Who is the street artist known as Donk?

Posted on Monday, 4th August, 2014

If it features knights of the crusade, B.boys breakdancing around an epic boom box or a mammoth shire horse, then Donk’s probably passed through the area.

A few weeks back we were lucky enough to chat to the reclusive street artist at his South London studio. 


Donk ushers us into the old 60’s building he works from, repeatedly apologising for the mess. It’s safe to say the chap definitely has a liking for the colour purple (we don’t mean the 80’s movie), with one whole corner awash with purple paint, from the ceiling to the floor. Donk’s tag (in purple) is scrawled across pretty much every surface – one never looking quite the same as the last. If Hendrix were alive he’d feel very much at home.

Works-in-progress and stacks of finished prints are precariously balanced alongside an army of freshly-wrapped postal tubes. Huge prints and full sized paste-ups are passed to us at a furious rate by Donk, seemingly magicked from nowhere.

Donk begins to explain why he feels the need to wheat paste London’s streets from top to bottom on a daily basis, and what his work is all about.

The whole process isn’t necessarily what you may first think; none of the images are sourced from the internet or books, and everything in Donk’s work is in fact his own. He photographs everything in his work, from rag-and-bone horses to pin-up girls on bicycles. He even makes the costumes and props – and hand-pulls the screen prints himself. Oh, and not forgetting the wheat pasting; he does that himself too.


DONK: “I developed the idea of Donk as a space for creative expression outside of my work as a photographer. In 2008 I started to place images on to the street where I explore a photographic and Xerox style of paste-up art, washing the Xerox in faded colours to soften, age and alter the final mood. My original images are high contrast, graphic and photographic constructs which lend themselves quite naturally to the screen printing process which I am using more and more these days.”


DONK: “I play with my visual ideas like stories. These balance my personal take on urban history and nostalgia with aspects of human strength and vulnerability. I guess you could say my aim is to communicate something sincere, but above all entertaining.”


Many of Donk’s works include The Boy, as he calls him; Donk’s eleven year old son (who’s on the other side of the studio happily tagging away on a wall).

DONK: “The Boy is a huge part of my life, as he would be. It came very naturally to me to include him in or make him a part of the work from very early on. He’s an inspiring influence. And although his mother and I separated when he was five we manage to share his time between us very well. You could say that including him in my work is a reminder of how central he is to me, and it brings us closer together.

Of course being a dad has also meant that I have got to be a kid again myself. There is a vicarious process at work here; through him I rediscover or remember my own childhood and that comes through naturally in the work. I hope to reflect the powerful imaginary worlds of childhood but also allude to the darker, stranger adult world that lies just beyond.”


Donk’s son is clearly a good sport, having had his face plastered across London wearing a Zorro mask, an Elephant Man costume and Native American garb in the image B.brave.


DONK: “Dressing up, fantasy, and playfulness are all elements that I employ in my images, exploring themes of growing up and growing old, the passage of time and the anachronistic nature of time itself.

But in the meantime, The Boy is doing his own growing up and that is, in some ways, being documented through the work and creating a larger story arc, hopefully well into the future. It doesn’t mean much to him now, a street art daddy isn’t cool to an eleven-year-old either, but hopefully one day he’ll understand how much I miss him when he’s not around.”


Donk’s Humble Magnificent series is now available on the NoWayArt web store in very limited numbers, so don’t sleep. Plus there’s the imminent release of a new Donk print – Biker-Girl – available exclusively through No Way Art. Super small edition!


We’re also working with Donk to create something extra special in the near future, which will be super-limited.

Join the mailing list for details.


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