Art should provoke a reaction – good or bad – just not indifferent.
Dean’s creative journey began in his early teens with music and in his twenty’s expanded to include visual art. Music crossed over into art, lyrics would make their way into his drawings and paintings, conversely art would make its way into the music, text from images would find its way into the music. However, these days the art has become more important than the music.
Dean is usually in the studio 5-6 times a week, which is where I recently met with him as he was preparing to ship 10 of his paintings to Munich for an upcoming exhibit: Expedition Sehnsucht opens July 24th at Maienzeit Carrée. Dean’s works will be shown along with artists Ferdinand Bagusat and Stephan Bentzel. “It’s difficult to see them go, it’s like sending your kids off to school.” He considers the paintings to be some of the best work he’s done in a long time.
Sometimes Dean will go to the studio thinking he’s going to spend hours there and after an hour and he can’t get out of the studio fast enough. Other times he goes in thinking he’ll only be there for an hour and end of spending 14 hours in the studio. Those are then days he enjoys the most, because he’s relaxed, calm, can breathe and is not thinking about anything else.
When he began painting Dean was experimenting with oils, acrylic and spray paint. At this time he was living in a big warehouse in Philadelphia, surprisingly the graffiti and mural scene didn’t have much influence on his work – that came later, once he relocated to Berlin. Basquiat, Twombly and Warhol were all early influences and after seeing the movie Basquiat, Dean adopted a similar style of working, rolling out large pieces of canvas and working on them.
In Berlin, Dean has developed into more of a street pop artist. He was throwing up tags in the different cities that he traveled to with the band – just to see if people would notice and it worked. People paid attention and would send him messages saying – I saw your tag on the street in Barcelona or wherever. The first 4 pieces that Dean did after moving here are part of his private collection. He’ll show them, but really they’re just for him – they inspire him and remind him of the transition he went through when he moved from Philly to Berlin.
Paintings tend be static, but Dean’s pieces are very narrative; not just because of the text, it’s because of the layers, movement and energy in his work. Perhaps some of that movement and energy is derived from the process; the pieces are never really considered finished until they’re sold. When he thinks a piece might be finished, Dean reflects on it, finds something else to add that differentiates his work from others. The work in his studio is in a constant state of flux.
Dean still paints on the streets; if he does something cool in the studio – like a stencil or something – and he likes it, then he’ll go out and put it in the street. Sometimes when he’s out in the street he’ll see other peoples stuff and get influenced by it. It’s hard not to be influenced by the street art in Berlin (in a good way). Sometimes he’ll be walking around and see a blank wall and want to come back and throw up a stencil. But the timing has to be right, and you have to be prepared.
Everyone is influenced by someone, everyone borrows – it’s impossible to not have your influences show up in your work. Some of the characters in the paintings are mixes of people he knows and places, like Japan, where he finds inspiration.
The thing is to add something different to make it your own – to continue the conversation. “The goal is to put yourself into the work, to add something – to make it better to constantly have the work evolve.”
The white wash over the paintings started about a year ago and initially he didn’t think much of it. But then as he really started working with the technique it was really difficult, because Dean was thinking he had worked on a piece to get it to that point. But then as he did it, he started playing around and maybe sometimes only doing half of the canvas. There has to be a certain way of laying down the layers – to really make them pop when the white wash is over it, it’s really just been perfected about 6 months ago. There have been pieces that he started many years ago and when he’s moving things around in the studio he’ll see an old piece when the light shines through the canvas from behind and he’ll even surprise himself.
Visit Dean’s website to check out more of his work and keep current on upcoming exhibits and events…