How They See

By Piotr Jastrzębski

How They See - Issue #34: David Rhys Jones on uncovering the layers of modern metropolis





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How They See

March 6 · Issue #34 · View online

How They See will allow you to meet artists from all over the globe and understand their perception of art.

Published irregularly.

There is a limited amount of activities that could be compared with visiting London. One of the few places where art is everywhere and wandering among victorian buildings could lead to new surprising discoveries every day. David Rhys Jones will take us on such a journey this week.
David is an alumnus of Central Saint Martins, a world-renown college of art and design. His works have been exhibited in the Royal Academy of Arts, the Courtauld Institute and one of my favourites, the V&A Museum. He is passionate about history and architecture, by no doubt his art is tightly connected with locations. By sculptural works, David is recording the ever-changing modern city and is drawing peoples’ attention to the less obvious things around them.
You can learn more about David Rhys Jones on his website or Instagram.

Central Saint Martins is a very famous place. I remember attending art classes in Warsaw and meeting people finishing high school who wanted very badly to study in this place. How do you remember your time there?
I remember my time as being very busy and quite mentally tiring – the aim of the teaching is to push you to the edge (whatever your personal edge might be). The thinking behind doing this is because there is no point spending several years doing something that you already know how to do. At the edge is where all of the interesting things happen. There is a good David Bowie quote about this:
“Always go a little further into the water than you feel you’re capable of being in. Go a little bit out of your depth. And when you don’t feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom, you’re just about in the right place to do something exciting.”
I met some great people and had some great opportunities from studying at Central Saint Martins and I have been back many times – sometimes to help students with advice.
What are the most important lessons you have received during your studies?
I think that one of the best things that we were taught was how to evaluate our work and be self-critical. I also learnt to try and say yes to as many things as possible – it is easy to say no but saying yes sometimes results in something unexpected which might turn out to be really important in your development or work. Also you learn to never stop learning – keep informed about what is going on.
Art by David Rhys Jones
Art by David Rhys Jones
Your work has been exhibited in The V&A Museum, the Royal Academy of Arts and the Courtauld Institute. Let’s assume that Tate Modern is inviting you to the exhibition. What is your answer?
Yes of course, but it doesn’t really change what I do…
It could look like a trivial question and I assume that you would agree to show your work at Tate Modern. However, I am treating it more like an invitation to a short discussion. V&A and Tate Modern have collected a body of works, which in my opinion, are light years away from each other, yet your work fits into both places I think.
The V&A and Tate are quite different but the V&A is interested in the contemporary scene and collects art and design being made today as the collection needs to have pieces to show in years to come about what is happening now. For example I know that they are collecting Covid related art and design now.
Your art is tightly connected with places, among them I see London as one of the important topics. What interests you the most in this city?
I lived in London for quite a long time and I am very interested in history and architecture – uncovering the layers and drawing peoples attention to the less obvious things around them.
Photo by David Rhys Jones
Photo by David Rhys Jones
Photo by David Rhys Jones
Photo by David Rhys Jones
The building in Brick Lane (Shoreditch) is an example of something overlooked by most visitors - when I am photographing I make a habit of always looking up! Above the shop fronts you sometimes see details that haven’t been covered up or destroyed… some people call these ‘Ghost Signs’ This one I did some research on and found that it was an old soup kitchen to feed the poor.
On your website, I have also learnt that you were photographing Soho for 5 years. What kept you coming back to this district with a camera for such a long time?
One of the Central Saint Martins buildings was in Soho and I walked the area quite a lot and try to take a camera with me everywhere. Soho has a great history with lots of surviving old buildings. It is also a creative area but unfortunately changing now – especially since Central Saint Martins has moved away.
I must say that I prefer the vibe of Shoreditch. More rough and rebellious, at least it was like that some time ago.
Shoreditch has also changed like Soho…
Sgt Pepper album cover done by Peter blake, Jamie Reid tied to Sex Pistols. Looking at some of your inspirations it is very difficult to push away the notion that you are also a rebel! 
I think all artists are rebels to some point - but some more than others.
Why have you chosen to focus on ceramics and 3D objects?
I like working in 3D and I use ceramics as it is so versatile a material. I especially like 3D as the work doesn’t reveal itself immediately – the viewer has to look all around it and engage with it (I hope).
David Rhys Jones in his studio
David Rhys Jones in his studio
Another important part of your practice is public art. Does designing this kind of art differ significantly from your other projects?
Public Art can be quite challenging as there are a lot of practical considerations and problems to solve. There is usually a brief to work to and the work will need approval before it can be made.
How does your creative process look like and what is the most challenging part of it?
My process involves firstly collecting inspirational material (photographs, drawings, objects). I also research the subject I am interested and then start sorting what I have. Usually some images, ideas become more important than others so I will focus upon them to start with. The actual idea for an artwork can come at anytime – in the shower, on the bus. It is a case of absorbing everything and at some point an idea will come along – usually when you are not expecting it! 
Can you give some advice to any self-taught artist or designer?
Never give up – some of the best work comes from self-taught artists and designers.
Apply for any opportunity you can find to exhibit or for commissions.
What is your favourite colour?
I don’t have a favourite colour – I prefer colour combinations. My favourite combination is yellow and grey
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