Q&A with David Bradley

Part of Mental Health Awareness Week 2014

From 12-18 May 2014 it was Mental Health Awareness Week and this year the theme was anxiety; one of the leading causes of mental ill-health in the world.

'Anxiety 2014' is a new London-wide arts festival curated by the Mental Health Foundation taking place in June this year. As part of the festival, several Outside In artists will feature in 'The Dizziness of Freedom'; an exhibition that is part of the programme.

In recognition of the theme and the festival, we have decided to focus on one of the exhibiting artists and his work. Below Outside In artist David Bradley answers questions posed by Kate Davey. 

1. How and when did you first start making art?

How? I think it was through despair, angst, going through a bad time, a bad period in my life and I thought art would be an outlet for how I was feeling. I went to a stress place and they were doing some art classes and I thought I would try that, painting beaches and landscapes. That was about 12 years ago. I wasn’t painting landscapes for 12 years, I was just starting out and then eventually I started to do things like this; that was truer to how I was feeling.

2. What inspires your work?

People, situations, everyday things in life, frustrations, other artists…

3. Any one in particular?

Francis Bacon, I like his work. George Grosz, a German artist, Laurence Steven Lowry. That’s the three in particular that I like.

4. How does creating your work make you feel?

It makes me feel as if I have accomplished something. I feel a bit of peace inside. It takes my mind off other things and I feel like I am getting rid of something within. Maybe not getting rid but something inside of me is coming out, digging deep and getting rid, deeper, it’s constant. These feelings are always there but it’s about digging and getting them out. I am still getting those feelings, it is OK to accept them and that it makes me feel good as well.

5. Your works are predominantly portraits showing different emotions – are these inspired by your own emotions?

I think they are. The past and up to date as well, a lot of it is about how I have been feeling.

6. What, if anything, do you hope your viewers will get from your work?

I hope people get an awareness of the effects that life can sometimes have on you, your surroundings, your environment, an awareness of other people and your everyday life. I suppose people are aware of all these things, but for me I wasn’t and never am, or maybe I am too aware that is part of the problem.

7. Do you have a favourite piece from your work? If so, which one?

I have lots of favourite pieces but looking at this one for instance; you are aware of what is going on around you but you can’t keep up, you don’t know how to keep up with what is happening. You are supposed to be able to be aware of what is going on around you, keeping up to date but a lot of times you can’t do that because you haven’t got the ability. I have always seen myself as being a bit slow in keeping up, ‘you have missed the bus David’. The bus has gone and I am still standing there thinking, what is happening? Things have moved on and I am still held back, I have always felt like that. It’s not that I am not trying; it’s just where I am.

My favourite piece is a guy walking along the street wearing a blue jacket; he looks frazzled, all over the place, which is how I feel quite often, as if I don’t know what I am supposed to be doing. That goes back years, like being a certain age and still trying to tie your shoe laces. You couldn’t do that and everyone else is tying their shoelaces. You wouldn’t take your shoes off because you couldn’t get them back on again. That goes back to school days but it can lead right on. Rather than being humiliated by things like that, you don’t tell anyone, you just get on with it. You find ways of dealing with it but then as you get older you still have all of this stuff that haven’t dealt with because you are frightened or embarrassed. So you just go through your life, ‘I know what I am doing’ but you don’t. Maybe bewildered is the right word, you are all over the place but you are not supposed to be like that you’re supposed to be the other way but the reality is that you are not.

8. Does creating these pieces help you to visualise and express these emotions?

Definitely, I think that by adding the round nose and mouth, it’s not just about academic stuff or not having a lot of education; it’s going to these places, schools and things and not being able to pick it up. Then as you get older it can affect your life in lots of ways, like relationships and different things so I suppose you can become a bit frustrated. You can do different things to help you to live through that like drugs, alcohol, falling into things, depression. There is no solution, you don’t see a way out because you have tried everything, medication, different things. People sometimes don’t understand because everyone still has to get on with their life and then, there’s you, still there. The paintings help put that into perspective, it gives it a foundation, you have an idea of where it is coming from – you still have your problems but you can show it in pictures.

9. What’s next for you as an artist? How do you think your work will progress?

Much of the same but changing it slightly. I haven’t changed that much, if I was to meet someone they would say you haven’t changed. Probably gotten older but I haven’t changed in the way that I try to get on with life. That hasn’t changed. I am much the same as I was, I feel better but I am still in same situation with coping. That is why the art has the same awareness. I would like to add some buildings, some more city life because I am in the city. Maybe the same people but add buildings and things because I am changing in that way. I still feel frustrated, I still feel all of that so that is why that (the faces) will stay in the paintings. When do you get fixed, you know?! When will it ever be: 'right that’s you, you’re fine now!' So, I would say the work will be much the same but slightly different.

This is helping me in the way that you see a small light in a big dark hole. A lot of the time, because you look OK people judge you on that straight away, but there is a lot going on that they can’t figure out. Just taking something back to a shop – that is a really big thing, you feel like you are doing something wrong. Wee things like that become very big things. Things like that can be very stressful sometimes.

Some people say (about the paintings), you keep doing the same things – but they are not the same, they are different. They have the same features but they are very different, they all mean different things. Different but the same.  

To see more of David's work, please click here.