David Emmanuel Noel is a British artist who I met through another artist, Elizabeth James and social media. When I checked out his website www.davidemmanuelnoel.com, I was very pleased by what I saw and decided I’d ask him for an interview. We had a great chat. Check it out.
MICHAEL: Hey David! Love your work. First of all, tell me about your use of color. Color is very strong in your work and it really seems to be a sub-theme in your paintings.
DAVID: Color is hugely important. It plays a powerfully attractive and hugely effective role in stimulating thought and healing the spirit. For me, color is part of the therapeutic release bestowed to me and I just hope it’s appreciated by those who care to follow my art. For a number of years, I’ve worked in the architecture and construction industries where I've been involved in the delivery of pubic building and arts programs. There is enough research to suggest the use of color has an effect on the human brain so I hope my work falls into this category in a positive way! Color via paintings not only extends the aesthetics of a room or building, but potentially adds to the vibrancy and temperament of those who dwell inside. I hope my paintings extend the comfort and warmth of the rooms they occupy.
MICHAEL: You've just mentioned architecture, construction and the comfort and warmth of rooms. Does this mean you think of your work primarily in terms of home design?
DAVID: Not necessarily, but we spend a majority of our time within social and living spaces. My experience makes me conclude there is a natural synergy between art, architecture and the use of space. In fact, we need only look at recognized artists and movements in history to witness the value placed on the pyramids, our churches or mosques; they all contain an amalgam of art, design and space. I’m probably digressing, but what I mean is I want others to enjoy my work whenever and wherever. I’m not an advocate for limiting the boundaries for where mine or anyone else’s art may be shown. I’ve been fortunate to work on public murals and outdoor spaces too, so art can be exhibited anywhere. Maybe in the future it will be the norm to have our cars and motorcycles commonly painted in the design of artists’ work.
MICHAEL: Your work is obviously Afro-centric. Do you like that term, "Afro-centric"?
DAVID: I‘ve never categorized my work as I allow that honour to others. I feel I paint a variety of styles and themes, but I guess my preference and cultural inheritance shines thru. I do find a greater bond with Afro-centric themes, colors and images.
MICHAEL: You say you never categorize your work and that you leave that to others. However, marketing and promotion do categorize art and take demographics into account. Is this ever frustrating as an artist and individual?
DAVID: Yes, it is frustrating at times, but I guess for marketing purposes it can without doubt provide dividends. I think it reflects our ability to make sense of art and our appreciation of it. I've interviewed other artists of various disciplines and they too are reluctant to categorize their art into a particular genre because it can limit one's appreciation of their skill as equally as help promote it. They'd rather be seen as artists with particular influences that are reflected in their work. It's a strange area with advantages and disadvantages.
MICHAEL: For some reason, when I look at your work, it brings Jacob Lawrence and Romare Bearden to mind. Of course the styles are completely different. Perhaps it's the use of color and maybe it's my own sense of pride in looking at their work as well as yours.
DAVID: That's a huge compliment. Am I paying you for this interview?! Jokes aside, they are inspirational artists.
MICHAEL: How much does history play a role in your work? When you're painting, are you referencing the past or is your work more about the present? Work that references culture seems to carry this burden.
DAVID: It's a bit of both. It's social, it’s religious, spiritual, sexual and political. It’s every aspect that makes us human and provides self worth or value. It's what I feel at the moment of painting.
MICHAEL: You said earlier that you paint in different styles, but you're probably best known for what you're currently doing. Many young artists seek out a "signature" style. What do you think about signature styles?
DAVID: There are ways to get recognition, highlighting a style that’s unique to that individual. However, I think artists developing their styles and exploring mediums will accumulate a number of styles over the years.
MICHAEL: You’re British, but also live part time in New York. Compare and contrast, if you would, the differences between the New York and London art scenes. Do you think New York is the “center” of the art world?
DAVID: I don't believe I've exposed myself enough in either market to fully conclude which is the center. There are emerging arts centers such as Miami and there's Berlin and Paris. I'm making more of an enjoyable advance in New York at present, but things may change. I love both cities and I'm hugely privileged to have the opportunity of working in both. The art scene is a reflection of the politics within our society; art is used as a platform for social control and those allowed to participate define our perception of art and its social importance. London I believe is more conservative and commercial galleries are less representative of the plethora of art out there. I believe it’s related to culture, class and inevitably the commercial value placed on art which is seen as a commodity. You'll invest in art as you invest in property hoping to get a return. I think the New York scene is similar, but there is more of a consensus among mainstream galleries, communities, governments/boroughs and artists about the importance art plays in the fabric of society. That's why we see more street art, murals, privately-funded and local arts programs etc. I also believe the variety of art is more due to the diversity in the demographic make-up of those who not only appreciate art, but have buying power.
MICHAEL: In talking about the art scene, what do you mean when you say, "...those allowed to participate ..." Very intriguing.
DAVID: As in other professions and in life general, there is a gate-keeping process where some progress farther than others, not by just skill or ability, but by connection and suitability (as seen by those selecting) or by a person's confidence, tenacity and self-belief. I'd like to think above all else that I'm part of the latter group of artists. I'm not connected to every art house, equally my art isn't suitable for everyone, so I have to be confident to create my own openings, supported by my belief and conviction that I'll be as successful as I strive to be. I guess that's what we have to be like in life anyway!
MICHAEL: Absolutely. You know, despite our best efforts, most people walking the face of the earth today will never buy any type of original art. It just never occurs to many people that art can be within their reach. What do you think about this?
DAVID: For many around the globe, art is a luxury not necessity, unless it provides a practical and functional use. Fortunately, for societies becoming more art and design savvy, there is an increase in affordable art fairs, markets and online mediums where original or good quality prints can be purchased. Through technology, the world has become a smaller place and it provides artists with a platform on which to sell. It isn't solely related to selling however; it's also about having the power to enrich lives through teaching and supporting communities through project managing initiatives that support the arts and allow communities to value the role art plays. That's how art and artist become bigger assets to society. That's the way art increases in value.
MICHAEL: You're clearly gifted. How much of your talent is natural and how much is work? Do you come from an artistic family?
DAVID: I'd like to say that it's natural! It has to be as it needs to come from the heart. Obviously, like any artist, you strive to improve your skill with practice, but it should never be 'work' as that would change the reasons why I paint. My siblings are all gifted in visual arts and music. My mother has a medical background, but is a gifted designer creating anything from wedding cakes and jewelry to clothing and my grandfather was a talented architect-designer so I guess it has been passed through the generations. Perhaps what I paint is a collective voice of those I arrive from? I stand on the shoulders of ancestral giants to view what is potentially out there in what I can do! I look forward to seeing my daughter exhibit if she so chooses. She, also, is a very talented illustrator.
MICHAEL: Your work seems to be the product of simple, old school painting. Is technology involved in your process at all? Also, did you go to art school? If so, what did that give you?
DAVID: Human technology IS involved … with the help of oil, acrylic, pencil and ink. For prints of my work, a little computer software is used and that's about it. I attended college, failing miserably without even the lowest grade the first time. I wasn't the best student, but I deserved a grade at least and couldn't understand why I failed. I produced a comprehensive portfolio, more than others I recall, but obviously powers beyond my control or understanding were at play. I returned the following year to get through college, weary of the education process to 'succeed' and unwilling to become part of a growing number of art graduates struggling to survive in their chosen and hugely competitive field. I pursued other subjects to postgraduate level, working in the public and private sectors to sustain a lifestyle I've grown accustomed, enabling me to explore my artistic leanings. I appreciate education, but I value the intelligence of knowing your capabilities and eventual success is determined by your attitude far more!
MICHAEL: Finally David, While painting seems alive and well, do you think technology will change it and where do you want your work to fit?
DAVID: I think society will always marvel at the ability someone has to create an original piece. Technology isn't a bad thing if it propagates the artists in ways never achieved before. Technology provides artists with a virtual presence, an opportunity to connect with peers and buyers via social networking sites and most importantly, platforms to sell their work to those across this world. I think I want to be part of this boom, interacting with individuals and communities celebrating art.
MICHAEL: That’s what we’ve been doing this whole time David. Fantastic. Thanks for chatting. This has been great.
For more information about David Emmanuel Noel, check out his website at www.davidemmanuelnoel.com.