David Turner – Hama Bead and Lego Artist
“David Turner is a Belfast based artist who creates autobiographical work through toy mediums that reflect conflict, terrorism, and evoke critical commentary on present day violence and war. Growing up in turbulent Belfast, Turner was surrounded by violence and conflict. These events have had a direct influence on his life and artwork, causing him to revisit his adolescence and recreate these memories with childhood mediums such as LEGOS, Hamma Beads, and Plasticine.
Turner’s artwork presents a platform that is both a direct reflection of his childhood and the conflict he experienced, as well as giving a voice to
current atrocities, be they children of war, child soldiers, or children who have lost their lives or a loved one to gun violence. His work materializes in many forms, from two-dimensional depictions to fully functioning firearms, which break down contentions of representation and offer new and exploratory directions for investigating themes of conflict, war, self, and popular culture.”
Tell us about yourself, who are you, where are you from, and what do you make?
“My name is David Turner, Im an artist living and working in Belfast, Northern Ireland. I make contemporary sculpture and visual art from children’s mediums such as LEGO, Plasticine, and Hama / Perler Beads.”
How did you get started making the type of art you make?
“Hama / Perler Beads was a toy my 8 year old son was playing with. He was making Space Invader and Pac Man characters out of them. At the same time I was looking at early 90’s 8 bit graphic simulations and wondered if I could use one Hama Bead to represent one pixel or 8 Bit block. I started experimenting with them and came up with the idea of using them as Physical Pixels to create visual art.”
What’s your inspiration?
I take inspiration from lots of different sources.I studied photography and painting as an undergraduate and fell in love with artists such as Gerhard Richter and Sigmar Polke, later I found Daniel Richter, Peter Doig, Luc Tuymans and Wilhelm Sasnal but I was always fasinated by Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. I’m also a fan of Si-Fi writer Robert A Heinlein and his ‘Lazarus Long’ series of books.
What is art to you?
“Art is a process with an end result where by people will try and figure out that process.”
What does your typical day look like?
“I take the bus to my studio in QSS Studios in Belfast City Centre. I’ll usually grab a coffee and use the free wi-fi in the coffee shop. I’ll then spend a good hour in my studio just walking around looking at things and pulling the odd book out. I usually know what I want to be working. If I don’t then I’ll start playing with some of the stuff lying around my space and work on ideas. Knowing what I’m supposed to be doing or finishing is usually a good day.”
How have others responded to your work?
“I’ve found that galleries and curators are interested in the visual impact of the work. The immediate response is usually to how tactile the materials are, which draws people into the content. When I first started showing the work a lot of people didn’t know that the materials were. In all the response has been good.”
Any words of wisdom to aspiring artists who want to pursue a similar career?
“Find yourself a space to work, a studio if possible. Somewhere you can concentrate on what you’re doing and at the end of the day you can lock the door and return. This is also the best advice I was given.”
What are your thoughts on art school?
“Its a necessary evil. I think the research and essay writing was the best part of it. I applied as a mature student and made the most of my time there. I found that the MFA was what the BA should have been.”
What’s your dream project?
“I’d like a one person show in London or Berlin.”
What art supplies do you use?
“I Use LEGO, Hama / Perler Beads and Plasticine”
How could the art industry become better in your opinion?
“Where I live and work, there is a lack of affordable studio spaces and opportunities for graduates. “