Graduate artist uses seized illegal firearms to fight for peace

Published on 18 November 2020

DJCAD graduate and social activist, Frank To, will be putting A Good Humanium Metal Pen to paper to create artwork to support the recovery of war-torn communities

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Frank To has long been interested in creating works of art from materials traditionally associated with violence to promote a humanitarian message. Previously reimagining and repurposing gunpowder and copper in his work, he has now been commissioned by IM Swedish Development Partner to create a new paint colour using Humanium Metal powder as their UK official artist ambassador.

Humanium is a special element made from melted down decommissioned illegal firearms which IM developed in recognition of the destructive impact that these firearms have on sustainable and democratic development. In partnership with IM, Swedish sustainable and social impact start-up, A Good Company, has launched the world’s first pen made from upcycled illegal firearms. Frank will use this pen to create artwork to be sold to raise funds for projects supporting survivors and violence-prevention programmes.

This is not the first time that Frank has worked with this material, having partnered with Swedish watch manufacturer TRIWA and IM on a limited edition of watches made from Humanium Metal.

 “I have always been heavily involved in social activism”, he said. “I am anti-gun violence and anti-arms dealing and so this latest brand alignment sits perfectly with my beliefs. It also seems particularly relevant to me as a Scot to be producing these artworks in Scotland in support of communities that have suffered from gun violence as we approach next year’s 25th anniversary of the Dunblane massacre.”

Frank studied his Masters of Fine Art at DJCAD.

“I spent four years doing my Fine Art degree at the University of Huddersfield. Everything I was taught was geared towards being a working contemporary artist in London and when it came to applying for my Masters I had several options available including to study at some of the notable London art schools." Frank said.

“I had always felt that DJCAD would be the best move for me to do my masters due to the mixture of contemporary and traditional art subjects it could offer. A lot of the lecturers who taught at DJCAD were people I had been inspired by since I was a teenager such as Calum Colvin OBE. In fact Calum was my personal advisor at DJCAD and I am grateful for that experience as he taught me both the practical and professional aspects of the contemporary artist”

Frank To

Frank To drawing in a sketchbook

Frank’s masters’ work caught the attention of galleries in London and New York City and was subsequently sold. He has been a full-time contemporary artist since, exhibiting nationally and globally, as well as lecturing for the University of the Highlands and Islands. His collectors include his mentor, actor Sir Patrick Stewart, and global consultancy Deloitte.  His work has also been featured in several national art fairs and shows across the UK and features in the University of Dundee’s collection.

“My student experience in DJCAD was one of the best I ever had. The lecturers were highly regarded in their fields and I felt that I was taught a variety of subjects ranging from the technical to the tactical marketing of the working contemporary artist. The facilities and staff of DJCAD enabled me to innovate my style and techniques in art; it allowed me to be both daring and engaging. I actually feel that DJCAD at the time as well as now really care for its students in both academic and personal growth. DJCAD was and still is open to all and willing to enable maturity and growth in its students both artistically and mentally”.

You can see more of Frank’s art by going to Instagram page @franktoartist or by visiting Gallery Q’s website.  

Story category Alumni