Dale Grimshaw, Art/Interview
Mr. Hyde | Spray-paint and oil on canvas | 110 x 115cm
Painting the bad dream
Q: The theme of your new show, ‘Semi-Detached’, you have described as depicting ‘what goes on behind closed doors’. How much of the show will relate to personal experience?
A: My experiences as a child in a very difficult and potentially violent environment, has had a strong impact on all parts of my life. My father was a violent and cruel man, whose presence in the family home caused physical and emotional pain for us all. My mum was the focus of his violent behaviour and she really suffered at his hands. We were left homeless after fleeing the family home. We lived in so many places after that, including a caravan in a farmer’s field and also a gutted farm house that was home to chickens – the chickens still came in to visit after that! My oldest sister witnessed a lot more than me and sadly I believe it really brought the worst out in her in later years.
Being a child in that type of situation is a nightmare. All the things that should be there to support you and help you develop as an adult are undermined by the fear and unpredictability of the situation. My mother did her best to protect us, but she was lonely and vulnerable herself. Despite all that happened in the early days, my Mum’s love has shone through for me and I have held onto that as an adult, despite losing her tragically early when I was only nineteen. Without this love, I can’t imagine how I could have carried on and achieved anything as an adult.
I’m always intrigued yet horrified when I read in the paper about murderers or people that have sex slaves in their basements. Neighbours are quoted as saying things like “ooh he was such a quiet and polite man… who would have thought”.
Sociopaths can be the most worrying, as we like to think we can summarise and judge people quickly and accurately – but we can’t always. Who knows what some people are up to behind closed doors…
My work really started taking off when I realized that it was ok to express some of the darker emotions in my art. For a long time I kept a lid on all these feelings. My piece called ‘Exorcism’ is the first piece in which I found my creative voice and it’s still one of the most powerful images I have ever painted.
Q: Where do you call home, these days, and where is your studio?
A: I live in north London with my partner and two cats. I’ve lived in the Haringay area of London for twenty years now. I couldn’t really imagine living anywhere else other than London. London is such an amazing place with so much to do. A lot of people that inhabit the city take it all for granted I think. It can be a lonely place though; I found it hard when I first arrived here with £4.90 in my pocket.
It’s nice to feel safe and be finally settled now, although I still have a wooden club next to my bed though, just in case…
Our house has a nice garden and the house is big enough for me to have my own studio at home. This works for me at the moment, but in time I may need to expand into a bigger space. I love the idea of working much bigger than I currently do.
Q: When and how did you get involved with art?
A: I’ve been drawing and painting for as long as I can remember. I was naturally talented I would say, but there wasn’t anyone in my family that was arty in the obvious sense, that encouraged me.
I always loved the military look of the feudal and medieval period, so I would draw Saxons or Knights. I was never really a confident drawer in front of people but when I started painting and using pastels at about 12, I really came into my own. I did still lifes and landscapes from my imagination. I also did drawings of Johnny Rotten, Adam Ant and other bands. Later I had a period of painting LP covers on people’s leather jackets. I was always obsessed with graffiti and I would write ‘Dale G’ from the age of about ten, then later I became ‘Grimmy’ and I would daub that at every given opportunity! My mum encouraged my art and bought me materials when she could, I also stole materials from shops when the occasion arose.
When I was at Assessment Centre in Blackburn as a teenager, I was helped to pursue creative routes – they must have been desperate to stop me glue sniffing and I was allowed to paint on the walls in the building, which was great.
The Fool | Oil and spray paint on canvas | 2009
Q: Who or what would you say has been your principal motivator to take art?
A: No one in particular motivated me to produce art – I naturally gravitated towards it myself. There’s no defining moment either.
I wanted to be really famous so I thought I should either be a famous archaeologist, a serial killer or an artist. Archaeology started to appear really boring as time went on. With being a serial killer I realized I would have to kill people horribly, so that was out of the question. Being a famous artist seemed really plausible. I was a strange child.
We had several prints by famous artists in our council house on Clarence Road whilst growing up, including Monet and Constable. Constable’s ‘The Cornfield’ was really painterly and had a farm boy drinking from a stream. His sheep dog and herd were near by and in the background was a cornfield. I loved the narrative of it.
Later on I was fascinated by the designs of punk record covers. The drawing on the front of Adam and the Ants ‘Young Parisians’ single springs to mind. If you look at the photography on Adam’s ‘Zerox’ cover, you can really see similarities with what I do now. Later I liked Jamie Reid’s approach to art – cut it out, throw some glue on it and stick it down ‘Blue Peter’ style.
Q: Do you have a formal education in art, design or photography that you bring to a session, or are you self-taught?
A: I guess you would say I had formal training, but tutors don’t really teach you, in the strict sense of the word, especially at degree level. At foundation level you are taught basic colour theory and life drawing (working from nude model), etc. I went to Blackburn College of Art and Middlesex University, based in north London.
In my very early teens I got those ‘how to paint’ books from the adult section of the library; I would study and copy from those. In time the snotty-faced librarians tried to stop me for a while, fuck knows why…
Q: What kind of medium do you favor, and why? Oil, acrylic, pastel, all?
A: I was mainly an oil painter in the early college days, I started seriously again with oils after my mum died. However, as time has gone on I have found that this medium doesn’t suit all my needs in the studio. It’s a shame because I really love the feel and finish of oils, but I work with a lot of splashes, smears and gestural brush marks. I found acrylic paint really suits this approach better, due to its accelerated drying time. I also use spray paint, especially when I’m painting on outside walls. Spray paint is good for blocking in big areas quickly and it also dries really fast so you can work over it with other types of paint.
I also produce big woodcut prints that I paste up out on the streets across the world. With his technique you first draw your image onto the flat piece of wood, then you cut out the areas that you don’t want to print – it’s like inverted drawing. Then you apply ink with a roller over your design, place the paper on top, apply pressure and then the inked image is left on the paper. Voila!
Q: Where do your images come from? imaginary or based on real events that you transform?
A: The ideas for paintings are often based on memories or experience, but usually the paintings are more of a loose interpretation rather than being a really literal depiction. I sometimes get photos off the internet to start an idea going, then I nearly always take my own photos, mainly of the body, to back this initial reference material up. I do a lot of digital sketches before I start painting. If I’m working on a full colour painting, as opposed to monochrome, then I like to have lots of detail of the skin areas. I love to capture the real visceral fleshiness of the human form – the veins and muscle underneath the skin, if I can.
Q: What artists working today do you admire, and who would you most like to work with (living or dead)?
A: I was a huge fan of Scottish painter Peter Howson when I was younger, along with Ken Currie. I loved the Herculean type physicality of Howson’s work. I also really admired Lucian Freud with his fleshy un-apologetic take on the human body in its many grisly forms and colours. I never really went through what seemed to be the obligatory Francis Bacon obsession that most art students go though — although I’ve come to really appreciate his stuff of late.
I really like Jenny Saville’s work too.
I’d probably work well with someone like Rubens – he could do his amazing translucent fleshy bodies and then I’d add to it and fuck it up with all my trademark smears and splashes. That would be great as I could nick some flesh-painting tips at the same time.
Dale Grimshaw / Artist
Q: Anything we haven’t touched that you’d like to comment on?
A: My solo show ‘Semi –Detached’ starts at Signal Gallery London on the 7th October. The private view is Thurs 6th October. (The show runs through October 29th.)
About the interviewer:
Patrick Palmer has the unusual combination of having both an artistic and a business background — over 20 years’ experience in media, marketing and publishing. He is a figurative artist, and his work can be seen at: www.patrickpalmer.co.uk