Art director Alùn Davies brings his unique, other-worldly vision to Dalston Superstore in our latest art exhibition DALSTON SÙPERNOVÆ. Having previously contributed to Another, British, Russian, U.S and Italian Vogue, GQ, and worked with musicians La Roux, Lady Gaga and Peaches; it's fair to say his work is highly sought after. Davies’ multimedia style, hyper-colour set designs, outré vision and hands-on craftsmanship approach to art direction transforms Superstore into a new world of colourful, futuristic landscapes expressed in a multi-media environment of mural paintings, luminous neon sculpture, 3D props, film, photography and sculpted portraits.
With DALSTON SÙPERNOVÆ set to go throughout August, we caught up with Alùn to ask about his current work, exciting projects and inspirations...
Can you talk us through the various inspirations behind your new exhibition Dalston Supernovae?
When Saskia Wickins (the DSS curator) asked me if I would do a show I initially thought of all the projects I do for fashion and music photo shoots and video's and I wanted to bring those fantasy worlds to DSS, once on a shoot that Saskia worked on with stylist Kim Howells I made an apocalyptic pink sand beach and under the warm photographic lights the models were transported to another world I wanted to bring this otherworldly aspect to DSS. A lot of my work is made from Object Trouvé and sustainable, so bringing lots of different elements together to make something new. It's a futuristic vision which Most probably comes from watching too much science fiction as a child, I've always loved these queer other landscapes you see in films and then fashion and music embrace the fantasy elements too .
Why do you think it works so well with the Superstore environment?
I think people go to clubs for new experiences, a break away from the norm of reality, I wanted to create an installation that was all encompassing for the space a total 3D world, not just a hanging picture. I wanted people to get a feeling when they were in the space, which helped on the private view by also having live artists performing characters by wearing costumes I had made that also feature in the photographs displayed.
You work in multi-media, but what is your preferred material or style to work with?
Well the reason I work in multi-media is that I can be inspired by so many things, I love colour in all varieties and use it in many ways. However directing is my favourite style of working, that way you can have a team of skilled individuals that all help to create the vision that I can see.
There's obviously a strong relationship between fashion and music, but how do you personally link the two in your work?
Well I'm passionate about both, and for me music and pop culture, watching MTV in the '90s is what made me start to look at fashion and costumes. All of the musicians I work with have a strong visual drive and so require clothes that can help them transform; high fashion allows them to do this. In the same way that music helps to set the mood for a fashion photo shoot it can really change the energies when you have the right balance it can be incredible.
Who are you favourite designers to work with?
Piers Atkinson (milliner) has a brilliant vision and our styles work so well together he's an illustrator and also trained in props before becoming a designer so he has a brilliant understanding of the fantasy that can be created with sets and art direction.
Aqua by Aqua are also very driven to create a visually strong world their look books will have a theme and recently we created a David Lynch atmospheric set, I've also done window displays for them which again embraces sets and props and generally has a very entertaining theme or narrative.
You've also worked with Vogue Fabrics in the past- what's so special about that venue for you?
Vogue, in the same way as Superstore, embraces art and creativity Vogue feels intimate and experiential. It is not only a club but also studio and home to Lyall Hakaraia and so it feels very much like being part of an extended queer family. It is another part of Dalston's queer elite with out the elitism!
Can you tell us a bit about the work you did with them at Glastonbury Festival?
Lyall Hakaraia asked if I would co-design a Vogue Fabrics venue at Glastonbury with set designer Anna Bruder, we were to be part of the huge NYC Downlow made by the fabulous set design team Block9. It was a hidden venue and so you either found your way in because you knew someone or stumbled there by mistake. The theme was Benidorm vs Bedlam and so we split the space up one side designed by myself was a hot pink neon suntan explosion of colour the other by Anna was cold stark white tampon wall covered land of darkness. Each side had intimate performance spaces and we were the first venue to ever have sex performers Danni Daniels friend and performer was dominating in his space and Ashley Ryder (power bottom) was entertaining in his. We were the freak show of Glastonbury.... It was amazing!
You've worked with musicians such as Peaches and Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs- who's been the most inspirational to work with?
Well T.E.E.D. is a new collaborator but extremely experimental for a boy which is great, he embraces head pieces very well so I'm a huge fan of Orlando. Peaches however, I've worked on a whole stage opera as production designer and so I've had a lot more contact and she took me over to Berlin to design the show I was there for two months and in that time we put on a stage show that was out of this world. It got repeated again last May and there will be documentation in a film format soon. Peaches is another musician that embraces fashion, costume props to transform her and I love a transformation!
You're from Neath, Port Talbot- do your Welsh roots have any influence on your work?
The landscapes in Wales are incredible and that is something of a recurring theme in my work, also the Welsh love pop culture and clubs were a big part of growing up as a teenager, I met friends, lovers, muses all in these places as a teenager and a lot of them are part of my life still.
Are there any Welsh artists or musicians you like to work with?
Perhaps if you cross bred Shirley Basey with Bonnie Tyler (from the 80's) we would get some some laser beamed crystal encrusted operatic robot (somewhat Grace Jones esque) that would be fabulous!
What's the craziest project you've worked on recently?
At Lovebox we build a VIPenis area as part of the Downlow and Vogue Fabrics, that was a black caravan with black glitter curtains all over and a giant penis riding on top. The inside was gutted out and redecorated with illustrated Penis wallpaper by Victoria Sin. That was pretty crazy!
And finally what other projects do you have coming up over the next few months?
August is the lull before the storm of fashion week so lots of planning and preparation for September. We will shoot Piers Atkinson's look book end of August and there are more shoots with photographer Thomas Cooksey.
For more information on Alùn Davies visit www.alun-davies.com