Updated: Oct 24, 2020
GD: Like a lot of my work, I'm trying to fit what would normally be in a landscape format into a portrait format, to give some sense of tension or as you say, confinement. This means a lot of playing around with horizontals, verticals, etc., which gives a grid effect. There is a lot of layering of horizon lines so you have many vantage points. In more simple terms, there's the effect of looking through a forest or overgrown, abandoned landscapes. The strong green and pink jolts you from top to bottom. It was taken from a Milton Avery painting.
GD: 'Life is hard' was the largest painting for a long time, and the first as a landscape format. This freed up a lot of space for some of the motifs. I'd moved back to Teeside after lots of years in South Wales. Sometimes these motifs can get blurred, covered up, but they are more obvious in this painting. There is a joy, I hope, but also a melancholy. Lots of abandoned industrial buildings, coastlines, boats, birds, quite clichéd subject matter but I am attempting to reclaim those landscapes, which is impossible, futile. I guess there is a sentimental nostalgia there, a romantic notion grounded in the messy business of paint.
GD: They started to appear in the larger work, trees became birds, birds became clouds, shape-shifting from one thing to another. There was a point when I thought, if it looks like a bird let it be a bird. Let it be a boat. They work great on a compositional level but also as popular entries into a painting. There's an element of metaphor for some, others they just work for the painting itself. Flamingo Land was a zoo I used to work for in the summer holidays. I used to stare at these birds a lot. So graceful, exotic, balancing on one leg and stuck in a zoo. And they are great to draw. The swans are similar in some ways. You are battling with quite an iconic shape, trying to embed it in the painting.
GD: There's a lot of initial underpainting , usually in very bright pinks and yellows which then I paint into, to play with composition. This changes constantly and a painting can change its overall colour very quickly. You're looking for something to emerge out of it. Sometimes it's obvious, sometimes it's not. You're trying to trick yourself. Throwing in a giant flamingo came from that. Then all of a sudden it will come together, and then you're trying to make it exist as an object. 'Adverse Camber' was very red and orange right up until the final day when those different tones of yellow seemed so right, and so wrong.
GD: I'm ok, family is ok. My wife works for NHS so I've been struggling with home schooling a 6yr old and doing endless zoom meetings. I lost my studio half way through so, like a lot of people, I'm working from a kitchen table. It's not that different from how i work. I often spend months, if not years, working on the smaller works, probably longer than the bigger ones. This builds up a lot of visual muscle memory. They're not studies for larger paintings, but when you get to a 3 metre canvas instead of 30 cm, it can be quite scary, daunting. I like that. It's like starting again; 'What the Hell am I gonna do with this?'
The #artistsupportpledge has been a massive support for many included. It's opened up new opportunities, introduced me to new artists and obviously the sales have been great. I've sent work all over the world and of course bought work as part of the pledge. Matthew Burrows did a simple idea really well and is to be applauded. I would be lost without it.
Dalton has works available via his instagram profile as part of the #artistsupportpledge campaign set up by artist Matthew Burrows which aims to support artists during the COVID-19 pandemic, in light of the closure of exhibitions and period of lockdown.
Thank you to Gordon Dalton for participating in issue 6 of The Art Five. British artist Gordon Dalton (b. 1970) has earned an international reputation for his resplendently coloured paintings. He holds his MA, Fine Art, University of Northumbria, and an honours BA, Fine Art, University of Wales, Cardiff. Select residencies include URRA, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 2016 and the Chapter Art Gallery, Cardiff, 2007. For more information visit gordondalton.com Download the interview
All images courtesy Gordon Dalton unless otherwise credited.