Artist Feature
Nelly Duff interviews Dave White


By  Alice
15th May 2017

In preparation for our upcoming exhibition ‘Paradise’ with the one and only Dave White, Nelly Duff tracked the enigmatic artist down for a chat and revealed Mr White’s opinions on music to work to, what it takes to paint the worlds most exciting creatures, and helicopters.


Discuss Nelly Duff interviews Dave White

  • What has made you choose the theme of this show to be ‘Paradise’ as opposed to your previous shows such as ‘critical’? and ‘natural selection’?

    I think Paradise is quite an open subject, and even though there are pieces in the show that you would very much associate with that word, its full of curveballs, such as the scorpion and the tarantula, there’s a few bits in there that are the flip-side of Paradise in a way. And its something I wanted to touch on, explore and just have a bit of fun with.
  • Thinking a bit more about previous shows such as ‘Critical’ and ‘Natural Selection’, when I look at animals on the endangered list, I see animals I’ve never heard of, such as the Vaquita, Saola, and tree kangaroo – and its crazy to think that these things might disappear without a lot of people ever having known they exist. Do you think you would ever like to do a series of lesser-known animals as a way of raising awareness?

    What I’ve touched on in the past, and what I always touch on in my work, is the fact that its not just paintings of pretty animals. Behind everything that I do is an awareness issue that I always want people to come away from viewing my works with, and to question them. Obviously you’ve got your gorillas and your tigers, and you know these animals are in a critical situation, but when you start reading a bit more and you see things like tuna, chimpanzees, and some things you would never expect to be on that list that is never ending and increasing all the time. So I always include some of the lesser known animals in my series’, as I think its really important and something that I’m always working towards; this awareness of these more obscure animals. But to answer your question more precisely, the lesser-known animals are something I would definitely love to explore.
  • Bit of a change of pace now! What do you listen to when you’re working?

    Hmmm, I will listen to... old school Jungle...
  • Very Apt!

    Yes! Basically what I’ll listen to is something super fast, that basically almost makes me not focus on what Im doing. I just do what I do and I don’t have a formula, I just do it! Music that is very quick, and almost makes me stop thinking about painting is key to what I do.
  • Further in that vein, what is your favourite album cover artwork? Does anything spring to mind?

    That is a great question.. Jesus that’s a really amazing question! Oh my god… *long exhale* I’m going to have to have a little think! Give me the next question and I’ll come back to it.
  • Moving on then! Here’s a question that is quite relevant for this particular show, what is it about your work that you like seeing in print? What do you think it is about your art that works so well in prints?

    First and foremost, I think the print process, let’s take a silkscreen for instance, becomes its own process and art form. I find it so interesting how the two processes of painting and then printmaking come together organically; working with people who are exploring your image just as much as you’ve been exploring the subject matter, and can then enhance it. For example, something that I’m currently doing in prints is using pearlescent inks, that aren’t necessarily in the original paintings, but they actually enhance the image and give it another dimension. On the other hand, for me, especially with watercolours which are always going to be giclee prints, as watercolour doesn’t translate into silkscreen, it is incredibly important that they are exactly the same as the original painting. I actually use the same paper for both, and if you put them together, it’s almost impossible to see which is which. For me, it is so important quality wise that the people buying my works are getting the best possible product, and as a studio that is something we are absolutely adamant about. But ultimately with prints, it’s about enhancing the original work, whether it is with hand-finishes or varnishes. Obviously we use the gold leaf and the diamond dust, and this is something we do to enhance the preciousness of the subject matter, so it’s always the highest grade of gold leaf that we can use. Every print studio I have worked with has brought something new and special to my works, and that’s why we are so excited to be working with you guys at Nelly Duff.
  • Obviously the different animals you paint have such different qualities and natures, for example the elephant and the shark! Do you take their nature into account in your painting technique? Do you think specific mediums work better with specific animals?

    Even though, I suppose you could say that I have a distinct style that people would recognise, what is interesting is that each individual animal requires a very different set of rules that I abide by when I’m working. So if I’m going to paint a bird of paradise, and then a great white shark, they require very different skill sets in the way the paint is applied, the way the marks are made, and I’m very consciously aware of that. For example some things have to be a bit more spontaneous, some things have to have a bit more weight behind them, and I love that. I love dealing with every animal as a unique being and seeing that come across in its texture and colour, and it’s what keeps it interesting for me!
  • Do you think that it comes quite naturally to you? I know you work in quite a fast paced, high-energy way; do you ever stop and think about mark making?

    I don’t think really, I just do! The only reason I know I’m coming to the end of something is when my hand will slow down, and I’ll start to think ‘Oh maybe I should put that there, or that there’ Once I’m consciously aware of what I am physically doing, I know that this painting has come to an end. Its almost like a meditative thing for me, that’s why I find it a bit weird when I see my work in shows, because I don’t remember making those marks! If I’m working and I’m naturally in the moment, that’s the ultimate goal. I’m not thinking about the previous marks I’ve made, always the next one. I guess it’s like sport in the sense that you don’t have time to stop and think about your next move, you don’t ponder on it, you just have to react fast and put it behind you. This is very much how I work in general, and once I finish a piece of work I won’t look at it again, even at exhibitions. I’m only as good as my last painting, and I’m always thinking about what’s coming next.
  • So then if its not your paintings that you would like to surround you, what would be your ultimate piece of art you could have in your house?

    Anything? One thing? I think I would have ‘Wham’ by Roy Litchenstein. I saw it as a little boy, and ever since its been quite an obsessive thing for me in the sense that its such a beautifully powerful image depicting something quite horrific in such an amazing way. Even though the source material is lifted from a comic book that’s irrelevant to me, it such dynamic and such a frozen moment, I love it. But I’m a weirdo with stuff, I’d probably want a Bell 47 helicopter in my living room if I could! I’ve never lost that love for being a child, I love things that are aesthetically pleasing, it doesn’t matter what they are or what they’re used for, I just find them incredible, and I’ve never lost that way of looking at things.
  • I think that really comes across in your paintings, you get such a childlike sense of awe and wonder when looking at these amazing images of animals, its almost like being a child again at the zoo.

    That’s really interesting that you say that, because in a way if I’m evoking that reaction then that’s my job done! Like you said when you go to the zoo, and you get that one-to-one eye contact, and you feel the intensity, that’s what floats my boat. It’s not just a tiger or a gorilla, it’s a being that is looking back at you and engaging and questioning your own reality and the reality of that animal.
  • Finally, what do you think will work about displaying your pieces at Nelly Duff?

    Nelly Duff for me has always been an incredibly eclectic, unique place that is almost like Ollivander’s wand shop! An old school building just full of stuff that you want to take home. Its going to be really interesting because we’ve got some small surprises in the show, as well as the large paintings that will echo the kind of eclectic nature of Nelly Duff. I just want people to feel that excitement when you walk in, like you’re in a tropical house, seeing things that are beautiful and things that will make your skin crawl! That’s what it’s about for me, keeping it fresh and exciting, which is what Nelly Duff is all about.
  • Brilliant! Before you go, have you thought about what your favourite album cover yet?

    This is not a joke at all, but it is Cassius ‘1999’ – it’s the best photograph of people who look like they’ve been given the craziest news ever!