Saturday 17 November 2018

What Lies Beneath: You Too by Duda

You Too by Duda, Mixed media on canvas, courtesy of the artist

You Too by Duda
You Too by Duda

Niall MacMonagle

For David Uda, growing up in London in the 1980s, drawing and doodling "kept me off the streets".

His Irish grandmother was a dab hand at watercolour and was among the first ever students at Grafton Academy "which I found out half-way through my time there. I've followed a little in her footsteps which is mad considering I've never met her. Something in the genes?"

The name Uda, from his Sardinian dad, was how he began signing canvases but, disliking the connection people made with the Ulster Defence Association, Duda was born. Fashion and dress design were massive influences on his striking, vibrant work. Lichtenstein, Basquiat, and Alphonse Mucha, the king of Art Nouveau are his heroes. He also loves Jack Vettriano and steers clear of art world snobbery. "My work is accessible, unpretentious."

One of Duda's earliest works - "aaaages ago" - hangs in Dublin's Ukiyo Bar: "it's the size of a door, features 80 black and white dollar bills that turn full colour as part of a huge bonsai tree."

A very different work, In Bloom, on the 69th floor of 4 World Trade Centre, NY, meant Duda spent six weeks on his hands and knees painting a 5,000ft floor space. Surrounding a 20ft circle are US flag stripes "painted in more peaceful yellow and white"; within the blue circle are 2,606 flowers, each one remembering Twin Tower deaths on 9/11.

"Everything around me influences me. On the plane just now I was thinking of 'life vest under your seat' - watch this space."

He's painted a pair of runners, swans, a horse's head, and Duda's recent show, Breakfast Epiphanies, at Sol Art features glamorous, well-known models, famous faces.

"I tend not to draw men or children but there is a commissioned Samuel Beckett portrait, "a striking face, great lines", in a New York restaurant.

"The female form has way more cool lines and is more up my alley."

For Duda, "Ireland is home forever", but America is calling. In this painting, You Too, a bikini blonde responds insouciantly to frantic media clamour. Rotary phone handsets add a retro look. And those chits - receipts? bills? petitions? Duda isn't saying. And the title, You Too? Go figure. He wants viewers to have their own opinion, he has his. Cool Duda sure has.,

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