Dale Grimshaw‘s fourth solo show will open in early October at Signal Gallery (private preview the 6th) and will feature a completely new series of works. The show is called “Semi-Detached” and in it the artist will be exploring some of the dark things that happened in family life behind closed doors.
If you want to know more about the artist’s life and past show I suggest to have a look at his biography, here the first part of the interview I had the pleasure to have with Dale about “Semi-Detached”.
Renton: In the past, with “Echoes and Exorcisms” and “Heart in Darkness”, your artwork was about working with self-portraits to discover hidden and darker parts of yourself. Later, with “Arcana”, you moved away from self-discovery and now, with your new show “Semi-detached”, you are going back again to autobiographical artworks or anyway to paintings related to yourself and to your past? Are you moving back to self-discovery because while working on “Arcana” you have had the confirmation that your best inspiration comes from yourself, your feelings and your life and past or does this new series of works arise from the need of use art as therapy, as they are based on personal experiences of troubled family life?
Dale Grimshaw: I think my paintings work best when they are quite personal and derive from my personal memories and experience. In “Arcana” there were some paintings that I did in this way: there was a piece called “The three of Swords” which stylistically, and in terms of the feeling and the subject was very ‘Dale Grimshaw’. So there were pieces in the show that were really personal, but you are right, the show per se was linking to the tarot imaginary. Anyway, I think my paintings work best when they are most personal and go deep into those memory patterns. There is a lot of ‘Urban’ artwork around that seems only concerned with being jokey and ironic, or soft porn eroticism. All that stuff doesn’t really interest me!
R: Tell me something more about the new show: it’s called “Semi-Detached” and it’s about bad things that happen in families behind closed doors…
DG: Yes, there is a strong reference to that. The title “Semi-detached” plays on being detached from feelings, as can happen in situations where violence and abuse happens in families, but it also simply suggests semi-detached houses and ‘normal’ suburbia. It’s kind of a dark theme about family relationships and dynamics. It’s a personal theme and draws on my own background and experiences in my childhood. Of course, I do have good childhood memories but this show mainly develops some of those darker moments.
To be honest, if you want images of nice happy middle class families, advertising products we don’t really need, then I’m not the man for that job!
R: …yes, also I think in some way it’s easier to remember bad things that happened to us in our childhood instead of the happier moments…
DG: Yes, you’ve got a good point. There’s a painting in the show, ‘Reverie’, it’s quite different for me and fits in with what you say. It makes a reference to dark things with bleak buildings and black roses. In fact, the symbolism is not that far away from tarot imagery and the Arcana show. The painting has more hope to it, using the idea that children are usually victims of circumstance. They can be growing up in quite a dire environment, but their innocence and imagination allows them to transcend that. I was trying to capture that the way they escape unhappiness through their imaginations.
R: As we said the show is about bad things happening in the family behind closed doors and it’s based on personal experiences. Don’t you feel a bit intimidated showing and highlighting this side of your life and past? If so, what’s pushing you to do an exhibition? If art is therapy for you, some artist just need to paint, do you feel painting is enough or do you also need to show your paintings?
DG: I’ve never thought about this. At this point in my life I feel safe enough to go back into the deep dark past. If it was 10 years ago then maybe I wouldn’t. You are right: it’s a form of therapy in a way, but also you can paint something that you feel is really relevant not only to you and other people can relate to it through their own experiences. I’m doing what I have to do and there are some very personal raw feelings in there, but hopefully the audience will be able to appreciate the work on it’s own terms.
R: Acrylics, oils, spray cans, graphite and charcoals… I could spend ten minutes listing the media you master and you have used in your past artworks. You said your feelings influence your artworks and also the way you paint, so I was wondering since this show is focused on a specific subject, will you use one or two media or many of them, maybe used in many different ways?
DG: In the past, even though I used to paint in the street using spray cans and markers, I was more focused on traditional media, especially oil paints. I’ve always used acrylics to block in a canvas and then work over them with oils, but what has happened with this show, is that there are a few works made just with acrylic paint, which is quite rare from me. For example the piece I was telling you about, ‘Reverie’, has been made with a sort of collage process. I have included a number of ‘punky’ collage elements that have been painted separately. Then I’ve just played around with them, sticking them onto the canvas with masking tape to create the composition. It was a really good way to work – because once I had all the finished pieces and it was like a free form jigsaw. It was the first time Id really done that. I really liked it because I can still paint in a traditional way but building up the complex composition seemed more organic and free. I found that I needed a rigid wooden surface to work in this way, rather than a canvas, to support all the elements I was using. After this experience, I think I will probably start working more on board or wood in future.
I love my painting but I’m always trying to find ways to do something different with my work. So even though there’s a mix of media in this show, it’s the first show I haven’t mixed so much spray paint with the oil paint. I was using more spray paints in the past but I’m very concerned about the long-term durability of them. I’ve tried to get the effects and the movements with just the tube based paint itself and not rely on the spray paint. It will be also the first time I will have woodcut prints in the exhibition: I’m trying to bring the stuff I was doing on the street into the gallery. The two elements have always been very separate before. For example the “Caliban” woodcut [above] I’ve done recently will be part of the show.
R: So, as you have done in the past with calligraphy for example, you will probably introduce some new graphic/aesthetic element to your paintings in this show…
DG: Yes in each show, I try to bring in some new techniques. So what I’m doing with this show, is using traditional wallpaper patterns, like swirls or motifs, in a repetitive way on the background in several of the works. This wallpaper concept fits in with the domestic “Semi-Detached” theme. What I’ve also been trying to do is to make some of the repetitive patterns fit in with the theme of the painting. For example: when I have a wolf characters in the painting then I’ve used images of its main prey, the deer, to build up the wallpaper design.