Hip Hop and art go hand in hand having enjoyed a symbiotic union since the music genre was first created. Whether it be through the power of graffiti art, street art, canvas expressions or portraits painted of hip hop icons, art is the cornerstone of the urban culture.
Introducing Dan Hu, one of Sydney’s newest and incredibly talented visual artists who has taken the humble vinyl record and given a fresh spin to the meaning of Hip Hop art. He calls his work “Art on Wax” and it is fast becoming one of the most sought after and coveted pieces by hip hop lovers not just in Australia but internationally. First coming to most of the community’s attention at the 4 Elements Hip Hop Festival held on March 19th at Bankstown Art Centre, Dan’s pieces have created a groundswell for the hardworking multi-faceted artist with supply and demand proving well and truly that he art has mass appeal.
The French-born artist, originally meant to pursue a career as a hip hop dancer, but with a segway that life often throws into the best made plans, Art on Wax is fast becoming Hu’s greatest blessing realized. With various Sydney cafes’ and small businesses getting their hip hop vinyl art fix, don’t be surprised if you see his original pieces popping up all over the country soon. I am excited to write about this unique and forward thinking artist and allow his journey to serve as inspiration to the many budding artists out there with a love for hip hop and enhancing the artistic arm of the culture in an original and positive light.
Thanks so much for your time Dan, I truly appreciate it. How has 2016 treated you thus far?
The pleasure is all mine, thank you for your interest regarding my vinyl craft Maxine.
2016 has been a pretty good year so far I must say. My records seem to get noticed a little more every day and I’m getting busier at what I truly enjoy doing the most. I couldn’t ask for much more, 2016 has made me a pretty happy man. Thank you for asking.
Your artwork is something that is truly unique and symbolic of the art of Hip Hop given that you created profiles of some of the most iconic artists in the Hip Hop / urban music umbrella on vinyl. Everyone from Jay Z, Ice Cube, Nina Simone and Bob Marley have been captured perfectly out of vinyl and make a piece that is both striking and symbolic. How would best describe what it is you create and what you enjoy most about the process of creating vinyl artworks?
I call my art work “ART ON WAX”, even though it’s really “through” the wax… The very first thought behind my creations is to give forgotten old records a second life. Ironically, I cut them, so much for a second life, haha. The concept is to translate a design or silhouette through the vinyl, while keeping intact the remaining groove of the LP.
I am not too sure what it is about LP’s but I just have this fascination about them since I’m a little boy. I find them “warm, mystical, sensual, even sexy” hahahaha. Is this a weird thing to say about Vinyl’s? hahaha… As cliché as this is gonna sound, I truly enjoy the whole process of the creation. Even if there is a pure satisfaction when I get to the framing part, the little noticeable improvements that i observe while working on each new piece is extremely satisfying… Some sense of achievement which feels real good.
How does inspiration come to you and how does the world itself play a part in your creative process?
Each new piece inspires me for the next… There are so many artists linked to the memories I’ve made through my 20 years around the world that I don’t think inspiration has ever gone quiet so far. I can find a way to cut and give tribute to pretty much anything that has made me smile in the past. I have mostly focused on singers so far as, as dancer teacher, music fills a major part of my every day.
My clients add on to the inspiration. They either come with a specific design, or simply an artist name. I then do my homework and suggest whatever I think would come out great through the vinyl. I’m getting to be as free as a child with the design, it’s pretty awesome.
What is it about being an artist appeals to you so and what or who encouraged you to take the first step in your artistry?
To me, being an artist means breaking free from “life” and let your inner child speak. As a grown up, we kinda attempt to shut down this young spirit we all have within and think more radically because “life happens”…Years go by, responsibilities add on and we often forget to take time in order to reconnect with our own selves. What appeals to me in being an artist is the opportunity to communicate with “me” (I hope I aint losing anyone here, haha). We’re all kids, age truly only is a number…
My vinyl art was born after an unfortunate incident. I use to have a couple of 78 rpms on my bedroom wall and one of them fell and chipped off. The idea of chucking the vinyl in the bin wasn’t setting quite right with me so I decided to smash it even more and make something creative with it. I framed it and posted a picture on social media. Feedbacks were pretty awesome and someone suggested I should make more for sell… I gifted that very first one and then got down to “bin’ness”, haha… Today I don’t smash records no more, I attempt to cut them smartly, hahaha.
When you are in your creative zone what keeps you motivated and do you have any particular rituals or music that inspires your artistic flow? What are your favourite musical artists / songs and why?
Anything vinyl keeps me motivated, I just cannot explain that obsession, hahaha… The process, seeing the shape of faces happening as i cut the record is exciting. The idea that my work could be notice by the one being crafted or simply the idea that someone will like it, buy it, hang it and look at it every day is quite motivating itself really. Now I don’t think I have a particular ritual, but I gotta have some good tunes playing out loud (yeah, out loud, to cover the bad singing that goes with it, hahaha…)
Favourite artists? Oh boy… Forgive me for giving you such answer, but I listen to so many different kind of music. Disco/Soul/Funk/House/Salsa/Brazilian music/Hip-Hop/RnB/Pop/Folk, I could go on… I’m pretty eclectic really. My playlist goes from Joni Mitchell, to Guru Jazzmataz, round Celia Cruz, back to Jamiroquai… Heaps of Stevie Wonder, the Salsoul Orchestra, Janelle Monae, Erykah Badu… I love a good bass line, a peculiar voice, a great sample, blissful harmonies… You know, good music like, haha. Best personal discovery this year: YUM YUM, these guys are simply the bomb!
OK, first favourite five in mind:
- Amy Winehouse: Her albums are just pure gold! “Woke up alone” is a track that moves me every single time.
- Donny Hathaway: I wouldn’t even know where to begin! The guy was a musical Genius in my opinion.
- Nikka Costa: That woman got soul!!! She truly sing from her guts! I am hooked since “Like a feather”.
- Stevie Wonder: I started to learn English by myself with his “Innervision” album. I was 12, I had no idea what I was singing, but I knew the songs by heart, haha
- Jamiroquai: “Return of the space cowboy” album is my favourite of them all. Amazing Bass line through the whole album.
Where are your collections currently featured at the moment? (Art Galleries, Museums, Public Spaces) and what is the general public feedback on your works?
At the moment, I only have two frames hanging at “The Record Store” in Surry Hills (Ice Cube and Jay Z). I am currently in touch with another 3 CBD venues who are interested in featuring my art work. I can’t say too much just yet as nothing has been confirmed, but I’ll hopefully be able to tell more very soon on social media once it’s all organized.
Well, the general public feedback is showing me that I should keep on doing what I do – I get a lot of WOWs and very nice compliments which is flattering. It’s especially truly motivating for me to carry on doing something that pleases me very much. So hopefully I’ll be keeping at it for many more years to come.
(Dan Hu Artistry hanging in Brekky Art @ 379 South Dowling Street Darlinghurst )
Where can the international public purchase your beautiful works and follow your creative process?
At the moment, my artwork is mostly displayed and available for purchase on social media. You can check my vinyl creations or contact me directly either via Instagram: danhuartistry or my Facebook page: Dan Hu Artistry. I’ve been pretty busy “making” so far and haven’t had much spare time but a “Dan Hu Artistry” website should also take place in the next few months.
You originally hail from France, which is renowned for producing some of the greatest creatives and artists in the world. Would you say that historic patronage to your artistic native land lend itself to you during your won creative journey at all? How would you best describe the Hip Hop art community in France and what do you think is your point of difference from every other artist out there?
Well, I actually left my native land almost 20 years ago. I’m not sure I can thoroughly answer that question, but allow me to tell you briefly about my journey…
I was born and raised in a tiny village of 700 people in France. My parents were farmers. At the age of 17, I had the greatest desire to travel and I scored myself a hospitality job in England. This was the first stop of many across the world for about 14 years til I decided to settle in Australia in 2011. I had studied hospitality business back then and was very far away from any kind of creative “anything” really. It’s only 3 years later, in Switzerland, that I discovered Hip-Hop and fell for it in an instant. From there on, all I really wanted to do was dance, which I started the following year, once I had moved to Ireland. Hip-Hop wasn’t really big out there but Salsa was living strong and it became my breakfast, lunch and dinner for over a year. Another few months later, I was representing Ireland at the world Salsa congress in Miami. I then kept on travelling and spent some time in London, Cuba, Senegal, India, NY, LA, Tokyo to name a few and trained as a Hip-Hop dancer.
Yes, I do believe that my French heritage has something to do with my uncommon handmade craft, but I think it is mostly my journey around the world that has inspired me the most. The mix of people, culture, music… Travelling around the world open your minds on so many different levels. Everyone should be travelling in their 20s and see how good and bad it is “next door”… I unfortunately don’t know much about Hip-hop culture in France as I’ve been gone for quite some time now, but we’re very loud and outspoken people out there. I love visiting Paris and wander the streets or even spend the afternoon near the Eiffel Tower at the Trocadero. Last time I was there, about 20 guys were practicing roller skate dancing, that was pretty awesome to watch. The Hip-hop culture is very strong in Paris, undeniably.
What do you hope is the feeling that people get when they look at your incredible pieces?
Incredible pieces?!!! I think you just caught me blushing right here, hahaha… Thank you for your kind words Maxine! You know, I just do my thing and only hope that people sees or feel the soul and love behind the art piece, as I spend quite a few hours on each record. We all have “idols” which we admire for a reason or another. If I can craft a beautiful frame which makes “you” feel good by just looking at it, I have reached my goal. Now imagine if that same frame is hanging in your home and you can see it every day: my work will make you feel good on a daily basis and that to me, is just awesome.
Your motto in life?
“Be fresh, Be good, Do you!” Travelling around the world has taught me kindness, respect, courage and drive. We live in an era of fiction and overwhelming diversity. There are so many options for everything that we spend our time trying to make choices. Everything is plastic and common, photo shopped to perfection and I shall not mention what goes on TV… “Be fresh, Be good, Do you! Turn off your television, close down your phone applications, listen for your calling, smile at your neighbor, give, and hustle… Only then can you truly find happiness and peace of mind. I ain’t saying it is that simple, but it kinda is…
In 2002, Lauryn Hill was recording her second solo album with a very vivid heart and spoke these words: “Fantasy is what people want but reality is what they need”… I love this quote, I find it extremely relevant and very powerful. Great, great motto when life gives you lemons and you don’t know what to do with it.
Sydney venues showcasing Dan Hu’s “ Art on Wax”
Rosie Campbells Caribbean Restaurant – Surry Hills
Breakky Art – Darlinghurst
Venue 505 – Surry Hills
For more information on Dan Hu and his artistry visit:
Always Hip Hop