A mural, covering one side of the recently opened Lovers & Friends, is vibrant and inviting with a mysterious undercurrent of something more serious, almost dark, much like the man who painted it.
Fin Dac, the 47-year-old artist from Ireland stands in front of his creation with folded arms, cupping his chin with one hand. We’re looking at his latest creation among tables of diners in an alley/al fresco restaurant along Gough Street and he just old me that he has a secret.
A common feature in Fin Dac’s work is a splash of color, painted over the eyes of his subjects, splattering outward from their faces. Why he includes these masks is information that he will take to his grave. He’s more interested in what they mean to his audience.
This is a surprising turn of events coming from a man who just told me that at 40 years old he was leading a “shit life”, feeling isolated in London, and creating technical drawings including air duct systems and escalators for British Rail.
“I had wasted a lot of my life trying to keep other people happy. I thought of others people’s feelings before I thought of my own. I looked at my life and thought ‘What the fuck are you doing?’”
One would assume this might be a mid-life crisis, but instead of buying a sports car or motorcycle, Fin Dac ended a long-term relationship and threw himself into a career for which he had no formal training, little promise of success, and a self-ascribed lack of confidence.
“I needed something to lose myself in.”
As Fin Dac threw himself completely into learning skills needed to be a street artist he also abandoned any fear of failure.
“Most creatives have doubts about themselves. Those doubts get in the way of doing. If something turns out amazing, then great. If it turns out crap, whatever.”
Success for Fin Dac means putting in the hours, his recipe for creating art that others have found striking over his short seven year career. The act of doing has become his teacher and he remains a student regardless of the accolades.
“I still don’t know what I’m doing. I just don’t let the fear get in the way of what I’m doing.”
This attitude led Fin Dac to paint perhaps one of his most well known murals, a geisha on the back of a ship in Wales. Taking the job was a no-brainer for the adventurous Fin Dac, so he wrapped himself up in two sets of thermals and headed to a Welsh dry dock in an estuary one winter, and painted against the frigid, howling wind.
“A geisha on a boat in Wales. That shouldn’t work but it does.”
Fast forward to winter in Hong Kong, Fin Dac’s first trip to our city, and he’s standing on the street in camouflage shorts and sandals, describing how to get a dotted effect with spray paint, a technique he’s perfected over the years, and I can’t stop thinking about those masks and what they mean to a man who shares so much of himself with a perfect stranger.
But he keeps that bit to himself and leaves the rest all over a wall on Gough Street.