Dean Kane - aka Visual Waste - is one of Belfast’s best known street artists.
If you don’t immediately recognise the name, you are sure to have seen Dean’s striking murals across our capital city, which have commanded attention from locals, tourists, art critics, media and celebrities around the world, and range from portraits of Kanye West to Game of Throne’s Jon Snow.
Now, as part of the #AnswerTheCall series from Bushmills Irish Whiskey, which celebrates local talent, Dean will make the bold move from urban murals to fine art in his first ever art exhibit.
‘Whiskey and Muses’ will see this home-grown talent unveil portraits of legendary artists who have inspired his career, and the exhibit, which marks Dean’s first ever fine-art show, will take place at The Gallery Belfast from August 25 - 31.
Whiskey enthusiasts and art lovers alike can register to be in with a chance to attend the launch on August 24 by visiting answerthecall.co.uk.
On the night, Visual Waste will create a live paint demonstration and share an insight into his career to date. Guests will enjoy a preview of the collection of portraits along with specially created Black Bush serves.
Dean explained: “I have always been into art. It’s been part of my life for as long as I can remember whether it be at school, researching different artists and their styles or now, working full-time in my studio.
“I can remember becoming really interested in street art when I started BMX-ing as a teenager.
“It was then that I started to pay more attention to graffiti and graffiti artists. I was spending a lot of time in places synonymous with graffiti.
“At the time, extreme sports and street art weren’t classed as mainstream so I loved the secrecy of it all. My interest naturally progressed as I got better, eventually becoming the street art that people know now.
“Street art to me is the purest form of art – there are no filters, no limitations, so the possibilities are endless when it comes to my imagination and a can of paint.”
Taking a leap of faith
The #AnswerTheCall series showcases local talent who have taken a risk to pursue their dreams. And Dean certainly falls into this category - having quit a stable job to realise his true ambition in life:
“I studied graphic design at university and went straight into a very comfortable job in design after I graduated.
“However, I became restless working within limitations of someone else’s business and decided to follow a different path.
“I scrawled my notice on a napkin and hand-delivered it to the HR department. The arrival of my daughter was the push I needed and although I only had my last pay cheque to start my business with, I checked out of the corporate world and Visual Waste was born.
“Raw talent is one thing. What you need is passion and determination. If you’ve got that, the rest is easy.
“To those who haven’t yet answered their call I would say, obsession for your craft is always a good starting point to think about going your own way.”
Belfast’s changing street art scene
There was not much action in Belfast when Dean first started out, but he explains the phenomena has since positively exploded in recent times:
“There were only a handful of serious street artists when I started, and even at that they were struggling to making any real money.
“The tone of street art was reflective of the area it was in, and the struggles of the time. I think that probably made it difficult for art to become something inclusive, something that brought people together.
“Nowadays it has completely changed and is talked about as much as the work we see in cities like Berlin, New York and London.
“The last three years have seen the art scene progress massively.
“Events like Culture Night and general interest from tourists have really helped to showcase local talent. The tone is different too - my work always remains in the contemporary realm.
“It could be said I specialise in pop culture, reacting to the international news agenda and responding to items in the cultural arena, but I like to keep things positive.
“I’ll always share a new piece on social media as well – I think social media has really helped street artists take ownership of their work and get conversations going.
“My Kanye West piece just blew up as soon as it went online and people still love it. It’s interactive so it’s nice to see people share in my work in a tangible way.
“Overall, it’s fantastic to see street art finally getting the attention it deserves. There are new pieces popping up nearly every week now and people are staying engaged.
“Belfast has always been famous for its walls but now they say something completely different which is brilliant for someone like me. Belfast is evolving and street art is communicating with a host of different audiences rather than remaining in the political sphere.
“As one of Northern Ireland’s only commercial street-artists, it’s great to see that brands now want to help push wall art and support artists and the scene in the city. My approaching exhibit sees me elevate from street-artist to artist and is something I would never be able to do if people weren’t so warm to my work.
“I have always wanted to push the boundaries, both for my career and for the Northern Ireland art scene and this exhibit represents that determination and passion.
“I’ve worked really hard over the last four years, and getting to where I am now has been hard and it still is sometimes.
“Leaving my job to establish a commercial art business was a huge risk – there were sleepless nights and stresses and strains.
“But it’s been worth it and I’m incredibly proud of the legacy I have established for both art in the city and myself.
“Nothing worth having is easy but pursuing your passion and using your talents, under your own rules, is incredibly fulfilling.”
For more stories of calling, visit answerthecall.co.uk or follow @BushmillsUK on social media.