints for all loved ones we were a bit gutted we couldn’t buy them for anyone else. Something in particular is the colour palette, what inspired them and could you also tell us some other people and things you admire artwise?
Cheers for buying all those prints, you’ve been keeping my career going single handedly (laughs). The colour palette I use isn’t really something I think about too much, I sometimes think it actually differs too much between paintings but I guess it’s influenced by colours I’ve found in and around London. As that’s where I started using colours. It actually took me a while to start using colour, I spent my 1st year of uni basically using just black and white.
A project of yours that I really admire is the zine you did on the Heygate Estate which used to stand in Elephant and Castle a few years back but was knocked down for smarmy flats no sensible person could afford whilst evicting long standing residents. Why did you choose to do this project and how important is this subject to you, as it seems to be increasingly more frequent these days which is very alarming.
Like I mentioned earlier, if it wasn’t for Adrian (who was living on the estate at the time) I’d have never thought about doing this project. Hearing his stories of living on the estate and him putting me in touch with others gave me a personal insight into the community and how distorted the image of it from the media was. Whilst I didn’t expect my book to make much of a difference to the situation, I thought it could stand as something that shows the other side to the story.
Did you get the quotes yourself and what was this experience like? Were there any you wanted in there which didn’t fit, be it through format or otherwise?
Yeah a bunch of them I got from Adrian and people that he knew from the estate, and I also found a Facebook group from former residents and shared the project with them and people were pretty responsive. Some of the stories were way too long for the format, but I managed to cut them down, if I had more time I would have liked to make it even longer.
Do people call you ‘Man shark’ in Berlin? Also what’s your crew like there, you had Chris Jones for a bit…
Yep, Chris was here and managed to re-earth that name (laughs). Otherwise not really, Mannhai sounds good though, the German translation. Moving here and working for Skateistan was pretty perfect as I instantly met people who were up for a skate, like Felix for example who does the Naive videos, I sometimes join on their missions. Otherwise mostly skating with friends at the local parks MBU and Böckler.
Please recommend us absolutely anything to improve our lives?
Home made kim-chi.
Could you please explain that advert you had in an old Sidewalk where you’re getting chased by a massive dinosaur that is wreaking havoc in the city of London please?
Damn, good memory, I always forget how many people must have seen that! I think it was me and Shaun Witherup in that one, we were the two skaters riding for King Apparel, along with Plan B, Wiley and some grime artists. Not sure what that ad was all about to be honest but it earned me the nickname ‘Clarkosaurus’.
Do your family get creative?
Yeah my mum paints, mostly landscapes near where she lives in Brighton and is good with textiles, like both of my sisters, my oldest sister is also working in design. My dad is a painter and decorator, and I used to work for him but I only realised later on the amount of creativity involved. I met my great uncle for the first time recently and found out that he’s an amazing painter, I went and visited him and saw that he has a huge collection of paintings. He’s 96 and smashing it still.
Prior to your moving you curated one hell of a show at Daily Goods in South London. How was this experience and is it something you’re keen to pursue more?
Thanks mate! That was good fun, but also pretty stressful as I decided to make really detailed collages which lead to doing several all nighters before the show. I was offered to do a show in Berlin a few months back, but decided to curate a group show instead which was so much more fun as it meant I could focus on just a few works and share the excitement of doing a show with friends. I reckon I’d do it like that again in the future given the opportunity.
What are your views on carpeted bathrooms?
I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. Carpeted walls though.
You’ve provided works for many people, one of the more prestige being the Barbican Centre which seems very fitting considering your love for brutalism (which I don’t think we’ve mentioned yet). How did this come about and was it something you always intended to make a capsule for?
This passion for brutalism, I can’t get enough of it (laughs). Nah, this came about as I sent them a drawing asking if I could sell it as a print in their shop, they said no but they then got back to me and commissioned me to do a drawing of their conservatory, which is now in their shop. I also did a range of products for them and some branding bits. Always a fun client to work with as they’re pretty open to ideas and also let me keep artistic license which can be quite rare with commissioned work. I also spent a lot of time skating there and Moorgate 8 stair when I was a teenager, so it’s always cool to go back and spend time there.
Who are some other fine folk you’ve created for and are there any exhibitions you’re particularly proud of being a part of?
The ones that stand out the most for me are usually skate related, like Blueprint for example, working with Dan Magee on these was one of the best opportunities I’ve had. Also SkatePal and Skateistan, Habitat and Vague of course! Outside of skateboarding, working for Amnesty has been really good as it’s always a challenge with their tough subjects and it’s always a bonus to work for a good cause. I was most proud of the Gameshow group exhibition in Berlin, mostly because it was really fun and everything was interactive which changed the mood of the exhibition to become really social.
Is there anything specific you want to provide artwork for, or go into?
Book covers would be dope. I’d also like to do more 3D work like furniture and producing fabrics for clothing. I’ve been experimenting with both a little over the past year and it’s been good fun. Just need to find some people specialising in these areas to team up with.
In your eyes what is the most brutalist meal?
Rivita bread sandwich with dry Weetabix for the filler.
What building or physical entity is the equivalent of a switch bigspin flip over a road gap? (see Jacob Harris’ ‘Square One’ video for reference)
I guess the leaning tower of Pisa holds a similar level of sketchiness.
Do you think you’re going to stay put in Berlin and how does the art world compare to London? Please slag off as many people as possible in this answer and let’s get some art beef on the go…
Berlin’s good at the moment but London will always feel like home, I’ll probably be back at some point. The art scene here feels a lot smaller compared to London but I’m also not so clued up or involved on either, so it’s hard to say. Living costs here are a lot lower than in London it seems like people have more time to focus on making work and there are more DIY spaces available here for events and shows. I haven’t really got any art beef though I’m afraid (laughs), as long as people are making things then good on them.
What have you got coming up mate?
I’ve got a couple of boards for Real coming out which I’m excited about, also a watch collab with you guys! Otherwise, just working on a collection of drawings and paintings, which I’ll eventually do something with, or so I always tell myself. More projects with Skateistan as it looks like we’ll be opening some more schools in the future. Check them if you haven’t already – www.skateistan.org.