There’s a funny irony that comes with taking designs that call out consumerism and selling them on apparel. But for Canadian graffiti and street artist Denial, it’s all part of the commentary that he’s made into an art form. From painting giant murals, to taking logos we all recognize and remixing them into critiques of consumer culture to break us out of the ‘denial’ we have about it, he’s created a style all his own.
From humble beginnings before he even had a moniker, to starting the huge ongoing public art project “Free 4 All Walls”, to painting the cornerstones of Soho House right here in Chicago, there was no denying we had to talk to this artist all about his craft (and, of course, his Artist Shop). Check out what he had to say below!
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First things first, tell us a little bit about yourself! How long have you been doing street art? When did you start exploring consumer culture in your work?
I started doing graffiti and street art when I was about 18. Me and my brother and friends never even heard the term “street art” before, we just called it “the weekend”; it’s what we did when we weren’t working at our jobs. I started doing these interruptions and installations, just pure chaos really, and I simply signed them “Daniel”. There really weren’t any other writers/artists around that were doing anything like what we were doing, so I never got the whole rundown about graffiti from anyone. I was just doing it off the cuff and knew it was something I had to do. Long story short, I finally did meet some graffiti artists, older guys, and they were literally like, “hey dickhead, you can’t sign your real name”. I had already worked with these letters so I just switched them around and DENIAL was born.
Of course though over the years this name has taken on a whole new meaning for me. With everything I have learned about the world, DENIAL is just so prevalent.
How have you evolved as a street artist?
I have humble beginnings as an artist. I used to gather all my materials from recycle centers, side of the road finds, secondhand shops etc. and that’s what all my early works were painted on: found objects. I have certainly evolved my process throughout the years to reflect a maturity of sorts as an artist.
My newest work is all very clean and tidy, ultra vibrant colours; it screams at you. I have also tried to reflect where my art is made, as in the use of the abandoned infrastructure of Windsor and Detroit. We have access to milling machines, laser cutting, cnc cutting unlike anywhere else. It’s amazing to have access to that kind of automation and build that framework into an artistic process.
You have an Artist Shop with us too! Tell me a little bit about these designs – have they been featured as street art anywhere?
All the designs in my shop are based off paintings I did last year for a show called “Anger Management” in NYC at Krause Gallery (see above!). They were all spray-painted with stencils on laser cut shaped wood. One of my favourite shows to date!
Have you sold your art on apparel before?
I have been screen printing and making my own shirts for about 10 years. Thought we would give Threadless a shot for a bit!
You started the public art project “Free 4 All Walls” – tell us a little bit about that, it sounds amazing! How has that changed the vibe towards street art in the area?
In 2012 me and my friend Murad started ‘Free 4 All Walls’, which is the largest public art project of its kind in South West Ontario. Bringing artists from around the world to beautify and re-invigorate public walls around Windsor, the government-funded program has been a huge success in supporting the local community and promoting the value of street art in contemporary society.
Invited artists who have painted murals include: Nychos (Austria), Bask (USA), Omen (Canada), Ben Frost (Australia), Nosego (USA), Persue (USA), Rime (USA), Above (USA), Elicser (Canada), High 5 (Canada), Nekoes (USA), Labrona (Canada), Gaia (USA), Kwest (Canada), Globe (Canada), Earthcrusher (Canada), Czr Prz (USA), Chou (Canada), Uber5000 (Canada), Anthony Lister (Australia), JUSTONE (Dubai), Deadboy (Canada) and XRAY (Canada) Unwell Bunny (Australia) Derkz (Canada), Creed (Canada) EmMo (Canada). The project intends to continue well into the future. The project has helped to revitalize and invigorate an entire neighbourhood in the downtown core. What was once a mostly vacant area is now a bustling hub for the creative scene in Windsor.
Tell me about the murals you painted on Soho house! How long did that process take? What was unique about it?
I painted these over one evening and one morning. I have never painted around a corner like that, so that was cool to try. Yeah, people in the neighborhood were nice (drunk) too, it was a blast talking with them.
I feel like even a few years ago, street art was a little less widely accepted as it is now, and now it’s featured on places like Soho House! How has the attitude towards street art changed in your experience?
Yeah, I think people have more of an understanding on how to use street art for different purposes, which I have found can really be a double-edged sword. I really think that for something like graffiti, once it’s put into the public domain and pop cultural machine you are going to get this wide array of participants. Some better and more interesting than others. I just try to have balance with the insanity of it all.
Anything else you’d like to share?
www.enjoydenial.com MUAH! XOXOX
Content & Strategy Manager at Threadless by day, dad joke aficionado, cartoonist, & contributor for sites like HelloGiggles and The Mary Sue by night. When I’m not writing or drawing, you can find me in my cave of a room hanging out with my boyfriend, Netflix.