Dan Maginnity aka byrd is a freelance graffiti muralist and conceptual sculptor, whose primary focus is the interface between the human condition and the places they occupy. Starting out as a graffiti painter 20 years ago, he remains passionate about grass roots and activist art-practice, and its history in the local and global contexts. He also makes commercial and experimental works for gallery exhibition; commissions for private clients; as well as competing for public mural tenders.
Byrd’s work is held in the collections of The National Gallery of Australia; Canberra Museum and Gallery; Craft ACT; the ACT Legislative Assembly Collection; Arts ACT collection and various private local & international collections. His significant commissions include works for The National Portrait Gallery; The National Museum of Australia; ACT Health; the Hindmarsh Group; the Molonglo Group; ACTEW AGL and ICON Water; Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation; The City of Sydney; Tumut Shire Council.
THE STREET TALKED TO DAN MAGINNITY DURING THE MAKING OF TOGETHER ALONE.
YOU HAVE SHARED A STUDIO WITH LUKE CORNISH (E.L.K) WHEN FIRST STARTING OUT AND HAVE CONTINUED TO SUPPORT EACH OTHER AND WORK TOGETHER OVER THE LAST 30 YEARS. WHAT CONNECTS AND SEPARATES YOU AS ARTISTS?
When we shared a studio Luke was transitioning from working as sign writer to full time artist. We both lean heavily towards stencils, though in different ways, and as a kind of printmaking, stencils require a certain amount of preparation anyway. But the way he organised and produced each body of work or project, the habits he brought from his other life, were instructive. Watching him travel the world making connections; move to and live in the cities that best service his practice; and play in the art competition and gallery sectors have given me insights I wouldn’t have otherwise. He has always had his eye on the horizon, I’m a little more distracted by what’s in front of me.
WHAT IS YOUR WORKING RELATIONSHIP WITH LUKE CORNISH (E.L.K) IN THE CREATION OF TOGETHER ALONE?
I’m an extra set of hands, company and a sounding board during the lengthy process of producing this painting. It can be demanding mentally and physically working at this scale, and having another body around helps you stay level. I often find I’ll work more steadily for longer with someone else, where alone I let me get away with more.
YOUR ROOTS ARE IN THE GRAFFITI SCENE AND YOU HAVE BEEN LEAVING TRACES AROUND CANBERRA SINCE THE 1990S. WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS ON THE CHANGES IN STREET ART IN CANBERRA? HOW DO THEY COMPARE TO STREET ART ACROSS AUSTRALIA?
The Canberra scene is broadening nicely, we’ve always had Graffiti Writers plugging away, but now there is also a critical mass of Street Artists and Muralists around. This makes the possibilities visible to the general public, which grows understanding and further expands the possibilities.
HOW HAS LIVING AND WORKING IN CANBERRA IMPACTED ON YOUR ARTS PRACTICE?
Canberra is following the bigger cities, but we don’t have the physical infrastructure or number of bodies to match them. But that’s good, it means people are finding new solutions for producing works in public space (and even what is public space). I have a gallery and a street practice, so I try to pay attention to both fields as broadly as possible. It’s kind of nice to be witnessing trends with some distance, it allows perspective. And the constraints of Canberra as mentioned before, also act as a kind of filtering mechanism. What makes sense elsewhere, what is possible elsewhere won’t and sometimes can’t translate locally.
WHAT THEMES DO YOU EXPLORE IN YOUR WORK?
I’m interested in people, the places people occupy, what happens between. Not necessarily the people directly but all the peripheral stuff. The things we share space with, and the spaces we share.
IN WHAT WAY DO YOU THINK MURALS CONNECT PEOPLE?
Murals give everyone a shared experience of place. Murals can anchor a space and locate it.
YOU REMAIN PASSIONATE ABOUT GRASS ROOTS AND ACTIVIST ARTS PRACTICE. WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT TO YOU?
With small actions, we build big things. Grass roots and DIY action is often outside of institutional structures, formal or otherwise. So in a way they often take more attention from the participants. With no path to follow one needs to be attentive at all times.
WHAT DO YOU SEE IS THE ROLE OF THE ARTIST IN PLACEMAKING?
With attentive responsive artists active in a space, their produce will be local. Spaces become places when they are distinguishable from others, and this considered artistic produce well located does this.
WHAT IS INSPIRING YOU CREATIVELY AT THE MOMENT?
Collaborations with other producers. Getting insight into other people’s arts practice and trying to bring my understandings and production methodologies into communion with theirs. A large part of which is not knowing what the outcomes may be.
WHAT ARE YOU READING/WATCHING CURRENTLY?
I’ve been really enjoying reading the work of Claire G. Coleman, Terra Nullius and The Old Lie. A super version of Si-Fi talking about contemporary issues at a safe distance.
WHAT’S ON THE HORIZON FOR YOU?
A couple of big-ish commissions after this, a building facade down the South Coast, a corporate gig across several rooms locally and then part of a playground with RedBox Design. I’m keeping busy, It’s nice.