Jannuzzi Smith Editions publishes If you can piss…

‘If you can piss, you can paint’. This common expression on building sites captures the camaraderie, humour, and micro-hierarchy of the building trades.

David O’Mara has worked as a painter and decorator in London houses for eighteen years, having arrived from Ireland as a Fine Art graduate with artistic ambitions. While trying to gain some recognition for his practice, he began painting and decorating as a pragmatic and necessary segue.

David assumed his time at this occupation wouldbe limited, a mere stop gap, but as time passed and he built up skills and contacts, he came to realise this may not be the case.

To reclaim some engagement with his practice, David started bringing a small 35mm camera with him to work, photographing his co-workers and their shared labour. It caused him to reflect on his role as both colleague and observer, and how builders – and the wider working class – are invariably misrepresented, and ‘othered’.

In documenting their working lives for this series, David recognised the subjectivity of the photographic lens, and the ingrained bias of the art and publishing worlds in their role as mediator.

This book is the result of that journey to reconcile his practice, ambitions, and realities of working life. It is also a record of the close friends he has made over the years, and the jobs which have required their collective skills, energy and creativity.

This is something of a rare document, an honest and fair representation of working class life on building sites produced by a member of that cohort.

David’s essay in this publication reflects on the (in)visibility of builders and their labour – an inherent self-erasure as they complete a pristine job – and how this affects the way builders are perceived and represented.

David O’Mara’s broader artistic practice is concerned with unwanted and rejected imagery. The urban environment and its visual detritus are a constant feature, and he draws inspiration from walking the streets and selectively gathering discarded material culture. This chaotic and random collection of familiar urban signage, drawings, lists, maps, emails, and lost photographs create a confused jumble of voices, tones, messages, and meanings. The multiple narratives, fragmented and without context, form a collective portrait of urban life and its shared experiences. This exercise in psychogeography has appeared in various projects over the years, such as Point of disappearing, Days of nothing, Losing Ground and the detritus magazine series.

David is a graduate of Waterford Institute of Technology, and the National College of Art and Design in Dublin. He has exhibited and self-published his work in Ireland and the UK since 1995.

If you can piss … is a Detritus project.

Published by Jannuzzi Smith Editions