Interview with Dale Grimshaw

Dale was born in Lancashire. He studied at Blackburn College of Art and then went on to achieve his Bachelor of Fine Art degree at Middlesex University. As a student Dale won the Apthorp Fund for young artists and then went on to win the Liquitex Student Award in the USA. After a break from his artwork, when he pursued a career in the music industry, Dale returned to painting and was quickly featured in the TV show ‘A Brush With Fame’. In 2006 Dale was a finalist in the both Pride in the House and Liberte D’expression competitions. More recently, he has contributed to the Street Art scene with a series of striking and dramatic woodcuts prints that he has pasted up in London and Europe. Dale has established himself over a period of six years as being one of the most respected and individual artists on the London art scene. Dale’s work has been seen in a number of group shows internationally in Paris, Berlin and in the USA.

Hi Dale, today you selected 3 of your artworks that were inspired by music. Can you tell MoW how did music inspire them? What was the music behind the artworks ? What inspired you to create them ?

I listened to a lot of Kings of the Wild Frontier by Adam & the Ants whilst working on these recent pieces. The drums on this record have a rock/burundi crossover with multi layered chants - it still has a punky feel but it also sounds quite different from everything else from around that time due to the tribal elements. Adam's stage look around this period was a mix of 18th century military wear but with tribal face paint. This LP not only fitted in with the tribal feel & theme of my artworks but it also reminds me of a time when I first became fascinated in music & style, a time when everything seemed very fresh, energetic and exciting - as you get older things don't ignite you in the same way they use to. 

I feel this excitement with this new body of work which I call '2 Worlds' theme. I'm mixing up very apposing imagery - authentic tribal characters juxtaposed with images from contemporary western culture, like Disney characters, skateboarders, astronauts & military fighter planes. 

Why is music important to you and your art? 

I became aware of Top Of The Pops around 1978 - the audio & the visual definitely came hand in hand to me. It was hard for me to buy singles then but one could hear stuff on the Top 40 radio countdown. It was strange because I became interested in bands long before I was old enough to even buy my own clothes, let alone go to gigs - I think it was the first time that I became aware of there being this whole world out there that was outside of my own childhood world in Accrington, Lancashire. 

I started collecting records in 1980 - the punk/new wave bands seemed very adult, dangerous & exciting... I took my 7" single collection quite seriously! 

Bands like The Ants, UK Subs & Siouxsie & the Banshees etc were flooding the charts around that time & there were lots of 'live' performances on Top of The Pops. The first real band that I started collecting though was Adam & the Ants. Adam had just glammed up & strutted his way out of the hardcore punk circuit & had landed in the corner of our living room with 'Dog Eat Dog'. I took trips into Accrington and procured copies of Young Parizians, Zerox & Cartouble singles from the year earlier - these were some of the first punk records I owned  & I still love the music & covers to this day.

Adam's tribal, warrior look struck a chord with me as I collected soldiers, did drawings of armoured knights & I was fascinated with military costume, mainly medieval period but native American too. 

The reality of ending up as a bloody & gurgling heap on a battlefield never really appealed to me but I loved the tribal/ceremonial element of military costumes. 

Punk is probably the most visually interesting of all the musical genres. It was very DIY - the hair styles, badges and painted jackets etc. Record covers were really exciting too - I loved all the Jamie Reid collage work he did for one of my other favourite bands - the Sex Pistols. Early record covers by bands like Siouxsie & the Banshees, The Ants, then later Crass, amongst others, were really influential to me as an artist - adorned with all their woodcut prints, collage, pencil drawings & blurred, motion fueled photographs. 

If you had to choose between the artworks presented today, which of your artwork would be your favorite ? And why ?

Probably the black & white piece with the warrior holding the spear  - as it was a bit of a breakthrough piece as far as this body of work is concerned. I managed to get a good balance of a strong tribal face, capturing some feeling and mystery, alongside all the collage pieces revolving around it. It all seems to have a nice rhythm to it which is really important to some of my works, especially the more abstract/figurative crossover pieces.  

Can you tell MoW more about the techniques you used. How old is your technique? How did it start? How long does it take you to make an artwork?

These particular works are a little different to what I normally do, as I usually work on canvas or outside. With these particular pieces I tend to work on the main face using acrylic and a little charcoal/pastel. Then when I'm happy with the face I glue photocopied images over other areas to build up the general composition. I usually paint my collage bits with oil or acrylic but with these works on paper I like the immediacy of the photocopies, then I gradually work into the collage elements with paint to give them that blurred Grimshaw feel.

I work very fast on these so the music in the studio has to be pretty upbeat. I usually spend two or three days on these which is quite fast turnaround for me. I'm quite a traditional painter although I loved all that collage, punk art of the 70's. You can't beat a bit of cut & paste... all that messiness makes me feel like I'm doing art at primary school again! I've been experimenting with motion & movement in my painting since the mid 90's & even longer with regards to the collage technique.

Do you have plans on creating new artworks inspired by music?

Yes I've just started stretching some canvases. I would say the concept for the painting comes first and the studio soundtrack is selected to fit in with that - I will be exploring further with my current '2 Worlds' theme though. 

Two weeks ago I did two paintings at a charity music festival "Yardlife" in Islington in north London and I painted first in the band room next to the stage, whilst all the bands blow my ears out. Then later I painted upstairs in the DJ room next to the dance floor.

I just painted live at Street Fest in London in May, with Goldie headlining. (see photo on the left)

Then at Latitude Festival in Suffolk in July - this is organised by the Glastonbury people and Damon Albarn & the Black Keys will be playing. 




Do you listen to music when you’re working ? If so, what kind of music ?

 I don't like working in the studio without any music on - I sometimes get carried away and jump into a painting without putting any tunes on but I get  agitated pretty quickly - music seems to stop my thoughts wandering too much, which in turn helps me bring a painting together.

I tend to like things with quite a fast tempo to get me working fast, although saying that, you don't want to be painting a very detailed  & delicate eye with Napalm Death blowing your head off! 

I listen to a lot of the Prodigy in the studio - it isn't terribly fast in terms of the tempo, compared to a lot of contemporary dance music, although it's written is such a fashion that it appears faster than it is. I listen to quite a bit of drum 'n' bass, punk and some thrash metal too - anything that's quite energetic. Sometimes I listen some classical from titme to time too, John Adams, Arvo Part spring to mind of late.

I love the Prodigy though as a lot of their songs have a musical collage feel to them - they steal a little from here and there and throw it all together with some fat bass underneath and some juicy beats on top.

What is the song you liked the most lately? The album ? What was the last gig you went to?

A couple of weeks ago I went to a classical concert at the Royal Festival Hall - pieces by Dvorak, Suk & Janacek. My other half writes reviews for classical concerts so I go to about 2-3 a month.

On Friday I saw.... Adam Ant! This was in Cheltenham on his recent tour. Sadly he wasn't on form & the sound wasn't great either.  I don't go to a lot of gigs anymore as I can't stand queuing, crowds and drinking crap, yet expensive lager.    

I heard the latest Band of Skulls CD recently which is growing on me. Just had a quick skip through Rubella Ballet's latest CD, which is is done in their usual pop-punk, dayglo political fashion - sounding good! I've also been playing some of the oldies & faves last week in the studio: Amebix - "Sonic Mass", this is such a great come-back record from the west country, 80's crust punk/metal beasts. Prodigy - "Jilted Generation". The Stranglers - "Raven" (not a massive Stranglers fan but I nicked this from Woolworths in Burnley when I was about 13 & I've liked it since). UK Subs - first 3 LPs. Dead Kennedy -"Fresh Fruit", this is such a seminal DK's LP - political & hysterical in places with a really interesting twist on the punk style. I was listening to a CD called Yes Remixes by 70's prog-rockers in the car yesterday. It had snippets of their usual bonkers, classical/psychedelic style but with mad breakbeats over the top - you wouldn't think it would work but it was pretty good. 

Are you a musician yourself ? 

 When I was a kid I used to pose in my bedroom with music on pretending to be Adam Ant or Johnny Rotten - the roleplay helped me escape normality I think. If anyone had seen me I would of probably been sectioned! I started practicing guitar whilst I was in care, then some bass. I played in a few punk bands but never felt the people I was with were committed enough. The last band I was in was quite electronic, lots of breakbeats but with vocals. By the end I was writing electronic music on my own - the drum machine didn't behave like a lazy, unreliable drummer but it was quite a hermetic period. I remember thinking what the fuck am I doing?.. I'm a painter! One day I reached over and switched the sampler off & started to think about stretching some canvases that very moment. It was painful giving up making music but with time I realised my life didn't need to be completely music free. Now I utilise other peoples music in the studio.


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