One of them spent decades making decisions with the intention of fitting into community norms, creating stability. The other threw caution to the wind and jumped into a world of creativity with both feet before really understanding what life and responsibility were all about. Both Fin DAC and Mick Rock have ended up in the same place, near the top of their chosen artistic fields — inspirations for anyone following in their footsteps. What's even better, they're collaborating on a new show.
Rock and Fin DAC are exhibiting their collaboration, Midaro, at West Contemporary editions starting March 2, 2021.As part of the junket highlighting this new exhibition, I had a chance to speak with Rock and Fin DAC. Inspired by the work of both artists, I took this as an opportunity to ask them about their own inspiration.
Fin DAC spent the first couple decades of his career working at a pseudo-creative day job in London's advertising world. Fin DAC is very open and honest about his struggles through this period of his life. Overwhelmed, Fin DAC fell back on drawing, his first creative love. Fin DAC found that drawing gave him an escape. Picking up the act of creation again, Fin DAC noted that art
. . . allowed me out of my own thoughts.
It's not just a cliche that art is a better form of self-medication than drugs or drinking.
His Brand and His Inspiration
I've always been an admirer of the branding aspect of Fin DAC's work. I suppose that given his history in the ad world, this should come as no surprise. Once you've seen his work, there is no mistaking his pieces for someone else's. His work is uniquely his. I was curious where his masked figures came from. Where did he find the inspiration?Fin DAC lists a disparate set of inspirations: the Amazonian ideal, Pris from Blade Runner, Annie Lennox, Man Ray, Gilbert & George, Francis Bacon, Aubrey Beardsley, graphic novels, Patrick Nagal, Zhang Jingna, and Ryan Tandya. A veritable treasure trove of eye candy and philosophical approaches across multiple genres.
Fin DAC pointed out that inspiration is an ongoing process. For Fin DAC, his conversations and interactions with almost everyone in his life has led him to how he translates his vision into paint and shape. More than just a long, slow percolation of ideas, Fin DAC is convinced that inspiration isn't something an artist can actually point to in the moment. To Fin DAC, the impressions of the world rattle around in his head, coming back through the filter of his lifetime of experiences. According to Fin DAC, inspiration is a result of his subconscious organization and reorganization of his thoughts.
Fin DAC and I talked about how it's better if you don't always know where your inspiration comes from. If you're too aware of your inspiration, that awareness can take away from the personal or unique translations of the world that each of us is capable of. If you're too aware of any one source of inspiration, it can dominate and shape our art towards mimicry instead of creation.
As a street artist, the last element of Fin DAC's inspiration is the streetscape itself. Fin DAC's goal is always to incorporate a building's unique ambiance, sense of place.
Anyone who has listened to 70s rock 'n roll or New Wave will have seen a Rock image or two. Anyone who follows music photography more specifically will know who Rock is. His connection with the 70s rock / New Wave underground falls under the very definition of symbiosis. Rock's creative vision and the image of the underground are one and the same.
Meeting up with Syd Barrett during his early university years likely sealed the deal for Rock. He remembers picking up a camera from friend while enjoying mind-altering substances and feeling a particular rhythm settle into his life at that moment. Sure, he was studying with a goal to become an accountant, but with friends like Barrett, Bowie, Reed, and Harry, what else are you really going to do with your life but be involved in music somehow?
Rock explained that once he realized he could get paid to take photographs of local bands, even at a pittance, he committed. As Rock put it, living a bohemian existence in 1970s London wasn't expensive. Rock jokes that if he could avoid a real job by taking photos, photography was for him.
His Brand and His Inspiration
A lot of Rock's inspiration comes from his highly creative subjects. Working in the seething music scene of 1970s London was, as Rock puts it, a lot like being assimilated into an underground. Working in an all-consuming creative industry is bound to mean that inspiration flows both ways: from photographer to subject and from subject to photographer.
For Rock, strengthening his creative reflexes with music and substances were part of his daily life. Rock and his subjects are famous for pushing their music and mind expansion as far as possible in order to get closer to that ultimate understanding of life.
Rock noted that he has always been inspired by the Beats and the Romantics. The ideas, energy, and looseness of these literary revolutionaries encouraged Rock to be a revolutionary of his own. Not surprisingly, the Beats and the Romantics were also big inspirations for his superstar subjects.
Rock spent the early years of his career working with his subjects to create what has become the very image of what alternative rock 'n roll is today. Sometimes it's difficult to look at the pioneering images after they have become ubiquitous and see daring. As a revolutionary, Rock changed the image of music and musicians. Rock and his subjects first created this image and then made this image mainstream.I've always been a fan of musical-historian Alan Cross's differentiation between rebel and revolutionary. A rebel just wants to fight or lash out against the mainstream from somewhere in the underground. A revolutionary wants to transform the underground into the mainstream.
That's what Rock did. If music's image helps to shape the next generation of musicians, Rock's inspiration has in turn shaped and inspired decades of image and music.
Do you find inspiration in stories like Rock's or Fin DAC's? Do you find inspiration from non-photographic art forms? Where do you look?
I, for one, am interested in seeing more of the collaboration between Rock and Fin DAC. Blending such different stories and such different inspirations is, well, inspiring.
In respect of the gallery showing mentioned at the outset, in honor of Lou Reed's birthday, all prints will be available from the 2nd March ‘21 at West Contemporary editions starting March 2, 2021. Some of the images will be auctioned off, with proceeds going to the NHS, CARE International, and CALM.
All images are copyright of, and provided by, Mick Rock and Fin DAC.