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Accessible David Luscombe thrives on feedback

THE economic downturn offered David Luscombe the artistic freedom he’d forgotten he wanted – as well as a big dollop of inspiration, says Sam Wonfor.

David Luscombe
David Luscombe

EIGHT weeks ago, David Luscombe had a head full of artistic concepts, just waiting to be realised.

Now a dozen of his 20-or-so bold and often politically-inspired works produced in the two months since, are decorating the walls of a Newcastle’s Cafe Neon, in the Bigg Market, as he awaits the outcome of a clutch of exciting conversations with gallery owners.

Meanwhile, the 41-year-old’s memorable prints are already adorning the virtual walls of Saatchi Online.

Charles Saatchi himself has even given his work the all-important Facebook thumb up.

“It’s exciting not knowing how things are going to pan out. We’ll just have to wait and see,” he says.

Having spent the lion’s share of his professional life thus far satisfying the creative visions of his employers as a graphic designer, it’s clear to see that Lusky – as he wants to be known – is revelling in his new found artistic freedom.

“I never expected to get a job as an artist as a kid. I was really into it, but I got knocked back from art college (in Newcastle). Then the guy who knocked me back got me a place on the graphic design course, which I knew nothing about at the time.

“Through that, I heard about the job at The Journal,” he says about the position of senior designer which he held until he left the newspaper in 1999. From there he went to work for a software company and has been a freelance designer since 2007.

“The economic downturn during the past few years has obviously hit advertising and design hard.

“So I went freelance and then have been thinking about doing something for myself from there really. I suppose I’d given up on the art to a certain extent. It happens when you get bogged down in the work you’re doing.

“It’s easy to get into the routine where you’re getting paid for sort of doing what you like, but not really.

“It’s really important to find your voice, though you have to know what you want to say.

“For years, whenever I would do painting or illustrations for myself, I’d be doing bowls of fruit or cow heads.

“There were all these pictures of cow heads everywhere, and I’m thinking ‘but I don’t want to be painting cow heads’.

“And so then you start thinking over and over about what you want to do which leads to what we used to call ‘analysis paralysis’ in the software company I worked for, when you go over something so much that you don’t know where to start.”

As it turns out the best place to start for Lusky was the work of US experimental writer and journalist, Hunter S Thompson, most famous for Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1971) and pioneering the Gonzo style of journalism, which sees the writer immersing themselves in the subject they’re reporting on to such an extent that they become an integral part of the story.

“I started reading and thought it was a really funny, interesting and satirical take on real life events from this counter-culture perspective.

“It really gave me the confidence to create the ideas I was having, as well as using some of his work as inspiration in itself.”

When it comes to inspiration, Lusky’s sources are many and varied.

“It works all ways. Sometimes I’ll be inspired by something I already know a lot about.

“Sometimes I’ll have an idea and want to go a find out everything I can about it. Or it might come from something I’ve seen on a documentary or read in a newspaper.”

Last Friday would be a case in point for the last of these inspiring examples.

“I read this quote from Liam Gallagher which immediately gave me this visual image of a balloon with a smiley face on it and a hand crushing a Weetabix above it.

“Straight away I saw it was called ‘I’m Not Having It’. To anyone who looked at that, they wouldn’t think anything of it, but if you search for that phrase online...”

And so I did.

After a page of stories about the doctor who voiced his displeasure at the infection risk posed by David Cameron and Nick Clegg during a visit to Guy’s Hospital in London a while back, I find the quote which, let’s just say is less than complimentary to a certain Liverpudlian footballer. “The main thing for me is that I want everything I do to mean and say something,” he says before taking me through a few of the pieces overlooking our table.

The first is called Changing Nothing.

“It’s the three businessmen with their relative drinks and the formula above them is a loop in programmatic terms,” he kindly explains, seeing my confusion at said formula.

“It’s basically a system which repeats itself and changes nothing. They’re going to do the same thing over and over again, and nothing is going to change.”

We turn our attention to Previously Potus (seen on the main photo).

“The word ‘Borked’ comes from an influential US lawyer and then judge from the early Seventies called Robert Bork.” (The Oxford dictionary has it listed as American slang meaning ‘To defame or vilify’).

“But it’s now computer terminology for a badly configured system. I thought that was appropriate for this,” he says.

Lusky is quick to point out that he has left some pieces out of this exhibition, which would be inappropriate for a family audience.

“Some of it is sensitive, but I’m not looking for it to be jarring,” he says. “Some people don’t like it, but from the feedback I’m getting, some are finding it quite interesting.”

Having made all of the wooden ‘tablets’ which serve as solid canvases for the work, I assume he creates out of a studio?

“I work at home, in Chapel Park, (Newcastle). It would be good to have a studio, but I think my wife would miss the work everywhere. I think she’s secretly hoping it doesn’t sell!”

Meanwhile, as well as originals and prints, he is also working on a wider range of outlets for his art, including jigsaws and greetings cards.

“I really want to make my work as accessible as I can. At the end of the day, when you’re trying to say something, the more people who hear it the better.” www.lusky.co.uk

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