As we draw into a grey, monochrome winter a splash of colour feels much needed. That splash of colour comes to us in London next week in the form of David Walker’s upcoming solo show at the Lawrence Alkin Gallery, “A Blank Canvas Is A White Flag”. The show is heralded not only to be an all new collection of Walker’s trademark expressive portraiture but also groundbreaking for David as an artist as he explores new techniques and styles alongside collaborations with other amazing artists such as Ryan Callanan and Schoony. Ahead of this new development we sent Jodie to interview Walker for the lowdown on what to expect and where these new territories will lead him.
An immediate question to arise concerned the exhibition’s title, to which Walker replied proudly; “I adapted it from a piece of writing I scrawled onto a songwriter friends kitchen table some years back, we were having a discussion about writing and how difficult it is. The extract was originally ‘take a blank page, wave it like a white flag’. It came back to mind when I was thinking about the show and felt apt.” However he recognises and perhaps relishes the connotations of conflict, “The real world seems to be hell bent on tearing itself apart, the art world can at times be a complete head fuck and traversing both these worlds and putting this stuff into them can sometimes feel kind of ridiculous.”
“It can seem like there are so many conspiring forces both internal and external that don’t want you to make real what’s in your head or achieve your goals. You are compelled to create work and make something beautiful, then you look at the news (the real news, not 99% of the stuff on TV) and you think what the hell am I doing this for? Why is this important to me? It’s a strange situation, I want and love to do what I do, the reasons are still unclear, but if I do nothing then somehow I feel like I have surrendered and someone else has won, I don’t even know who, maybe it’s ‘they’ whoever ‘they’ are.”
The exhibition breaches new zones for David as he steps truly out of his comfort zone so it was only natural that our next question leapt straight to the matter of exactly what exciting things we should expect. Sculpture, new painting techniques and a brand shiny new print were all on the list… “Everything the show touches on new territory in some way from presentation to medium. However my sculpting abilities are limited, I wanted the pieces to be beautiful so they (we did 10) are a collaboration with Schoony, he has the most amazing skill set and I finally came up with an idea that we could both work on together. They look crazy good!” The most intriguing news of all however is a strictly confidential project of which we were only given snippets of info… “We also did something er- huge that we have no idea what to do with yet, we wanted to make it so bad we just did it and now we have to figure out the next step, I think people will love it, you can’t miss it.”
A collaboration with Ryan Callanan will be on show also. When asked, Walker expressed this venture as a matter of pure experimentation. “We have wanted to make this image for long time but live in different countries, so it ended up being a collab by post. I have wanted to make it for long time. There is also some investigation into physical pieces of spray paint. I built up layers of paint 4″ thick in my studio over 4 years and when I removed it I was amazed, I have some really interesting images and examples of it in the show.” As if this all wasn’t enough, two more things were revealed to be in store; “I am also showcasing a series of ‘Pour Paintings’, no spray paint and in a way no actual painting, that sounds dumb but you’ll see. I’m also excited about doing a London release of my new print, it’s been a while since I’ve done one on home turf and Squarity have done a grand job producing them, shiny.”
Through following David’s work, it is impossible to avoid noticing the advent of a new feature to his creations, thick brightly coloured intersections of cutting lines which divide up his portraiture. A recent development, we asked him of them. “The intersections are actually 5mm and 10mm strips of wood that I paint, almost like slices of other paintings or the remnants of a constantly overprinted wall. These thin abstractions almost become pieces in their own right. Each of the portraits are made from several separate canvases clamped together and each with their own approach and colour logic and sometimes the strips of wood accent this. It’s opened up so many new aspects to the pieces, from the physical arrangement of the canvases and wood, to the image as a whole, right down to what become in some cases completely abstract individual canvases.” Try as we might to pin down an exact explanation, Walker was evasive, cryptically stating “I’m not sure of the meaning yet, normally you find that out when you look back over your shoulder.”
Almost entirely focused on the images of women, Walker explained his fascination plainly, “Painting the female form feels more universal somehow, I do actually have a ‘dude’ portrait in the show, I am working on others, I think in the not too distant future it will be more balanced.” With such a wide repertoire of models, angles, shots the process he uses to determine which models, photos and poses he will use in a painting is instinctive, with perhaps just a little luck thrown in too; “All the subjects for the portraits are people I have met from all over the world. I get to travel a lot and luckily for me people are often excited about being painted, so if I see or talk to someone who I think would be interesting to paint I ask them or get someone else to ask them so I don’t come off like a total creep. I don’t really know what I’m looking for, to me it feels random although I’m sure it’s not. I take hundreds of shots of the subject and normally there are a couple that for whatever reason stand out to me, that have something I believe will translate successfully into a painting, I’m not always right.”
As both a traditional artist and a muralist by trade we wondered if he felt a preference between either medium. His answer was refreshingly honest and brought perfect summary to what makes his work so highly adaptable and open to development, “When you have been locked in the studio for months making canvas work the prospect of a decent size wall is a welcome one, you get to go outside, it’s physical and there are real three dimensional people around you. When you’ve been painting huge walls all over the place for months and constantly reassuring people “it will look good in the end” whilst you’re piercing another spray can and blasting on the side of their building, you do look forward to the routine and peace of the studio, both can influence and refresh the other, it’s all good.”
Starting on the 21st of November with a 9 day run, A Blank Canvas Is A White Flag is a great collection of the works of David Walker not only as a highly successful artist of the present day but also as a rapidly developing artist of the future.