They Are Us

They Are Us Exhibition at Block T

Works from Maser & Damien Dempsey‘s ‘They Are Us‘ public art project will be on exhibition in Block T from October 15th-17th.

Works from Maser & Damien Dempsey‘s ‘They Are Us‘ public art project will be on exhibition in Block T from October 15th-17th. All proceeds raised by the sale of artwork from this project will go to the Simon Community. The aim of the project is to raise funds to purchase a medical van to provide assistance to people affected by homelessness.

They Are UsThey Are Us is a tribute to Dublin, a tribute to the city: northside and southside, the visible and the secret, the good and the bad. They Are Us was initially conceived by Maser, and grew out of a previous art project, ‘Maser Loves You’, which involved a series of positive messages being placed around the city. His work is directly inspired by a passion for his hometown: ‘Dublin is a central theme in my work. I spent some time travelling and painting when I was younger. The more I travelled, the more I realised how great this city is. I loved it more from being away.’

Spending more time painting on the streets, Maser became increasingly aware of the parallel city: the partly-hidden world that exists in the spaces away from signs inviting you to ‘register your interest now’ or places with ‘upward only rent reviews’. ‘When I’d be painting, I used to meet a lot of homeless people and addicts, they would end up hangin’ out with me for the day. I ended up seeing a lot of strange things, some good, some bad, but all things that make up this part of the city.

‘Around the time, a lot of the work I was doing was with quite rounded, inviting typefaces. A lot street artists works are very negative, focusing on the negative elements of society or anti-establishments. I don’t want to do that – I don’t see the point, it’s us on the ground level who have to see this everyday. After a while, I found myself writing almost hopeful messages to them… things like ‘Urban Achievers’ instead of ‘Underachievers’.

This theme of hope led to a connection with musician Damian Dempsey. ‘With my work, I want to portray a positive message, but still address what I encountered on the street. And that is what Damien Dempsey does with his music. I think my work is reflective of what’s in Damien’s music. He’s a local hero to me. His words have weight behind them, people listen to them. And I thought it would be interesting to intertwine what we were doing.’

The pair began collaborating – Maser selecting sites, and Damien supplying words, some old, mostly new. ‘I think 99% of his words are ones that from his notebooks. A few are lyrics that I love, and thought would be ideal for a certain sites.

The link between the project and the city is furthered by Maser’s chosen style for They Are Us: primarily known as a graffiti artist, this project sees him present his take on Dublin sign-writing styles of the 1930s to the 1960s. ‘I chose sign-writing (as a style) because I wanted it to appeal to as many people as possible, not just graffiti writers. So I started researching Dublin sign writing from the ’30s, ’40s, ’50s and ’60s: that was an artform in itself: the typefaces they used, the leading and layouts. It’s a homage to certain people like Kevin Freeney, the sign writer, who back in the 1930’s, rambled through Dublin’s streets on a bike or with a pushcart carrying his paints and brushes. He painted over 700 pieces around Dublin town. So, I thought this was an ideal medium because, in a way, it relates to Damien’s music: the concept, the content.’

The project covers a variety of sites across the capital city, and includes works in St Patrick’s Institution. ‘I’m not sure why I wanted to work there,’says Maser, ‘I just know that I wanted to interact with people in a different environment – just like the Dublin I see painting at night is a different environment, so is the institution. I wanted to experience it, to see what it was like. I wanted to stay there also – but I’m not sure if they would allow that!’ As part of the collaborative process, Damian Dempsey performed a gig for the inmates at Mountjoy. In addition, Maser also hosted sign writing workshops for the inmates.

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