Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper
Danny Pockets

Danny Pockets at work

Pockets by the sea

Danny Pockets is well known in Hastings and beyond our boundaries. He is an artist, video maker and sculptor, as well as a visual historian and a psycho-geographer:  documenting and walking into the faded, battered, disappearing social history of the every day. HOT’s Lauris Morgan-Griffiths had  heard of Pockets and his nostalgic shop fronts series but the first images she saw were of  that strong, sculptural work horse of a construction, Hastings pier.

David Bowie, Ashes to Ashes_Danny Pockets

‘David Bowie, Ashes to Ashes’ Danny Pockets

Pockets has a new show at the Blackshed Gallery, Robertsbridge which almost didn’t happen. Last year he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The prognosis was that it was inoperable and he was given months to live. Happily, he was referred to a specialist in London who was developing a fresh thinking on treatment and after chemotherapy, they operated – with the proviso that he signed a declaimer. There was no guarantee that he would survive the operation.

But he did. He is in remission – and having some belt and braces chemo to obliterate any remaining rogue cancer cells. Throughout, weak as he was, he painted, determined to have this show that might never have happened or been his swansong. The diagnosis has taken him not exactly in a different direction but a fresh examination of what has happened to him on the way from early days to the here and now. 

Danny's map

Danny’s map

Pockets sketched a triangle of his life charting his personal journey from Holloway via Shepherds Bush, Chelsea Art College to Hastings through his influences of admired innovators and risk takers like the singular, ground-breaking, record producer, Joe Meek, the chameleon and innovative and artistic explorer, David Bowie – as well as the ever-changing environment, historically and physically of the south east coast to Dungeness.

As you walk into the gallery you are confronted by an image of David Bowie. He had a huge impact on Pockets from the first time he saw him on Top Of The Pops; his audacious arrival on the music scene was a revelation. Then, coincidentally, he found a local connection. In white cone hat and Pierrot costume, Bowie filmed Ashes to Ashes at Cliff End, Pett Level. Flanked by religious-looking figures eerily pursued by a yellow monster of a Hastings bulldozer with its scoop down ready to pluck them up. Prescient. Who knows. But Bowie’s death certainly had an impact on Pockets. And then he had to confront his own mortality.

Next to it, serendipitously, is Starman, a boat he spotted on the Hastings beach. Around it are collaged different aspects of Bowie influences and impact on the cultural scene. But the craft itself is unpainted, beached, white and ghostly  on the shore.

Dozer Danny Pockets

Dozer Danny Pockets

Pockets’ method of image making is reminiscent of his old, worn, purposeful historical subjects, displaying their war wounds, wear and tear for all to see. Just as the world evolves, things disappear and change, so do Pockets’ paintings. He looks and looks, contemplates, then paints; erases, scrapes paint off, builds up the paint layers, erases and paints, uses collage, different paint marks to show emotional and historical connections

His colour use is vibrant was not diminished by gloomy thoughts that must have come in during his treatment. His influences are myriad from Corot, Edward Ruscha, Titian, Georges Seurat, Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Pop Art, Venice, comic books and graphics. His method of painting invites you to look into the picture and discover your own experiences though his insights and memories. His aim is to encourage people to look up at the ever changing ‘scapes of sea, sky, clouds, trees – rather than head down, glued to Smart phones. He would like people to experience the world as more than pictures on phones. There are stories, colours, sounds and sensations swirling around us.

However, he is not adverse to modern technology; he has an iPad which acts as his portable studio, giving him the freedom to work when he was either too weak – or on his frequent hospital visits.

Go Gay Danny Pockets

Go Gay Danny Pockets

There are some familiar shop fronts in the show, those wonderful individual graphic shops fronts that are fast being modernised and disappearing. There are some tender still lives that underlie his practice and allow him to regularly exercise his artistic muscle. There are interesting digital prints of skeletal trees with blue bags caught on the branches, like a flayed, splayed figure; a still-beating heart. And he celebrates the ever-present yellow bulldozers of Hastings that tug the fishing boats from the sea to the shore.

He is exhibiting at the Venice Biennale for the fourth time this year. He had hoped he would be able to incorporate his pyscho- geographical walks with friend Steven Smith, circling, criss crossing, taking in folkloric stories both in London and in Venice but that will have to wait for another year. Luckily, he is gaining his strength and there will be  more stories, more insights, more memories to plunder, explore and illuminate in his unique images.

Danny Pockets: Blldzr: and other drifts is on at the Blackshed Gallery, Russet Farm, Redlands Lane, Robertsbridge, TN32 5NG Open Tuesday-Friday 10am-4pm  until 3 June.


Posted 12:19 Tuesday, May 9, 2017 In: Visual Arts

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