Dale Grimshaw is an artist originally from Accrington in Lancashire. He is known for his huge street art murals and his fine art portraits. His work over the past five years or so has been highlighting the plight of the people of West Papua. Painting large scale emotive images they are meant to stimulate a conversation.
Always an activist, Dale has his roots in the punk movement. Growing up in Accrington it was a far cry from the big city. In many ways he would spend a lot of time finding his way in the world. It’s a path that’s led him to where he is now. Renowned for his unique style he’s created a brand and collection of work which is unmistakable.
Interview with Dale Grimshaw
Assembly of the Gods
Assembly of the Gods is his latest exhibition. Once again showing in Hoxton’s Well Hung he’s built up quite a relationship with the gallery over the years. Now in his third exhibition with them, he has continued to evolve his work. With this latest showcase he wanted to bring in more of what he describes as brush energy into his work. It’s shown in a series of of oils. The background of them, making up a seemingly chaotic mix of brush strokes, through which stare the fine art faces of his muses.
It was his late grandmothers old make up brush which gave the catalyst he tells me. “I’ve been wanted to create this slightly chaotic look for a while but never really knew how to achieve it” he says. Rooting through grandma’s old make up drawer, the brush was bought from Accrington Market years ago. “She was called the painted lady” he tells me, “ahead of her time”. It seems appropriate that in finding this old brush, he is somehow channeling her energy too.
Free West Papua
Dale Grimshaw has always been an artist known for his figurative paintings. In particular his interest in indigenous populations has led him to focusing on the people of Papua New Guinea. A campaign that has been growing ever more close to his heart is that of Free West Papua. “I’ve just been using a lot of the imagery from Papua New Guinea” he says. “But using it also to promote some of the political things that’s going on in the west of the island that a lot of people don’t know about”.
Colonised by Indonesia the story of the West Papuans has been a tragic one. Rich in resources, allegations of genocide in the region have been going on for years. Since 1963 it is estimated that over 500,000 people have been killed by the Indonesian military. An area of the world that has always been notoriously difficult to access, the government too have always tried to control the narrative. It’s a hidden conflict compared to many others and one that has no real end in sight.
It was the punk scene that really seems to have led Dale Grimshaw, the young artist onto his current path. As we speak he mentions it a few times. Growing up in the 80’s it became a part of who he was. Environmental concerns, perhaps thought of as fringe issues at the time, would be areas in which he would take an interest. Now many of those same topics are well understood such as the vegan and nuclear disarmament movements.
“I still like that energy” he says about how he feels about the punk scene now. Reflecting that of the more left wing or libertarian ideas are now part of our everyday vocabulary. “It reminds me of a time when everything’s quite new and innocent and exciting”. Waiting for the latest releases and seeing the lyrics and the art of the record covers would serve as an inspiration for the then teenager from Accrington. “I had felt very small” he reflects on growing up in a place that seemed a world away from where the action was. Music and particularly punk was very much a window looking outwards.
Street Art Beginnings
Dale Grimshaw’s transition into the world of the street artist was one that was quite different from his contemporary’s. Artists that now trace their roots to the influences of hip hop and the graffiti of 70’s New York. People from a similar generation yet who have taken different journey’s to where they are now. “I didn’t really know about that world” he tells me.
It was a scrawling on a bus stop that prompted his initial interest. Someone had written ‘The Stranglers’ in black marker. Confused at the time as to what it meant he recalls asking the meaning of it not knowing at the time that it was a band. “I liked the fact that someone had done this in the night and not got caught”. Intrigued his questions led to him being told not to ask any more questions. For the young Grimshaw it only made him want to know more. “It was almost like this crime. This mystery. Who has done it, why have they done it? What does is mean, why would you do that?”
Blackburn to London
Dales route eventually took him to Blackburn, a place he describes as being like New York City compared to Accrington. Then eventually to London where he lives now. Part inspired by the music he’s heard and the places he’s heard of. It can seem like a far cry going back. A giant mural of his in Blackburn stands in a spot where old rock clubs once stood. It’s place he remembers well from his time there. Noticing more now the difference in opportunity levels between the old milltowns of the north and north london.
“If you get a good street art piece people do take ownership of it” he says of the importance of placing quality street art in urban spaces. “It’s really lovely that people say ‘this is our mural, it was done for us. And I love to see that”.
Dale Grimshaw was interviewed on 16 September 2020. His exhibition Assembly of the Gods is showing at the Well Hung Gallery in Hoxton. He has also recently painted a mural as part of the London Mural Festival in Hackney Wick.