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Page last updated at 13:47 GMT, Friday, 19 December 2008

Writing on the wall

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By Denise Winterman
BBC News Magazine

For three days, artist Dan Perjovschi is finding time away from his Tate Liverpool exhibition to compose a newsy cartoon for the Magazine index. It's a challenge he's relishing.

It's not the years of training that make Dan Perjovschi the artist he is, it's the years he spent trying to forget it.

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Born in communist Romania in 1961, he was hot-housed at art school from the age of 10, specialising in painting, but when he left after 12 years of study he had fallen out of love with art.

"I was highly trained from an early age, in the way you were in communist countries when you had a talent," he says.

"By the end of it I no longer liked art. I knew I had to change the way I thought of about it and find a new way of expressing myself, a new language."

At 47, he is now internationally renowned for his simple, distinctive, cartoon-type drawings which feature stick-like figures. Often humorous, they range from observations of everyday life and to social and political commentary.

Over the next few days he is taking part in the Fifth Floor contemporary art exhibition at the Tate Liverpool, which marks the end of the city's year as European Capital of Culture. He is treating its walls as a blank canvas, taking inspiration from the city and the country.

Graffiti

He will also be creating original drawings for the Magazine over the next three days, with one published on the index each day, taking inspiration from the news.

"My work is influenced by what is around me," he says. "I look at the media, chat to local people I meet. There's no obsessive researching, I just take from what I see and hear, things like the credit crunch.

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"I look at things with a critical eye, but not a cynical one. I use humour to get people to understand, I don't use my work to pull things apart."

The simplistic style of his work is what gives him the freedom he relishes, he says.

"My style gives me freedom, I can draw whatever I want, wherever I am," he says. "It's low budget and I don't need anyone to help me."

He works on whatever he is allowed to, often the walls of buildings like New York's Museum of Modern Art. In 1999 he represented Romania at the 48th Biennial in Venice, covering the floor of the national pavilion with drawings and graffiti.

But in the Tate Liverpool he is doing something he has never done before - inviting the public to draw alongside him. After just two days of public participation - which lasts for a month - the wall is already full.

"It's been crazy, the space is full," he says. "At first people were putting superficial statements but that's progressed in such a short time into deeper. There is a lot of sensitivity on that wall, a lot of humanity."

His favourite piece of public work so far is a single line written upside down, which reads "this way up". It's simple but clever, he says.

Now the problem is what to do with the wall.

"I like the idea of providing sponges so people can remove what they want and replace it," he says. "This is an ongoing dialogue and I really like that."

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