Venturing Beyond At Somerset House Dale vN Marshall
It's a strange juxtaposition that graffiti and street art finds itself nowadays. Even though the practise of unauthorised art is still considered vandalism and so very much still illegal, we are seeing more and more street artists cross the boundaries between the street and the gallery wall, and from the gallery wall to the wall of someone's home.
Street art - vandalism or fine art? The latest exhibition at Somerset House, Venturing Beyond: Graffiti And The Everyday Utopias Of The Street, explores questions surrounding graffiti, looking particularly to dispel its image instrinsically linked a dystopian, disaffected movements in society. Street art is often uplifting, colourful, connecting and healing - themes which 17 artists have been commissioned to explore.
Leading the pack is the critically accalimed Filippo Minelli, whose plumes of vibrant smoke announced the opening of the exhibition on Wednesday by shrouding Somerset House in hues of purples, reds and oranges - almost in antithesis to the traditional 'unveiling'.
One of our own artists has himself experiences first hand not only the transcendence between street art and fine art, but also the healing process of this medium.
Dale vN Marshall, once known by the tag Vermin, was once a prolific graffiti artist who explored the limitless posibilities of the street. Evidence of this past is woven into the canvas and paper works Marshall creates today, with a central horizon line scoring through the heart of each composition. Looking at such a motif reminds us of such core elemental moments as the sun setting on the equator or the heart beat in electrocardiography, and in fact this motif represents his old tag marking his past graffiti works.
As well as a horizontal score line, another one of Marshall's signature techniques is the use of string which is tautly woven into the very fabric of the painting. This is in recognition of the artist's mental illness, triggered he says by the wild overwhelming nature of street freedom which eventually saw him turn to drugs. Where graffiti was the fall, it is fine art which is the redeemer - the composition, consideration, intricacies and personal connection is offers all contributing to Marshall's eventual recovery and artistic self-discovery.
As the new exhibition at Somerset House highlights, "graffiti compels its practitioners to ‘venture beyond’ spatial and architectural boundaries, but also metaphorically provokes them to ‘venture beyond’ conceptual frontiers, to form new ways of thinking, acting and being in the world". We think this is because graffiti, regardless of its arbitrary legal status, is an art form. And we're seeing more and more artists transcend those boundaries to true artistic freedoms and discoveries.