Grip Face

The boy who overcame shyness through art

David Oliver (Palma, 1989) - better known as Grip Face – started drawing as a form of therapy to overcome his shyness and be able to face a world that he perceived as aggressive and hostile at the time. Today, his works are highly prized and displayed in several countries around Europe and Asia. I’m a millennial and a victim of virtual ecosystem is his new series, which he will soon be presenting at La Bibi Gallery.

“I feel like an outsider, as a child I was shy and had to create an inner world for myself, a kind of sub-world parallel to the real one, which I didn’t identify with back then because it seemed harsh and aggressive to me. Now I know that art is the mechanism that has educated my character the most, and the one I have always felt the most protected by”, says David.

One day, when he was 13, he saw some kids jumping over the school fence to skive off and go skating. That day, something “blew up” in his head, and he permanently changed football for skateboarding. And with skateboarding, his superhero alter ego came into being - Grip Face, in reference to the grip tape that gives skateboarders traction.

As a child, he was obsessed by “everything I found in the street”, and thanks to his passion for skateboarding he began to comprehend the urban environment. Although he tried graffiti for a while, he never really felt comfortable with that speciality, but he managed to find other disciplines based on intervention in public spaces that did allow him to express himself as he wished.

When he started university, David realised that his fellow students didn’t share his interests and concerns. “I felt that I couldn’t wait the four years of the degree before having my first exhibition. I needed to do it right then, I wanted to bring out everything that was inside of me”.

His generation experienced the “housing bubble” crisis of 2008 just as they were setting out in search of a future. “When I was 18, I had a panic attack at school and when I got home I shut myself in my room and drew what I was feeling. That was my therapy”, he says. A few months later, he managed to set up his first exhibition in a skateboarding shop in Palma.

Without any conventional academic training, the only thing David wanted to communicate was what was inside of him, and his message took on an increasingly personal nature as he read books, comics or exhibition catalogues.

He devotes all of his time to work. “I spend the day in my studio, it’s very demanding and I feel that every time I climb up a step, the pressure and effort increase in equal measure”.

David gained recognition for his public interventions. He did so in a “spontaneous, naïf way, albeit in a furtive, illegal and visceral context. The thing that captivated me about public art was the ephemeral nature of the works, because when you make an intervention, you never know when it will disappear, or whether someone will paint over it”. His last intervention in a public space was in 2019. 

More recently he has been focussing on creating paintings and sculptures that revolve around the concept “of the mask, the virtual portrait, that gaze we find in offline and digital life”. 

“I have never felt that I fit into any movement, I’m afraid of being pigeonholed and becoming part of something that already has a label”, he admits.

Right now he is researching “rubbish” and technological massification. “Since I consider myself to be part of the first technological generation, I am interested in the generational gap that comes from having been born into one context and living in another, totally different one”.

Grip Face doesn’t like working on pieces one at a time - rather he feels the need to [...]


Read this article in full in IN PALMA 72. And if you like, subscribe to IN PALMA for 1 year and get the next 4 issues of the magazine delivered to your home.

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