What a name. Does anyone remember, in the early days of computing, the number of attempts it took to finally snag an interesting email address? For Daniel John Ryder it took about 25, and as lucky keyboard karma would have it, he landed “Angry Dan” (AD).
“Would you ever consider changing it? ” I asked while he hovered above me on a ladder on Stucley Place in Camden. “No way!” he yelled down, “. . . because everyone remembers the name “Angry Dan” – no matter how much time has passed.”
He climbed down to answer a few more questions, take a break from hand-painting over a 20’x12’ mural with a mercilessly small two-inch brush . . . And to find coffee.
When he returned, we casually began flipping through my photographs only to discover that I already had several of his murals on file. Some were located in London’s Shoreditch area and another one was just around the corner on Miller Street in Camden.
As the caffeine kicked-in, a re-energized discussion began about his process of writing a centum of limericks in as many days. This subject mutated into a debate about the logic of collective nouns, those cute little word combos, such as a ‘murder of crows’, a ‘cast of falcons’ and ‘a bask of crocodiles’. It quickly became clear that we shared a “passion for poetry and collective noun wordplay”.
To some, AD’s choice of a cleverly crafted limerick as his artistic medium may appear kitschy, but it does throw him in with other practitioners of “the nonsense verse” – heavy weights like Shakespeare, Tennyson, Kipling, Twain, R.L. Stevenson, H. G. Wells, T. S. Eliot, and Joyce. Even Edward Lear, Rushdie and Asimov tossed out a line … or six.
Admittedly there are several muralists that annotate their work with text, but what separates AD’s mural work from the fray, is his equal mix and balance of graphic minimalism, bold sans-serif typography, loud cartoonish shapes and colours, and an intelligently amusing and uncompromising adherence to the limerick’s rule of rhyme.
This refreshing blend of components produces highly charged murals that are essentially funny, happy-making, somewhat raunchy, mostly apolitical and very clever works that seem to jump off the city’s walls. It appears that Angry Dan’s concept may have achieved the street art equivalent of “squatters rights” for he now occupies a very distinct and previously empty space in the compendium of street art styles.
So. . . just a few questions. . .
ME: Why do you call yourself Angry? AD: I just think it sounds funny.
ME: Where do you hail from? AD: I grew up in a tiny village in The Midlands, but I’ve been in London for 14 years.
ME: Got a good limerick to describe yourself?AD: Hmmmm, there are a few silly ones that are about me in a tongue-in-cheek way, and there are plenty that are about how I think or feel, but I don’t have one about a man called Dan, if that’s what you mean.
ME: How long have you been creating street art. AD: I painted my first mural last year, on September 4th (2018). The one on Stucley Place in Camden was my ninth.
ME: What would you like people to know about you? Your work? AD: A couple of years ago I decided to write a limerick every day for 100 days in a row. A bunch of my mates went to art school, so I asked if they would illustrate them, but nobody seemed interested, so I thought I’d have a go instead.
ME: A wise choice as it turns out. So what inspires the poetry for your wall images? Are you an English major? AD: I’m certainly not an English major, in fact, I didn’t really like English at school. I started to write folk songs in my teens, and the voice from those songs has very slowly developed into the poems that I write now.
ME: In our last conversation you mentioned your work with special-needs children – does this mean that your artistic pursuits will be a side-line, or do you plan to make art the central focus of your life? AD: I love writing, drawing, and painting, so I’m going to do my very best to make it my life.
ME: Why street art, with its temporary shelf-life, over regular canvas work? AD: I’m really just enjoying painting at the moment. I’m learning so much about different techniques and materials, and it feels really good to know people are seeing my work everyday in real life, not just on Instagram. I’m sure I’ll paint a canvas at some point.
ME: Since you are relatively new to street art, do you need to get approval for your images and subject matter? AD: No, but I did do a painting to go next to a kids playground in Holborn, which I wrote especially with that location in mind, but most of the time I’ll paint whatever I fancy.
ME: How do you feel about your work being over-painted? AD: The first two murals I did recently got painted over, and I was okay with that. They lasted quite a few months. As my work improves, I expect I’ll be able to get more permanent spots, so for now it’s all par for the course.
Upon meeting Dan . . . don’t be fooled. He is more than a limerick spinner. His funky Elvis Costello glasses and the fair-haired looks of a teenage literary classics tutor are deceiving. The murals are a component of, and an introductory mechanism to, his other forms of art. This musician, singer, songwriter, and performer amply rewards us with his quirky and satisfying-step-to-the-left video practice. AD’s urban murals can also be read as mis-directed post cards or diversionary howl outs – invitations that will eventually lead you down his Little-Red-Riding-Hood footpath to his wacky on-line video and audio world.
AD has corralled his diverse talents to produce some very cool videos. He provided the voice-over for the introductory video “Angry Dan – The Great Eastern Street,” – made by Global Street Art. He created two animated poems: “Angry Dan Presents . . . The Man Who Stood Still Forever,” and the lament “This Is The End Of The World – Angry Dan for CND”. While you are at it, catch an offbeat life lesson in “Why Don’t You Go on the Internet? – Angry Dan,” and the haunting “You always say you love me, but you don’t – Angry Dan“.
AND finally . . . my personal favourite, the semi-biographical campy spoof, with rhyming monologue that recounts surviving a Christmas weekend at the home of the parents of his girlfriend. Physically, AD may not be the most convincing prototype for a villain, nor the obvious source for menacing material, but in “Let’s Play Scrabble – A Dark Christmas Tale“ he has successfully created a raunchily loveable ‘the-Riddler-meets-Dr.-Jekyll’ character. This one man show is a total hoot!
So Dan . . . here goes: “I once met a happy man named . . .
. . . naaahhhhh…. let’s leave that to the expert.