DENIAL is a Canadian stencil and mural artist whose work critiques consumerism and the human condition. Though based in Windsor, Ontario, DENIAL spends much of the year travelling and exhibiting throughout Canada and USA, having done solo shows in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Toronto and Vancouver.
In 2000 he adopted the moniker ‘DENIAL’ as a means of poking fun at advertising, politics and media messages that contemporary society is often ‘in denial’ about. Since then he has maintained an ongoing global street-campaign of over 500,000 stickers, placards and murals, using the alpha-numeric characters ‘D3N!@L’. Intended as a conceptual means of marketing absurdism, DENIAL also challenges traditional notions of graffiti and public art through his bold and often satirical visual subversions.
Tell us about the ‘site-specific’ ART panels - when did you make them and what is the concept behind them?
I made these pieces in 2012 with the intention of putting them up at Art Basel in Miami. I did put up a bunch but chose to save a few for a later date. Initially I made around 60 and I have these 20 left. These pieces intend to create a dialogue about art and more specifically the commodification of public art. Having the word ART "copy written" in the piece was influenced by a friend of mine, Iain Baxter&, a well known Canadian artist and expert on the teachings of Marshall McLuhan ("The medium is the message"). In 2011 Baxter& legally copyrighted the ampersand symbol and subsequently changed his name to it. Another influence was Rick Vian, an instructor at CCS in Detroit, he coined the phrase "Life without art is stupid". By fusing the two concepts I propose a new idea relating to the consumerist nature of the modern art world and the current state of "street art".
Where have you placed these panels?
Most of them went up in Miami at Art Basel 2012. I did put some up in Toronto and Detroit as well.
What is your take on art VS graffiti/street art, and what is your experience with people’s reactions to your style of art making?
It's actually pretty hilarious when I think about it, I started as a graffiti artist when I was around 18 and it was a lot different back then. I am from a small city and there weren't any other people doing graffiti so I was kind of like what the fuck am I doing, trying to figure shit out on my own. When I was around 23-24 I started teaching myself graphic design and started kind of fusing the two elements together to come up with my current styles of painting. Anyhow, back then I used to get in shit and get run out of alleyways and put in jail and now people are practically begging for me to paint their property, it's nuts. I guess it could be looked at like the whole "pop music vs. rap/hiphop" debate, how there was this institution which existed and along came this ferocious movement out of the urban areas that took over pop music. This is kind of how I see graffiti and street art and what it is doing to the existing art world. Turning it upside down and creating all these new things that never existed before. Taking it over.
Tell us about the ART hats - we noticed acclaimed Canadian street artist OMEN was wearing one during his TED talk recently.
Yeah OMEN is a good friend of mine and I got to paint alongside him last summer at Free For All Walls. He was offered a slot at the TED talk in Montreal and sported one of my hats. I really wanted a hat that just said ART in a super bold font and then it came to me to have a bunch done at once so I could offer them to others too. I made 100 and I am pretty sure that'll be it for the run.