Ahead of his upcoming virtual solo exhibition, 'Against The Light', British Artist and Photographer Duncan Wade answers questions about his practice, his latest collection and what inspires him.
Firstly, how are you? How has the pandemic affected you and your work?
The most important thing is that we are all well and safe. Everything else has to be secondary when so many people are facing the harsh reality of loved ones being sick and worse.
However, the Lockdowns and the need to reduce travelling has meant that I am desperately missing my nights wandering the streets of London. In more usual times I spend at least a night or two every week in London taking photographs. Much of my work is capturing the play of lights, colours and shadows. I am fascinated by the way that they change the landscape of the city and influence our response to the buildings and space. We hurry through the darkness and are drawn to the lights. The shops, restaurants, theatres and bars throw pools of light into the streets, and the neon signs carve their signatures through the light and dark... and when it rains! When it rains everything is more, reflections from the floor double the light, and the colours form fragmented, shattered kaleidoscopes stretching across the paving stones. I spend rather too much time out in that London rain chasing those wisps. So the answer to your question is that I am waiting impatiently to be back out in rainy nights enjoying those lights.
Did you always want to be an Artist by profession?
No, I did what so many people do, I went to work doing what seemed best at the time. Art was my pleasure, it honestly didn’t occur to me that I was allowed to be a professional artist. Photography was my breakthrough. What began as an exercise in technology and technique opened a door that let me find my place in art. Faithful reproduction became stylisation, which in turn became abstraction and ultimately something that was new and different... a character and vision of my own.
Does your process have any established pattern?
Yes, but only broadly. If taking the shot is one half of my pleasure, then the other half is the journey to find the final image. I would lose much of the joy that art offers me if that journey was too structured or mechanical. My eye is a camera and my paint brushes are a computer but I really do believe that there is something in there already and I need to find it and let it out. That makes this a voyage of discovery not an exercise in process. I have steps and techniques that produce results that I like but I am constantly creating variations and results that surprise me. It’s just fun!
What is your relationship like with The City of London/Cities in general?
I love cities. I especially love London. It is a world class city with history and diversity that is just twenty miles away. I am not a world traveller but when I do travel it’s the cities that I want to see. London is where I have spent much of my working life and I have always enjoyed its history and its iconic buildings and vistas. My work today is often capturing the well-known scenes in London and creating a unique view that feels both comfortable and familiar, and strange and exotic. Man-made structures, man-made light, people living their lives and interacting with each other and the urban landscape... these are the things that excite and inspire me the most.
How important is colour within your work?
Well as you can see, it’s a rare occurrence when my pieces are the same colours as they were in life. I use colour to shape the art and give it a distinctive feeling. However, what was there in the original photograph is important because it is another way of dividing the image and seeing shapes. Look at a picture and disregard the details. Just look at the colours and try to see the shapes that different colours are forming on the canvas. Those shapes and spaces are precious... they quietly influence our focus and manipulate the way that our eyes travel over the scene. Those patterns form part of the abstraction that I use to isolate and highlight my subjects.
Who or what are your biggest influencers?
I love art and I am drawn to things that surprise me. My biggest influences are pictures that I see of city streets that I feel are different to my own experience. Neon lights in Tokyo, narrow lamp lit alleys in Hong Kong, broad avenues in New York, winding lanes in Paris, cyber-punk and anime cities of the imagination... these are in my mind when I take my shots of London... can I see these places here? Can I take you to a familiar but not what you expect city? I hope so... that’s my passion.