In discussion with Daniel Syrett: Artist and Curator of Runway Gallery
Not much of the world remains untouched by the glossy nail varnish touch of SYRETT. The London-based artist and owner/ curator of Runway Gallery has worked everywhere from Florence and Ibiza to Miami and New York City, fuelled by a few Espresso Martinis along the way.
But where did SYRETT’s world domination begin? It seems there is something in the Yorkshire water, as his roots trace back to Leeds, the industrial textile city, which was already SYRETT’s hometown before he studied fashion in the city’s Jacob Kramer College of Art. SYRETT has since reached the peak of the art and fashion industries, after working with the likes of ELLE, EMI, All Saints and London Fashion Week, while listening to Ian Dury and the Blockheads, all the way to the very top.
Though it may be hard to imagine a Soho without SYRETT, the West End has not always been the artist’s playground, as he spent a majority of his youth in Leeds, before fleeing west to the alternative cobbles of Merseyside:
“There was, and is, a really strong art scene in Liverpool. Living in the city allowed me to make connections in fashion and break into the creative world”.
However, while a young SYRETT found his creativity amid the punk and indie kingdoms of Liverpool, it was a painting in his hometown which left the biggest impression on the artist, who described: “In The John Moore’s Art Gallery in Leeds, you find The Charge of the Light Brigade, by Thomas Jones Baker. The fear in the eyes of the horses is so real; you truly get to understand the chaos, that is war. It’s an immense size too, like a whole wall. Plus, I love the style of the military uniforms”.
It is easy to see where SYRETT’s admiration for these military uniforms stem from, as the artist himself is a proud owner of a braided military coat, designed by none other than Jean-Paul Gaultier. SYRETT has dedicated a collection of his paintings to some of the world’s most recognised designers, from Karl and Coco to Donna and Gianni, however, the splendour of this military coat, “with the most amazing braided military-style sleeves and enormous collar’, which sets Gaultier aside as SYRETT’s favourite designer.
While an oversized military coat is appropriate attire for nights at the Soho Salon Supper Club and morning walks through Hampstead, SYRETT went on to describe some statement pieces from his Miami wardrobe, which he often paired with a Frozen Coconut Margarita while working as a stylist in Florida:
“Fashion styling came naturally to me, and it really didn’t feel like work. It felt more like a holiday”
Reminiscing on his life in The Sunshine State, SYRETT continued: “TJ Maxx had a section that was straight off the catwalk, and I would just go mental in there. There were loads of European labels, and I bought a load of ridiculous clothes which worked really well in Miami. Things like neon pink suits, which just don’t look the same when you bring them back to a cold and rainy England”.
After hearing the artist speak of his adoration for the pastel-kissed buildings on Miami’s South Beach, along with his love for Cuban music and Spanish hard rock bars, it is hard to see how he ever adapted to his life in London Town. SYRETT had, however, already lived out another transition previously, when he left his life in Liverpool’s carnivalesque night-club scene to work as a freelance stylist in the capital. Though, SYRETT did not find this adaption challenging, as he was eager to make his name elsewhere. “It wasn’t fun anymore” shared SYRETT:
“There was too much politics and too many gangsters. Remember, I studied fashion, so it felt like I was at home”.
Indeed, the artist was home. Over the years that followed, SYRETT painted the town red, gold, blue, and pink, along with every other colour that flows from his paintings, created in collaboration with True Brit nail varnish.
“I knew I wanted to get a fashion element of connection in my art, so I played with several ideas for a while. I was packing eye shadow and lipstick into shotgun cartridges and firing them at canvases at one point” shared the artist, in response to how he first decided to use nail varnish in his work.
“Nail varnish brought out the magpie in me. I love them shiny things. True Brit first came about when I went to a nail varnish wholesale place in Sheffield. As you can imagine, I get through a lot of the stuff, and I needed to buy in bulk. Anyway, Kate, who owns the company, suggested that she would sponsor me, just as long as I mention the company name in any future press. Kate and I became friends and are still friends today”.
The results of this collaboration are abstract Haute Couture pieces, which are products of a music-filled process. “First, I choose the colours I’m going to work with”, began Syrett: “This can take time, as not all colours move, mix and dry in the same way, so you have to do a bit of calculating.
Then I put on some music. This heavily influences the work, as I dance and move to the music, and these movements affect the nail varnish and how it flows
I’m also wearing a breathing mask, as the fumes are quite bad, so it’s all a little restrictive, which we all know about that now as we all need to wear masks”.
Alongside his role as an artist, SYRETT is the curator of Runway Gallery and a host at the Soho Salon Supper Club, which aims to shake up London’s art scene: “Art events are either artists talking boring shit about their work or people who are in the art industry talking even more shit about the art world. It’s dull and so narcissistic. So I set up the Salon, you have a cocktail, eat food then listen to artists talk more candidly about their work. Of course, the cocktails do their magic, so it’s a really relaxed and fun night”.
SYRETT continued: “I always end with a salacious piece, a juicy naughty bit of art history knowledge about the perversions of an artist. I learnt most of these titbits at university in History of Art lectures, but to be honest, they’re the only bits I listened too”.
When asked to expand more on these stories, SYRETT shared an anecdote surrounding Salvador Dalí and the Chupa Chups logo, which will, almost certainly, detour any reader from ever sucking on an Ice Cream Strawberry Chupa Chups lolly, ever again, and will, therefore, remain behind the charcoal door of Blacks Club.
The area surrounding this door is SYRETT’s stomping ground, and not much of this neighbourhood goes unloved by the artist:
“Soho is about random nights, bumping into friends and the night going fantastically right and wrong in equal measures”
SYRETT continued, “I’ve been visiting Soho since the late 1970s when I’d drag my Dad to a record shop on Rupert Street”.
When asked to pick a soundtrack as an ode to this time, the answer, from the youngest member of Ian Dury’s fan club was easy. “As a kid, we always used to drive through London on the route to Dover, and I would always get really excited to see the lights of London, even from a young age. I would play Ian Dury as we drove through his city, so when I hear his album Do It Yourself, I instantly think back to happy times with my family”.
Among SYRETT’s pieces hangs In Times of Trouble Create, which stands as a kaleidoscopic statement against darkest time in SYRETT’s life.
“I created In Times of Trouble while I was recovering from a mental breakdown”
“A few years ago, I had cancer, and I was kept in a coma for a while. Later when my life was turned upside down again, it hit me hard, and being kept in a coma for so long made me more susceptible to breakdowns”.
While this piece also “took on a whole new meaning in lockdown”, SYRETT revealed how his post-pandemic future is looking bright, sharing: “There’s a very exciting Miami announcement coming soon, and I’m working with the W Hotel and Century Club. I also have a solo show at the Exhibitionist Hotel coming up on the 17th September, and a collaboration with the luxury furniture brand ROOME . Plus, I just signed some huge artists to the gallery, so there’s some really exciting times ahead”.
Discover SYRETT through his website here and keep up to date with his future ventures on Instagram @syrettartist. You can also read more about SYRETT’s collaboration with ROOME here and follow them @roomelondon.
By Megan Slack- Contributing Editor
Magazine by Runway Gallery