Exclusive interview with Dave White - Innocence and Experience
Innocence & Experience.
In the run-up to Loughran Gallery’s next pop-up exhibition celebrated contemporary artist Dave White is in his studio creating new pieces for the show. He took time out to talk to us about his career so far, new innovations in media, and why his work has matured far beyond the critic’s moniker that has previously heralded him as “the new Warhol”.
It was White’s previous series “Americana” that captured the imagination and senses of Loughran Gallery’s owner Juliette Loughran back in 2012. That’s a theme he’s revisiting now, but with a new and different take. “All of my work is based on things that profoundly affected me as a child and have stuck with me since” he explains. “In the case of the first Americana series it was about exploring the ethos and situation of the Native American Indians. We live in what I describe as an ‘iPhone culture’. We’re aware that other communities and ways of life exist but we’ve become disconnected with them. I wanted to explore that concept, so prior to beginning the first Americana collection I conducted an extensive research trip to Monument Valley. I wanted to portray an inherent struggle that in a sense reflects all of our own lives.”
Like much of his work, Americana was inspired by early childhood memories and perceptions, says White. “I never looked to portray the Cowboys and Indians cliché. I was always fascinated by Westerns as a child. At a very young age you watch movies and you’re essentially left to make up your own mind as to what’s going on and how to interpret it. For me, I never understood the persecution I saw in these films. I was fascinated by the Native American culture - their respect and relationship with animals. It’s about capturing something that’s timeless – the convergence of war dress and celebration. Is it current? Is it past? I’m exploring the dichotomies that the existence of heritage and tradition in a modern world creates.”
Those points of reference in childhood have led White to consider the impact of maturity and development on the creative nature of the human mind. “When I did my dissertation at Liverpool University I did a lot of work in primary schools. My experience is that a young child’s point of view is very pure. The more information you’re given as you grow up – from your peers, your school, the adults around you, the media, the workplace - the harder you have work to try and see through the bullshit. I want to try and break through the barriers and inhibitions that seep into our souls as we begin to face the mundanities of adult life. I’m always looking to dig a little bit deeper and see the world in its truest form. For example, one of my techniques involves the application of platinum and gold leaf which lifts the visual experience onto another level and emphasises the special and rare nature of things.”
We can expect to see the emergence of a new chapter in White’s artistic journey when Loughran’s next pop-up appears on the scene. “People are going to see an evolution. My signature way of working is with oils – it’s very immediate. I have a tense relationship with my work, I stay with it and keep it flowing until my hand slows down and then I know I’m done. For me it’s about reaching that plane where the brain and hand and eye are operating together but without conscious thought. But I’m interested in challenging people, so currently I’m working with watercolour. It’s a medium that’s considered quite traditional, quite delicate and usually lends itself to formal landscapes or meticulous reproductions. I’m trying to turn it on its head – to achieve pieces that capture beauty, but then when you get close up become intense, abstract and explosive. At the moment what I’m exploring is kind of risky and very poignant. It’s extremely dynamic. It’s all about movement. I’m experimenting with painting the subject, painting it out completely and then painting it again – or perhaps even just allowing abstract elements from the original piece to come through. So I’m anticipating there will be a kind of ghostly residence about the works.”
Throughout his career the term “pop art” has been bandied around by the critics – but for White himself the comparison belies his maturing outlook as an artist. “The reason that comment has stuck is because of the paintings I did based on comic imagery in my earlier collections. But, as my work progresses, it’s becoming more abstract. It’s still based on the same principle. At that time I worked to achieve an aesthetic that from 30 metres away looks like a straightforward pop art cartoon – but as you get closer you discover that couldn’t be further from the truth. There’s an explosion of textures, colours and feelings that speak for themselves quite apart from the overall painting subject. It was an interesting journey. But as time’s gone on my work has progressed. It hasn’t so much changed as moved away from the kind of representation that would be classed as pop art. To be honest, in 2013 I don’t think the comparison has any relevance whatsoever. I’m very honoured that people respond to the work, but from my point of view when I’ve said what I’ve to got say I’m done and I move on.”
White’s new collection will be on show at Loughran Gallery’s next pop-up exhibition, with a limited edition high quality silk screen print in production especially for the show. Stay tuned in to our blog to get dates and details of where the pop-up will emerge as soon as they’re announced.