Reuben Dangoor: Lily Allen talks to the grime artist

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Reuben Dangoor hit the headlines in 2015 when his oil paintings depicting grime artists in the style of aristocrats, Legends Of The Scene, went on display at Tate Britain. In one, Stormzy stands in his stately home before a portrait of ‘Godfather of Grime’ Wiley. Dangoor works as a graphic designer, but it’s his side hustle that has seen him exhibit at the prestigious gallery, design a set for Stormzy’s tour and go viral with a video that’s been viewed 12 million times (2010’s satire Being A Dickhead’s Cool). And he’s still got lots more to say. 

How do you describe your art?

A lot of what I do is reacting to stuff I feel strongly about, seeing the funny side or celebrating something. The grime paintings, for example – that was just me being a fan of the genre and wanting to see it lifted up a little more than it was at that time. 

What’s your favourite piece?

The Gareth Southgate one [an illustration of a waistcoated Southgate comforting his younger self, right]. He missed the penalty in 1996, came back as England manager in 2018 and won a game on penalties. The image says everything. It’s tied to summer 2018 – for a lot of people that summer and World Cup were quite special. 

How does it feel when people tell you they’ve never engaged with art before seeing yours?

It’s not like mine is the only art they’d like, it’s a gateway. They might have had a preconceived idea of what art is. If you’ve got lots of people from different points of view and backgrounds making stuff they’re interested in, it adds to a diverse pool of work that people can jump into. 

How do you think the internet has changed being an artist?

It allows the link between your work and the people you want to get it in front of. Building an audience doesn’t have to rely on an art agent or knowing people in that world any more. You’ve done a lot of political illustrations. 

What do you hope they’ll achieve?

People say, “I wasn’t going to vote, then I looked into who my MP was because of your stuff.” It sparked an interest in voting, and that’s all I’d want. It’s not about telling people what to do, but about them engaging with something that affects them. 

What advice would you give to people wanting to pursue their creative interests?

 The tools are there for people to express themselves in any of their interests and hopefully make a living out of them. You can be realistic, you can still have a nine to five, but you just have to be passionate about what you love. Keep working. 

You can read all of the articles from Lily Allen’s special guest edit of Stylist here.

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