Stand Out Stories: In Conversation With Dreph

Stand Out Stories: In Conversation With Dreph

Streetwear and street art go hand in hand, and that is why our latest collaboration features the visual artists and educator Dreph, as part of our Stand Out Stories series with Billionaire Boys Club.

On the role of the artist

For me, the most important thing will always be using my art to inspire people. I want to tell people stories, too. I’m just blown away by people’s stories; how they live and how they perceive the world. I have a platform that allows me to tell people’s stories.

On early influences

So Hip Hop came to the UK via New York in the early 80s and by about 1985, after spending some time break dancing and b-boying, a friend of mine brought a book called Subway Art into class one day. It was so mind blowing for a kid of my age. Just seeing so much amazing artwork and this entire subculture, we were blown away. Before long we started trying to emulate what we were seeing. By the late 80s we’d started to meet other artists in our local area, and by 1990 we were active painting tubes in London.

Growing up, I was interested in everything from British comics to the works of Lucien Freud. So the lettering and tagging went hand in hand with developing my portraits. Over the last four or five years, I’ve reflected on all I’ve learned throughout my career in terms of placement and how to use space, and I’ve merged that with my interest in fine art. Putting all of those elements together has gotten me to where I am now.

On graffiti as self-expression

As a young person, you don’t necessarily have the skills that you possess in your adult life when it comes to expressing your feelings and your thoughts. So it was definitely a very raw form of expression in those days. To some degree there was a hint of rebellion too, a sense of adventure. As time went on, it also became about a sense of community.

On the influence of Hip Hop

I think Hip Hop has been a big influence on development. I would call any of the artists heroes, necessarily, but the phrase ‘Hip Hop raised me’ certainly rings true for me. Hip Hop allowed us to navigate our childhood. It helped us make sense of life as a young person in the UK during the 80s and 90s. Some of those tenets I still hold dear to this day.

When I was younger, I was exposed to a lot of different worlds. I remember thinking about how, in my early teens, I was doing paper rounds in Windsor Castle and then immediately afterwards I’d be painting tubes. So, there was always this juxtaposition of worlds. That juxtaposition has followed me throughout my life. The phrase ‘the world is yours’ is something I take literally. I can go anywhere and do what I want and that’s what I teach my son, that the world is ours.

On growing up

I was raised in Windsor, where there were hardly any black families. My parents worked extremely hard to make something of themselves. So there was an expectation that I would become a doctor or a pharmacist or something along those lines. I decided I was going to follow an art career. My mum didn’t quite get it at the time, but my dad did. He’d explain to me that that others in the family wouldn’t necessarily understand my alternative lifestyle, but he understood what I was doing. Even if he didn’t necessarily agree with the path I took to get there, he got me.

On working in public

Painting in the street is a very unique experience. When you’re painting in the studio, no one sees your work unless you want them to. So, you create, you make your mistakes, you attain some level of perfection in your finished article – or at the very least you arrive at a place where you’re happy with your work – and only then do you show it to people. In quite a controlled way, too. At an exhibition for instance. The street is completely different; the first mark you make gets some sort of comment or critique from the passers-by. So the whole process becomes a very interesting one.

When it comes to street art, anything can happen to your work once it’s finished. I’ve seen artists go to the pub and within the hour their painting is trashed. But I used to paint trains; I’d be lucky if I could even get a photo of my work back then – and the work would almost certainly never see the light of day. That’s where I’m from. Yes, I take pride in my work, but I also understand that it’s not going to be there forever. The most important thing is for people to engage with my work in whichever way they see fit. Even if it’s just for a day.

On personal style

Personal style is important to me, and it’s something I’m constantly trying to develop. Not just in the way I dress, but also in the way I work and create. Art permeates everything I do. Art comes first. I think my work, much like my style, is a culmination of everything I’ve seen and lived to this point.

When I was young, I held no distinction between fine art and popular art. They were all artistic outlets. I try to approach all creative outlets, style included, with a child’s mind – without boundaries and distinctions. To find my way, my voice, my own sense of authenticity and originality.

Discover the partnership between Billionaire Boys Club and Dreph now.

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