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Art exhibition

Towers of hope

Chelmsford resident Dave Towers has a sensational solo exhibition at BSMT in Dalston. This is what the gallery has to say about the show:

‘Hope’ the first solo show by Towers will encompass the personal work and passion of the artist by showcasing his playful manipulation of the physicality of type through a collection of canvases.

Dave kindly took some time to answer a few questions.

What inspired you to create artwork in this style?

I was inspired by seeing one image of the pens I use on a design blog in about 2012. The thick line reminded me of screen printing, which I love. I thought the pens would be a good way for me to recreate that aesthetic working from my kitchen table in my spare time rather than travelling to a print studio.

Did you make a conscious decision to eschew the use of digital media?

I’ve always liked imperfection. The Japanese call it wabi-sabi – The Beauty of Imperfection. I’m trying to make the paintings perfect, but each always has a unique imperfection that you can never plan. The ink may behave in an odd way or run dry in a certain spot. The way the wet inks react with each other. You can mimic all these things in Photoshop, but it lacks the soul of doing it for real with the human hand.

The work is so precise. Do you end up scrapping much paper? You must have a few practise runs?

I spent a lot of time making marks and exploring techniques at the beginning. I’d go through lots of paper and maybe keep a few things I liked. Now though I try to do each painting right first time. I’ve done an awful lot of them over the last three years as commissions mostly from people finding me on Instagram. I work everything out before I start painting. You do get the odd one where the ink drips on the paper and you have to scrap it.

Is the work very different from your day-to-day work?

There’s definite overlap. I’m a graphic designer and have always created my own typefaces digitally. I mix hand-made work in with my digital work for large clients. The paintings do give me the creative outlet though and stop me getting frustrated by the sometimes more restrictive corporate briefs I work on. But both jobs feed off each other. Discipline and meeting deadlines from the day job, creativity, confidence to try the unexpected and passion from my paintings. It all merges.

Are there any typographers, living or dead, who you particularly admire?

Herb Lubalin. Fantastic playful New York art director and typographer.
Letman. A Dutch hand-lettering artist who paints these amazing colour-blended murals.
Geoff McFetridge. Based in LA. Mixes his practice between commercial work and also his personal paintings. He was the designer of the Beastie Boys magazine Grand Royal.

Most people seem to agree that 2020 has been less than auspicious. How difficult is it to focus on something positive when you are brainstorming?

I don’t block out the negative. So the first three paintings hanging together at my current show at BSMT in London show negativity and positivity. One painting shows 2020 falling apart. Beside is another that says ‘Fuck It’ then beside that is another that says ‘HOPE’. I think that’s two natural reactions to 2020. We’ve all probably muttered ‘Fuck It’ at some point but you have to carry on with HOPE. I think hope is incredibly powerful. It’s human spirit. It’s what makes you carry on. I also try to do the more negative expressions in a positive way if that makes sense. A lot of people have giggled when they saw the 2020 falling apart.

Please explain a little how the exhibition with the current gallery came about?

Lara from the gallery had followed me on Instagram for a while. She emailed me and said would I do a show? We met up at the gallery and were planning to do it in April. Obviously, that couldn’t happen because of Covid, so we kept talking and got it together for when things relaxed a little.

Would you be interested in exhibiting in Chelmsford?

Yes, definitely at some point in the future.


‘Hope’ runs until September 20 at BSMT, 529 Kingsland Rd, E8 4AR. See also https://www.dave-towers.com/

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