A day with the Artist DAF
Leaving his mark in stone
The Nationalist Newspaper Friday 15th November 2002
Rounding the corner of the home of sculptor DAF on a crisp and clear autumn morning I came upon a huge stone horse carved from a twelve tonne block of quarried limestone. In a striking pose - the head is lowered as if to graze - the piece symbolises the equine species, past and present. It is a monument to all horses from racecourses to dray and represents both the male and female gender in impressive form.
DAF, whose latest creation, From the Earth to the Sky, graces the forefront of Newbridge Cutlery, was 35 years old [ late] before he started to work in Stone. A Dubliner by birth he always had an interest in art but was never encouraged to follow that inclination. Self taught, he started to sculpt in 1980. In 1985 he was commissioned by The Irish Times newspaper group to create a limited edition of 100 bronzes depicting a rugby scrum half for private collections. In 1987 he was awarded Oireachtas Medal , for his work SHE FROG (his second was awarded in 2001) and Calor Kosangas prize for sculpture.So by 1988 the decision to give up the day job and devote himself completely to his art became a life-saving necessity as DAF felt he was slowly dying inside. In that same year he was invited to take part in an International Symposium in Bulgaria . The well-known Irish artist Robert Ballagh encouraged him to take part in Europe's oldest stone symposium in Bulgaria and the ensuing work, a 2.5 metre marble piece called Snake Woman, initiated his international career.
A self styled "people's sculptor" DAF refuses to classify himself as a Dublin, Kildare or Irish artist. His work embraces all races, creeds and cultures. Better known on the international front , DAF, has built up quite a reputation among his peers in far-flung parts of the globe. Art, he believes, is a medium which can break down barriers in this political power-frozen world. He has worked and exhibited in Israel, Italy, Sardinia, Germany, Bulgaria, Spain, France, Africa, Kazakhstan, South Korea , India where he was the invited guest artist at Visva Bhavan University, West Bengal and South America . He also created a piece in sandstone Life in Creation , which he donated to and on behalf of the victims to the city of Bhopal in India, a place ravaged by a chemical disaster in 1984.
His pieces adorn private collections in the US, England, Australia, New Zealand , Canada and many other countries , including the homes of Senator George Mitchell, the Kennedy family , President McAleese of Ireland and Lord Dubs, Minister for the Environment in Northern Ireland , a couple of famous actors are also in there . Daf's dedication to his work is all encompassing. He describes playing Russian Roulette with himself and the stone , one wrong cut and all could be lost but also with his life as he immerses himself completely in his work in progress. In what can only be explained as an osmotic interaction he becomes one with his material. Losing himself in the creative process a synergy occurs between the sculptor , his subject and the environment in which he is working.
On completion of a major piece DAF is often so emotionally and physically drained that he has to take to his bed to recuperate. While much of his earlier work was figurative in design - see the charming Memories of Mount Street sculpture near the ' Pepper Cannister ' Church in Mount Street , Dublin and the Peace for All bronze, grand in size and grand in it's message , commissioned by Cavan County Council. which adorns the Senator George Mitchell Peace Bridge on the Cavan - Fermanagh border - many of his later creations are fashioned in abstract form. DAF believes that everything has been sculpted and that the abstract form allows the artist to recreate, renew images and change trends in art. He still, of course, does figurative work to commission and is known to combine styles in his Art , as he says himself , "when it comes to my Art there are no rules".
A symposium he was invited to attend in Israel, where he won the FIRST PRIZE in 1993 opened up the abstract world to him. Sculptors from all over the globe gathered to create a sculpture which would be sited in an area of Israel near the Golan Heights where two communities, one Jewish, one Arab, were living together in peace. DAF, working from instinct, and a feel for the place, its time and traditions created a work called The Kings Pillow, graces the main round-a-bout between Tarshiha and Ma'alot in Israel.
The creative process, often a quest for spirituality and self knowledge, can be a very lonely experience.
Working on a large or complicated piece it can be difficult to keep levels of confidence high. DAF can only sculpt for a purpose. Each new piece creates is infinitely different from the last so it is impossible to pigeon-hole his genre. He would hate to be categorised as an "ism". His skill has allowed him to travel the world, meeting people from all walks of life and vastly differing traditions. He has pressed palms with presidents and paupers, gurus and lepers [ India ] on his journeys across continents.
He spent the changing of the millennium gazing at the North Star with nomads in the Sahara Desert. Along with 13 artists from all over the world he had been invited to join a prestigious millennium project in Mauritania to carve his timeless impression into the Isha Monoliths, a sacred site dating to the Neolithic era. The result of his labour , The Offering remains in the desert as a symbol of passing millennia and by so doing gives his work an immortality few artists can achieve.
He has often spent long periods , working on his own away from home in pursuit of creating art. All trips abroad are by invitation and DAF, representing Ireland on a world-wide stage among international artists, funds all trips himself as he receives no grants from statutory bodies. If artists suffer for their art DAF has done his bit . His spirituality is an eclectic mix of eastern philosophy and Christianity and anything else you want to put in , been a self taught artist made him self taught in everything else , as he said himself , '' I am told the fire is hot but I want to know it for myself ". Although not interested in the accumulation of wealth for its own sake, wealthy people, not all he says, live in fear of losing their riches. he is pragmatic enough to realise that money allows him to support his Art, buy material and travel in relation to his work. Believing his life moves in cycles DAF is excited by the present phase. He is convinced this decade will prove to be his most successful where he will make more inroads onto the international stage and break new ground in the East.
The sculpture just completed for Newbridge Silverware, From the Earth to the Sky crafted as a monument to the late Dominic and Mona Doyle, is the tallest sculpture in Co Kildare Ireland at 18ft high and represents in Chinese granite the journey of life. It is a striking piece, an ageless work which looks different from all aspects. Other works by DAF which can be viewed locally include include the bronze Memorial to a State Solicitor in Naas Courthouse, Tree from a Secret Garden in Kill village and The Firefighters, a limestone and marble wall panel which adorns Newbridge Fire - Station in Newbridge Industrial Estate.
DAF An Artist with his own mission and mix of philosophy takes life as it comes and in his words '' tapping into the subconscious ''.........