Local Artist Launches Year-Long Exhibition at Déda

A local artist, who has spent the past three years creating three pieces of artwork a day using recycled and reused materials, has launched the first of a series of exhibitions at regional dance house Déda in Derby’s Cathedral Quarter.


Del Coombs (70), is a University of Derby graduate where he has also worked for 20 years as a cleaner. and collects most of the materials used in his creations during his early morning shifts.

He will be staging 13 different four-week exhibitions at Déda over the coming year.

Each piece will be available for sale with proceeds shared between Home-Start Derby and Amber Valley, a local charity which supports parents who are going through challenging times, and Déda to support its work with young people and local communities across the city and county.

The first exhibition is entitled ‘Painted by Numbers’ – inspired by Del’s childhood desire to have one of the popular painting kits which his family could not afford at the time, the way that most everyday life is governed by numbers and his fascination with bar codes.

Next month’s exhibition will be ‘Spirals of Desire’ using recycled materials such as sugar sachets (denoting the downward spiral of people’s health); beer bottle labels (highlighting sensible drinking) and betting slips (signifying the dangers of obsessive gambling).

Del explained: “Having created around 3,000 different pieces of work over the past three years I was keen for it to be seen and enjoyed by the public but it would have needed about ½km of space to exhibit all of this!

“I have exhibited at Déda before and was delighted when Director Stephen Munn agreed that I could have the space to exhibit for a whole year.  This is a unique opportunity and I hope that the collections are enjoyed by visitors to the venue.

“I regard myself as a maker rather than artist – taking inspiration from past and current experiences with a tongue-in-cheek narrative on different aspects of life.

“A strong theme of my work is repetition as that is what life is about and I am particularly obsessed with the number three which seems to reoccur in all sorts of milestones in my life.”

Del started work as a cleaner at the University in 1997 to help support his son through university.

He then decided to enroll at the former Mackworth College (now Derby College) and then the University of Derby on a Sustainable Design and Practice degree – graduating in 2003.

“This was the perfect degree programme for me to develop my penchant for collecting, re-using and recycling. I have been a collector – or some may say a hoarder - since my childhood in the post-war years when everyone had a mend and make do attitude to life.

“All my work is based on re-used and re-cycled materials. Much of the material is rescued from bins that I empty at the University and many of the staff regularly hand things over that they have spotted and think may be useful for my work.”

Déda Director Stephen Munn applauded Del’s commitment and hard work in creating the exhibitions.

“I have a huge respect and admiration for Del’s dedication and work ethic and I am delighted that his fascinating collections will have prominent positions at our venue in Chapel Street - bringing added interest and vibrancy to the building.

“We have a long association with the University of Derby, including our partnership which has developed a BA Hons Dance degree based here, so I am delighted that this has been further strengthened by hosting the work of one of their many talented graduates.

“As a venue with a growing national and international reputation for dance and contemporary circus, we are always keen to embrace the wider arts world whether that is music or visual art.

“We also want to support local artists and Del’s work is currently alongside exhibitions by Derbyshire artists Lyra Morgan and Ruth Gray.  The 2017 exhibition programme here is diverse and will include a wide range of collections including part of the city’s acclaimed Format photography festival in March.”

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