He was elected as President of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers (RE) a few months ago now, so we thought it was about time we got to know David Ferry a little bit better...
What sort of music do you listen to while you work?
Recently I bought a box set of the complete works of Benjamin Britton, the choral works are stunning. After I get bored with that I move on to Morrissey or Richard Hawley. However on Saturday afternoons I only ever listen to sport. The skill of the broadcaster to evoke a live game of football on radio is quite brilliant. Up until his recent passing the former Blackpool FC and England captain Jimmy Armfield was a superb commentator. He had a lovely Northern tone to his voice, he assumed wisdom and poetry by the way he was able to sum up a game of football, it was quite wonderful. My Father was a friend of his and as a schoolboy we went to every home game for years. Nowadays if I get the chance I will still travel to see the team wherever they are playing. I was at Wembley in 2012 to see Blackpool FC gain promotion to the Premiership. A most memorable a moment as I could ever wish to describe, creating a pure and euphoric condition that only the beautiful game can evoke. The tears and joy of those Blackpool fans coming together for a common cause were awesome to witness. It was an enraptured sea of human tangerine, the Pleasure Beach and Bloomfield Road running amuck over the national stadium.
What are the best and worst things about being an artist?
The best things are without a doubt being able to exercise a liberal freedom of expression when making art. The worst things are the way artists are misrepresented in society at large.
Tell us something about yourself that not many people know.
Whilst at school I wanted to be a professional racing cyclist. I had no intent or inclination as to wanting a career or a ‘good job’. I was seen as a lost cause at the school. All I wanted to do was escape on my bike. I was useless at group games and had no interest in academic study. I left at 16 without any qualifications and went straight to the ‘Job Centre’. I was put to work as a trainee supermarket manager and got sacked soon after starting for positioning the dog and cat food tins in the design of the Union Flag on the shelving units. At least I knew that a career in corporate retail was not for me!
Who is your 'art idol'?
There are quite a few, and range from makers of the plastic arts to film directors and writers. However one photographer that stands out is the innovative souvenir postcard pioneer, John Hinde. He put Mediterranean skies where they ought not to be. Similarly the subversive ‘altered books’ of the playwright Joe Orton (helped by his lover Kenneth Helliwell) are truly inspirational. The screenwriter, director, and all the cast of the cult horror film the Wicker Man will always be in my ‘top ten’ cultural highlights, it is a complete masterpiece.
What’s the funniest incident that you’ve seen in your time at the Chelsea Arts Club?
I became Chairman of the Chelsea Arts Club in 2016 and each Chair has two years in post. During that time there have been many hilarious incidents, but I remember during one of our famous/infamous Summer Balls seeing a Donald Trump lookalike serenading one of our garden statues of a nymph in a one-way tango. The leader of the ‘free world’ trying it on with a lump of concrete!
What is it that inspired you to take on the role of RE President?
The RE is a very valuable cultural asset promoting the art of printmaking worldwide. After my experiences of leading printmaking departments in various universities in the UK, being Chairman of the Chelsea Arts Club, and surviving major trauma caused by a cycling accident, I thought why not? (especially as I retired early from my university work forced on by the traumatic accident). You see time is too short to be idle, and the thought of making artwork 24/7 is just too weird for me to contemplate.
What is your karaoke song?
Morrissey’s ‘Every Day is Like Sunday’ and Thin Lizzys ‘I’m a Rocker’. One reminds me of late Sunday afternoons at home as a child in Blackpool, waiting for something to come on the telly other than ‘Songs of Praise’. The other song is classic Rock; perhaps if the congregation in ‘Songs of Praise’ would bounce along with it the world might become a better place? Phil Lynott was one of the great Rock and Rolling high priests.
Baked goods feature a lot throughout your work. Is an appearance on the Great British Bake Off on the cards?!
The GBBO is just another fad of the day subverting us to do and believe, and constantly referring to ‘celebrity’. ‘Bake Off‘ is simply a fragment of TV’s kaleidoscope of current ‘competition’ programmes, and the surreal and ridiculous moments in it become part of my ‘montage pallet’. Juxtapositions of the sublime and the ridiculous, wherever they come from, are my creative allies.
What is the motto that you live your life by?
To try and not to become arrogant, entitled or dismissive, towards other people. These traits are not attractive. Some of my former university colleagues were serial past masters, assuming all those loathsome traits, especially the ‘managers’, although I have also met some artists who are so self-congratulatory and dismissive towards others that it makes my toes curl.
Other than the Chelsea Arts Club, what‘s your favorite London hangout?
The Chelsea Arts Club! It’s different everyday, or is that a different Club everyday? The others being the Wallace Collection, any professional cycle race that finishes in central London, and the London Sketch Club, where I draw from the ‘life’ most weeks.