Liverpool based artist Danny O’Connor aka DOC had a varied upbringing. As a 15-year-old with an insatiable appetite for art he found inspiration in everything from the Pre-Raphaelite to urban art and graffiti. He also drew reference from British cartoonists and illustrators for their erratic, energetic designs. “I’ve always loved drawing since I was a child and I studied Graphic Design and Illustration at “Liverpool John Moores Art School” After finishing there I was unsure for a while about what to do next. It’s quite an unusual career path to take for a person from my background, so I had no idea on how to go about beginning a career as an artist.” He obviously found his feet quickly however as now he is exhibiting his abstract portraits throughout the country.
“Whether it is through a simple pencil drawing or a heavily layered painting, I try to make the work bold and full of energy, the aim is it to have a visual impact on the viewer, to try and stop them in their tracks. I was always an attention seeker as a child so I guess that’s still my aim today, but through the artwork.” Each piece is thickly layered combining pristine graphics and messier, impulsive elements. DOC was happy to admit that the exact result of each piece is in-fact a mystery until the moment of creation. “I don’t tend to have any preconceived ideas about what I’m hoping to portray in terms of emotion before starting a piece. The aim is to lose myself somewhat in the process of painting. For me that’s the best way to harness your own emotions because if I’m too conscious of expressing a certain feeling, then it will become forced. I feel if I paint with passion then emotions will reflect in the subject I’m painting and the viewer in turn will be able to connect with it.”
Typically working within the relative safety of the studio, his unpredictable processes keep things interesting. Splashing paint, flicking spray, although the humble yet versatile acrylic apparently suits his impatient nature better; when talking of his art he has an absolute sense of urgency in his phrasing, as if the quantity and imminence of his ideas are fighting for space at the surface of his mind. When he is looking for something fresher he takes himself outside where his splashing “I love working outside on walls. It’s good to interact with the public and it allows the work to be seen by someone who may not have initially got the chance to see it. I’ve done various bits and piece but I’d definitely like to increase my output for street work.”
The aesthetic of his work is clearly something of importance to O’Connor when asking deeper into the meanings of his pieces. “Symbolism creeps into the work in the form of Floral elements and skulls, they are something of a recurring theme. I dig how they represent the polar opposites of each other: Life and Death. It’s those harsh contrasts that appeal to me and are what I try to convey in the way I work.” With a mix of sharp geometric lines and softer floral elements he creates this contrast alongside flashes of brighter colours and dark lowlights. “I want it to have a traditional raw and painterly aesthetic, yet feel almost digital and futuristic. I’ll make a messy splash of paint on the canvas then put a crisp clean line through it. I’m just really interested in extremes and trying to make them work within a single image. Even my colour palette is extreme with deep blacks and harsh whites in many of my canvases.”
A heady mix of symbolism, form and bright colours, DOC made a point to mention to ambiguous meaning of each work, hoping that each person to look on his pieces took something different away. “I also don’t want to spoon feed people too much about what they should be feeling regarding each individual piece, as I think it’s important for the viewer to try and take something personal from it without being coaxed in a certain direction.” This individuality is reflected in his careful choice of models which seem to demonstrate so many emotions in every expression.
Enthusiastic yet humble, O’Connor’s rise to notoriety seemed to come as a particular surprise to him, as the man who initially had little idea of where to take his passion. However now as he has both feet firmly planted on the ladder the only way is up, and with future hopes of going global and getting out onto the streets of England we have a feeling this isn’t the last we will hear of from the DOC.