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A Matter of Chance: The Artist Daniel Ginns and his Evolving Mediums

Submitted by on April 10, 2014 – 12:24 amNo Comment



Addiction Pyramid.

Daniel Ginns expresses his artistic versatility through continuous line drawings and Mark Rothko wall photos. Recent work was for the Tate Britain as part of a project created by Scottish artist Alan Johnston called Tactile Geometry.

Ginns and I went for a cup of tea to talk about nature over nurture, chance, and what the future holds for an art graduate. The 24-year-old graduated last year with a BA in Illustration, from the Camberwell College of Art. His distinct look is a colourful bandana tied around his forehead to keep his wild bushy hair from covering his face. He is very open, intelligent with a strong sense of self and exceptionally funny stories. Originally from South Sea in Portsmouth he moved to London in 2010. A varied array artists influence him from: Jenny Saville, Tim Knowles, Richard Long, John Cage, Marcel Duchamp, Rauschenberg and Daniel Eatock amongst others.

Being in an environment where your mom is a painter and your stepdad a sculptor  played a huge part in creating his environment, “ever since I can remember I always received compliments on my artwork from my family and teachers at school because it has always been the one thing that I’ve been good at.”

When growing up a lot of boys’ first connections to the world consist of animation, monsters and blood and gore, this was no exception for Ginns. Some of this influence can be seen in his semi-realistic graphite watercolour paintings and coloured pencil drawings.

The pinks, reds and baby blues of this work might perhaps look like rainbows, flowers or ice cream. However a closer inspection reveals harsh realities such as entrails and blood. As well as snakes fangs, screaming faces, teeth, mouths, desperate looking deers and pig snouts. Also in the litter of images are flailing hands with cigarettes, beer bottles, and an anorexic girl- hopefully not an early influence of childhood? So in the end what might seem like an originally safe perception was meant to be just an illusion, but why create these layers of deception?

“I was trying to make morbid and essentially dark looking imagery look pretty. From a distance one might say that it is a nice pastilly triangle or whatever shape I made the thing and then you get closer and you see an intestine or a heroin needle falling into a girl’s face, it’s about second-guessing yourself, I crave creating that confusion. I found it interesting to make pretty things which under close observation are really dark.” Ginns said.

This artistic approach might be comparable to the Dionaea muscipul, Venus flytrap, which uses an alluring fluorescent blue light to attract its prey, unaware of the truth until the jaws snap shut. One particular story in Ginns life profoundly illustrates this allure and the reality that things are not always what they seem. 

When Ginns was 19 he was in Bali and one night that he was wasted he slept with a girl who afterwards asked him for money. He had no idea she was a prostitute and he was panicked moneyless and not sure where he was. He eventually found his way home and the next day he started throwing up. He thought it was just due to different food and drink that he had had in the country, which can sometimes result in what is known as the Bali belly, yet the symptoms persisted for some time.

Ginns went and got tested for HIV, tests takes three weeks for the results, in the meantime he started to get a massive outbreak of huge spots that appeared on his chest and feel aches and pains throughout his body. He torturously checked the Internet about his symptoms and they all confirmed what he thought, that he had contracted a venereal disease. In the waiting period for the results he left to go to Australia to meet his biological dad for the first-time and told him.

When he eventually got the results back the doctor sat him down and told him that they were negative, all the fear that had built up let loose and Ginns replied, “What do you mean they are fucking negative?” The doctor explained that it was a good thing and that Ginns was fine but at that time he still felt he wanted a second opinion.

The effects that were happening to his body he describes now, as being psycho-sematic the mind being so strong in a belief in something that it causes physical realities. It took him another three weeks to come down from the negative mental trip. Ginns said that the thought of believing that he was so close to a nightmarish end would stay with him for the rest of his life.

This scary experience manifested itself in his work at the time as spiky teeth with an upside down smile, which represented his “evil penis”. Thinking that he was “fucked from this thing that gives me so much pleasure.”

Ginns moved in a very different direction in his art with his Durational Line drawings, a change that chance played a part in. “The way it transitioned into the line drawings was through a really natural process actually. I used to do lots of work with these 0.1 black pens and I’d draw all sorts of stuff and then when shading one of my drawings in a certain way I did the lines straight down in a old etching style and I found the beauty in the way of how that kind of worked.” He said.

Line Drawing Systems.

It prompted him to fill up pages with lines, working in a subconscious way using his 0.1 to draw a line from one end of the page to the other. If the line curved then that was followed as well. After a few hours he would have to stop to uncap a new felt pen when the ink had run out. The line work also resulted in Line Drawing Systems where coins were dropped on a huge piece of white paper down a piece of string, to get as close to the middle of the page as possible, drawing around the coins over and over until varied sizes of circles dominated the page. The physical effects of sitting for so many hours doing this type of work resulted in back pains and “working till my eyes bleed” when Ginns had to use eye drops as he realised that he didn’t blink when he was working.

Other recent work has consisted of photographing walls and partitions around the city after erased graffiti portrayed organic colourful expressions that resembled natural Mark Rothko paintings, Rothko Walls. Ginns also has been taking documentation photos of coin scratches on Oyster card ticket machine across London called the Oyster card machine marks seriesThe machines use “electronic signatures” to recognise coins. When coins are rejected people rub them against the surface and this action can alter the response of the machine with the coins then, possibly being accepted.

Another life changing chance experience that affected Ginn’s art happened at his degree show for Camberwell College that took place at the end of June last year. During the show a man approached and asked him if he had heard of an artist called David Connearn. Ginns had not, the man then explained that the line drawings that he was exhibiting, and had been working on for the last year, were very similar to Conearns work.

It turned out that Conearn had been exploring the same ideas for line drawings for around 30 years also discovering the concept spontaneously. Ironically Conearn also studied at Camberwell. Ginn’s tracked down the artist to talk to him about his worries and to assure him that there was no plagiarism just a coincidence of discovering the same concept. He eventually received a reply from Conearn, which was calm and collected. The outcome was even better than Ginns could have hoped, Conearn got him involved in a great opportunity with the Tactile Geometry project at the Tate Britain. Where including Ginns, eight assistants lay on their backs for two weeks doing spontaneous pencil marks filling up the ceiling of the museum’s new café.

With this astonishing outcome for Ginns it might seem that the approach to some of his work, “pretty things and yet under close observation they are really dark” has been turned on its  head. Sometimes even our ugliest fears can turn out to have the most beautiful realities.

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