Welcome to the latest Art-el newsletter, we are pleased to introduce a new artist to the roster, Vermin. We have just released his latest exclusive set of canvases and they are stunning.
It’s set to be a big year for Vermin with his first solo show planned for Bristol opening on 10/10/10 at The Emporium, Stoke’s Croft, Bristol.
To feast your eyes on this selection of new work please drop by at www.art-el.co.uk/collections/vermin
Here’s a little more about man himself -
Dale Marshall (a.k.a. Vermin). Born Bath, UK 1974.
VERMIN 1986 – Present. This is an insight into the world of Dale ‘vn’ Marshall aka Vermin. Having developed from the streets and now making a transition into the world of fine art, Vermin (VN) stylised, purist, non-conformist graffiti writer and artist. Human mental health issues set the tone for a large part of ‘VN’s’ work, it is a reflection of past, present and future. Numeracy or pure lunacy? A self proclaimed maverick originator, self learner & seething dyslexic.
The fact that we are even talking about Vermin being immersed in the midst of his first major body of work and currently studying a BA in fine art is frankly an absurd notion in itself. He’s been taken to the brink by the ravages of severe drug and alcohol addiction, followed by the onslaught of severe mental illness resulting in a period of institutionalisation. This current body of work in oils is finessed but full of the powerful rawness and immense abstract imagery that is constantly apparent in his graffiti. The cut of his cloth sometimes perceived as cocky or arrogant is far from his real persona he just possesses an immense amount of self belief that the life of an artist was one that was his calling.
His work both indoors and out has always followed the route of non-conformity, often uncomfortable and challenging to the viewer, laced with cynicism which later evolved into the calligraphic daubings that frequent his pieces, with examples being the likes of ‘Disturbed’, ‘Inbred’, ‘Control’ and one of his more recurring prophetic ones ‘From a young age the cracks started to appear’, all the more refreshing in an era where graffiti writing and what evolved from it has all turned into a bit of a MTV car crash. Let’s face it graffiti’s spin off ‘Street art’ has all gone urban a little bit like punk went new wave!
In his early teens Vermin began to gravitate towards the creative hub that was Bristol, synonymous with a plethora of creative talent that has been the driving force of, initially underground but now mainstream popular culture. This was a turning point, as before too long he was painting alongside some of the South West’s seminal writers. “I didn’t ever paint with the Barton hill crew. They had a tight knit scene there, very city based. Didnt feel good enough to paint with anyone at that point. Heard stories of a lot of writers being arrogant, so didn’t have the confidence to venture in! To be fair their styles were developed more at that time (late 80’s) compared to now”. A few years later painted with Kato, Soker, Lokey etc in mid 90’s.
Taking the usual writers route through tagging and illegal walls and initially through the pseudonyms ‘Zinc22, Tare9 & Chain’ this evolved into his now trademark ‘Vermin’ nearly 2 decades ago.
When pressed for his thoughts on why so such a high number of today’s well-known writers and artists emerged from such rural backwaters Marshall quickly quips “We are all mutated farmers, but we keep our work rather than our shit real. City life has trends and sheep follow! “I have heard many top writers say the best styles are from artists that come from the sticks. The city takes it, waters it down and then spits it back out becoming the next new so-called trend”.
In Felix Braun’s must read book ‘Children of the Can’ it focuses on a number of the above-mentioned characters with whom you formed the seminal crew SOF (Souls On Fire) in it you recall one of the defining moments was being the first crew to take out the Dean Lane ‘Hall of Fame’ main wall top to bottom. What are your feelings looking back on the escapades and what other crews do you consider yourself having been part of?
In 1992 things were blowing up in a big way, with the inception of the groundbreaking Souls on Fire crew beginning to take out some prime walls and in his own words ”I felt that 1996 was the golden year for Souls on Fire and it was some accomplishment to be the first crew to paint Bedminster top to bottom with the now infamous ‘ Planet Farmyard’ piece”. All the while the sub plot of drug addiction ticked away like a time bomb, in front of a wall he could just about function but away from that life, things were spiralling alarmingly out of control.
“I have only ever been part of SOF, for people to say they roll with a number of crews is either an ego thing or where they just feel the need to be attached to something. The Planet Farmyard piece was a defining moment for all of us whether the others agree with it or not. For the first time I felt we could match the elite. We had many new people coming to Bristol to paint (as it was and remains a magnet for creative’s), big writers. Personally I felt Dreph, Skore, Shok & Alert and many more came because of the pieces MBA and SOF were doing in the mid-90s. I’m pretty sure that we would of been asked to do the renowned ‘Unity’ jam in London because of that piece but I think we were perceived not trendy enough/too bumpkin! Still the ‘Planet Farmyard’ production made it into HHC (Hip Hop Connections) as among the best pieces of the decade, 1990-2000.
The artist’s colourful life as alluded to has provided numerous high and low points. His best recollections involve painting with ‘Skore’ (who he still sights as one of his biggest artistic influences) for the first time in ‘97, all of the Dean Lane productions, New York 2008, plus the Drop a Clone, & Our Teachers Pets in Bristol. All this in comparison to the worst that are listed as Frome 2008 falling off of a wall whilst drunk and fracturing his back. The infamous Walls on Fire event, Bristol whilst suffering extreme withdrawal and all the times banged up for painting illegally.
Apart from the obvious differences in scale how does your approach differ tackling a canvas as opposed to a wall?
”For sure, I’ve never been comfortable with canvas I hate marker pen canvases and simply don’t enjoy doing them but since embarking on my current fine art degree it’s something I’ve kind of had to get over pretty quickly but it’s only since I’ve been using oils that I get a real enjoyment from painting them. I am a trained screen printer so I like to get away from the whole repetition and logo value of common pop art, when I work I like the work to be 1 off and totally original, no use of other peoples imagery. It’s good for my integrity. I usually approach a wall or canvas in a freestyle manner with no sketches or references. My work can take anything from 3 hours to 3 weeks.
For as long as I can remember your outdoor work has incorporated slogans, sayings and written text that sit with the piece. Can you tell me a little bit more about that?
The slogans are intensely personal to me. I think that is part of ‘Vermin’ originality. I remember painting the ‘I want to create something indescribable piece’ in 99 and having a feeling of no one has ever written anything so personal on a wall! I thought that possibly it was too much or honest to write at the time. Maybe it was ahead of its time? This piece also laid the foundation for my breakdown 3 months later. I once again feel confident now writing my slogans on the wall – ‘from a young age the cracks started to appear’. ‘I chose this life didn’t I’? I am telling a very personal story on the wall yet people can take and make many meanings from my words. In my head I have always got my favourite sayings, it’s when I finish a piece I think I’ll write that! I have a deep 6th sense and almost automatic writing when it comes to my slogans on the walls.
Can you document and talk about your battle with mental health problems and add some chronology to it all? Also what affect this has on you painting followed by your return to painting?
From a young age………….
5yrs old locked inside a car fire, nearly lost my life which heightened and taught me to be aware of danger but always had a paranoid edge around me because of that.
Teenage lifestyle of a petty criminal & at 15 started taking LSD often
16 lived the free party scene for 2-3 years every weekend.
18 had 1st panic attack (because of heavy drug usage) mental health decline started.
19 addicted to base and codeine continued to 1-2yr heroin addiction.
24 1 yr base problem, meaning I hardly slept for 1 yr (maybe 2 days per week).
1999 aged 25 lost the plot completely – secure unit 6 weeks, let out due to partner at the time knowing ward manager. Psychosis lasting 3 more months/ 1 year mildly
2001 had 2 nervous breakdowns & spent 26 weeks of a year in bed with insanity. Pulled out of college by community nurse as a consequence and became a heavy alcoholic and attended the Wells psychiatric hospital occupational therapy daily for 1 year.
2002- 2006 Bad depression and alcoholic, wanted life to end on daily basis – prayed a natural cause would kill me.
2007 managed to get back to work which was a huge mental help, which then enabled me to finally start drawing again and to get back into to graff.
All this time I wondered if ever going to be well again, frightened I could be ‘mental’ forever, always feeling karma was playing its part in life from then on.
Looking back it was a blessing and my chance to cleanse:
I designed the rat logo (vn) whilst in hospital in 99 despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage – which is where vermin tag derived from, plus reading a dictionary at the same time! As my health got worse I lost the ability to draw. There was no creative flow to the work, gone was the idea of block fills outline and 3d with cap. I remember a very well known writer coming to visit with some paint in 2003 and I thought ‘I cannot bear to touch that nozzle with the shit going on inside my head’ he was saying ‘ you gotta get out and paint man’ but I was like you dont understand. I was having moments where I felt i could do something and the next I couldn’t. I was convinced I would never be able to draw or paint period. Let alone never as I could pre 99. But I always knew deep down that there was the possibility that my time would come. It was just the matter of getting through my cleansing period – but I didnt know how long it would last and at those times I thought and felt it would be forever.
My whole psychosis was about me dealing with my future, war, race, and a positive outcome. I saw it being the end of my world as I knew it and a new one was to begin.
Keywords: World on fire, East meets West, Black/White, alien, dramatic, Light/Dark, Positive/Negative, Ugly/Beautiful, Fail/Win, Black and White television – Colour television, Number plates telling stories and It’s not real I am!
I remember whilst being taken from the police station to the hospital in an ambulance. Sat in the back with a nurse around 4-5am and looking out of the window. The outside world looking incredibly surreal whilst travelling through the Cornwall moors. It felt like the ambulance had started to take off into the air and I thought ‘this is it I am going to heaven, or maybe I am in heaven?’ I realised I could be dead and was probably never to see anyone again. I asked the nurse “Hi my name is Dale, am I dead”? She just looked at me, smiled and replied “No Dale we are taking you to a place for you to get better”. I got to the hospital to the realisation I have just been secretly filmed and was locked up in Australia. I had lost the lead role in the film and I had to fight for my existence. This moment has many bearings for me as an artist.
You get the impression that Vermin is definitely a man on a mission now that he seems to have found more comfort in his own skin these days. Only this time with a fledgling family on board one gets the inkling that Dale ‘Vermin’ Marshall seems in control of his own destiny to a much greater degree. That belief is born out in the quality and direction of this new body of work.
“I have a beautiful story to tell in one way or another. This is why I have no problem with writing what I write and I dont mind failing as long as I am being true to myself. My art is original, poetic, dark and beautiful, operatic. Despite what is going on the world today there is still Beauty”