STREET artist Dermot McConaghy is making his mark in Lurgan thanks to a series of stunning vistas designed to turn heads and stop traffic, writes Graeme Cousins.
His latest project has seen him use his artwork to transform a wall in the car park at Black’s Court.
Dermot aka DMC, having graduated from SRC with a degree in Creative Imaging, has been working as a freelance artist for the past five years.
In the past year the 32-year-old has been responsible for getting tongues wagging with ‘The Wish’ mural in Church Place as well as bringing urban art to a farm in Aghagallon (pictured above).
His current project in the car park behind Church Place came about after Dermot approached businesses there off his own bat.
He said: “I’m always on the look out for new places to paint. I approached some of the businesses in the car park and asked them did they want their walls painted with something a bit more interesting than magnolia paint.
“I do it free of charge though usually the businesses make a contribution to the paint.”
Dermot has been working on the project with Jonny McKerr aka JMK who is also from the Lurgan area.
Dermot said: “Jonny is more of a classic fine artist. I’ve been on at him for ages to come over to the street art side.
“He’s only been doing it from April this year and he’s been blowing people away with his work.
“I love working with Jonny - our styles are very different but compliment each other well. I do girls and skulls. Johnny is into Greek mythology and statues.
“The red and blue design is very loosely based on the elements of water because of the business the wall is attached to, but generally we try not to be dictated to with regards to what we paint.”
Dermot went on to explain the differences between street art and graffiti. He said: “Graffiti artists gain respect by the volume of work they do. Graffiti is about getting your name out there.
“Some street artists don’t even sign their names. I’ve even considered not signing my work. I could let my work be the signature by continuing to paint the same subjects and themes.
“Street art is more about giving the viewer something they don’t expect. Like when you walk around a corner and see colours you wouldn’t expect to see.
“Street art is painting on the ultimate canvas. It’s the best gallery in the world.
“When I see street art I nearly crash the car looking at it because of the way it grabs my attention. Someone has went to the trouble to do that for me to see it. That’s what excites me about it. That fact that it’s been done for me.”
He added: “The beauty of street art is that just as it is instant, it is also disposable.
“For example I’d be happy for the wall with ‘The Wish’ on it to be painted out so that another artist can put up fresh work every year as part of a culture night in the town.”
Dermot told the ‘MAIL’ he has a lot of time for Banksy, the world’s most famous street artist, who has managed to keep his identity under wraps since coming to prominence in the early ‘90s.
He said: “I saw my first Banksy when I was 19 years old. I was over in London and I saw one of his rats on the way to the Tate Modern. I took loads of photos of it and I don’t think I took any photos in the Tate Modern. It blew me away.
“I think it’s amazing what Banksy has done with little support or funding in his early days. It’s his thinking that makes his work stand out. The man is a genius.”
He added: “Some people have a fair idea who he is, but I think it’s better for the purposes of his art for him to remain anonymous.
“If the media wanted to reveal who Banksy is I’m sure they could, but the myth and the mystery of the man generates so much tourism in the UK that revealing who he was wouldn’t serve a great purpose.
“While it serves Banksy to remain anonymous, some of the other street artists remain anonymous because they’re breaking the law in the name of art.
“Because the majority of my work is done legally I’m quite happy to stand by it.”
While his street art is arguably the most striking aspect of Dermot’s work, it’s through prints, canvasses and facilitating community art projects that he sources most of his income.
He said: “I was big into digital art at the time when no one was doing it. In the end I just had to walk away from it. I’ve vowed never to use a computer again to create art.
“Hand-painted art is the purest form of art and that’s what I’ll be sticking with. The cans are very expensive, but I have good contacts for paint.
“It’s not as easy to use as just pointing and spraying. A lot of it is about the way you approach the wall, the angle you hold the can at and the way you layer the colours. The different cans have different pressures so you’re constantly learning as you paint.”
He continued: “The season is over now for street art, but we’ve a big whitewash event planned for street artists in MCAC where we will be doing live art on February 15.
“We’ve had 200 people at the last two events. We’ll be inviting an audience and there will be a DJ. It’s a collection of like-minded people coming together and supporting a scene that doesn’t really exist here.”
One of Dermot’s most memorable projects was at a farm in Aghagallon belonging to ‘big’ Noel McStay. As well as working with Jonny McKerr, Dermot also got to work with street art icon Conor Harrington. He described Harrington as the biggest street artist in the world at the moment.
“To get a chance to paint with him and have a beer and a roast beef sandwich on a farm outside Lurgan was like a dream come true,” he said.
“That’s the reward for me. I’m not into money or material things. Those wee things like getting to hang out with my favourite artist were like pay day to me.
“The farm gave us a chance to take urban art away from the urban setting. When I was painting the cows were coming up and licking the wall and at one point a bull was closing in on my paints.”
With businesses in the town fighting an uphill battle with the recession, it’s fair to say the movers and shakers of the arts scene in Lurgan have brought a vibrancy back to the town.
DMC is one of a number of talented individuals in the town who have helped bring about a cultural revolution. Per capita, Lurgan can rival any town or city in the world in terms of artists, musicians, comedians, photographers and actors. One thing you can’t accuse Lurgan to be lacking of is creative talent.
Dermot said: “I’ve always lived in Lurgan and probably always will. Everything I’ve achieved is through growing up here so it can’t be all bad.
“There are so many talented people in Lurgan. I’m proud to be doing what I do and to be part of that scene who are showcasing what’s great about the town instead of living in the past.”
For more on Dermot visit his website www.manchini.co.uk