Back in 2009, two born and bred Dubliners began changing the face of their city. It was a time of doom and gloom, tough times and little hope, so Damian Dempsey, singer songwriter and Maser, artist, wanted to remind their compatriots what a truly amazing city they all lived in. It’s the Irish way, to look through the fog and see sunlight on the other side. To face life singing. They took to the streets, paint in hand and words in mind, and began applying their colourful brand of socially focused art to the walls, alleys and backstreets. It was a form of poetry, something to lift the cities inhabitants;
"It's pretty simple, but poetry can be simple. I think a lot of working-class people who haven't had a lot of education think poetry has to be complicated or has to rhyme – but I'm saying poetry can be just one line, and that it's for anyone." Damien Dempsey in an interview with the Independent
When the pair met, Maser was moving away from standard graffiti styling and was moving into a more positive space. His ‘Maser Loves You series was upbeat, with positive messages and curvy visuals, so when he met Damian in a pub, the plan was simple – “You give me words and I’ll put them on a wall.”
“They Are Us” was born. The idea for the series of murals came from Maser’s encounters with the homeless, spending his days on the streets, he spoke to them and heard voice that are mostly unheard. He listened to their concerns, their stories and it turned him away from the traditionally negative messages that street art broadcasts. He wanted to give hope to the people on the streets, rather than broadcast their woes, he wanted to celebrate the city rather than shout at it.
Unlike a lot of street artists, Maser asked for permission to paint up a majority of his work. This way, he knew his efforts wouldn’t get whitewashed in a couple of days, and the art would stay alive. As the art remains, so does the impact of the messages. There are positive messages on the walls, but with an underlying anger, a gentle humour with a political sensibility, and Maser’s is all too knowing of the open-ended nature of his work - "people can take their own spin on it; that's what most art does, invites interpretation rather than thrusting something down people's throats."
It’s poetry for the people, reminding Dublin’s natives, and incidentally anyone who lives amongst the seesaw moods of any capital city, that life isn’t always all that bad. We’ve got a lot to love, the heritage, our people, our arts. We should raise our Dublin flag high, and be proud of the canvas we call our capital.
Check out this video, where Maser had a chat with TwoTube TV.
Photos c/o Flickr's- SebastianDooris, kyz, paulmmay and Eoin O'Mahony