“I’ve always been fascinated by painting people” explains David Walker as we talk in the basement of Soho’s Lawrence Alkin Gallery. It perhaps shouldn’t be a surprise, he is an artist known for his photo-realistic portraits, often of women and overlaid with splashes of colour.
For David this is a trajectory he has been on from an early age, making art and aspiring to capture the human form in such a way that the viewer is able to have an instant connection. “I thought there was some sort of magic in that” he tells me as he explains his penchant for the face and the figure.
We’d first come across the work of David Walker in Shoreditch when one of his painted female faces looked out from the front doors of a comedy club on Rivington Street. That was back in the day some five years ago and the striking use of colour and the piercing gaze of the muse would always capture the attention making it difficult to just walk on by.
Now of course David paints all over the world. His art outside has evolved from painting two metre walls to twenty metre walls which isn’t bad for someone who doesn’t necessarily think of himself as a street artist. Rather for him, the opportunity to paint in some of the places he does are opportunities which are simply too good to turn down. “It’s like going to university and getting your fees paid” he says of the opportunities that eager art planners are willing to give in order to commission such striking pieces in their towns and cities.
His entrance onto the street art scene couldn’t have been more iconic. Painting at the second iteration of Banksy’s CANS festival in the Leake Street Tunnel under Waterloo station. That spot, to this day is a legal graffiti area, and it was the 2008 CANS festival that broke it in, “I managed to get something up that was half decent” he says of the experience with the resultant exposure then leading to more and more walls and more and more shows, “it just kind of grew organically” he adds.
The show at the Lawrence Alkin Gallery is one which has carried on this evolution. His delicate female faces are now joined with male ones. The people in the paintings are people who he has had a connection with at some point, whether that connection might be immediate or something which has grown over years. “It’s people I meet, it can be randomly or through friends, or family… it just has to be some sort of direct relation to my life somehow.”
Another first for this show is the amount of collaborations, something David hints that he would like to do more of. The exhibition features three new collabs with Berlin based graffiti artists Mina and Base 23 as well as photographer and embroider Yuli Gates with whom he has created a series of works overlaying hand embroidered imagery to his original canvas. “It’s nice when you can give the work to another artist and they’re not precious about the surface and they’re just playing on the work you’ve done before” he tells me.
Letter based work also makes an appearance in the show. Based on his own writing, this is the first time such work has been been exhibited. “I’ve always been trying to find ways of bringing it into the work and I guess this is the beginning of that” he tells me and announces that some of his works will also soon be published in the New River Press end of year poetry book, something which has been an ambition of his for some time.
The use of words have always played an important part in his work. Often before starting a wall or canvas he would write words only for them to be painted over immediately. “Writing somehow seems more personal than imagery” he explains and it becomes clear that this particular evolution of style has been a slow burner but one which holds deep meaning.
The show features a number of firsts for David Walker, collaborations, male portraiture and the use of text within the works which have created a vibrant blend of paintings. Only time will tell as to whether we’ll see these differing styles start appearing on the walls of London and cities around the world, but here’s hoping we will.
‘Half a world passed me by’ is the exhibition from David Walker showing at the Lawrence Alkin Gallery. It runs from 16 November 2017 to 9 December 2017. David was interviewed at the gallery before the opening on 16 November 2017.
David Walker Gallery