It’s no secret that I am a great admirer of Dale Marshall, not only of the artistic works contained within his transformation from Vermin graffiti artist to fine artist but also of his metamorphosis from psychotic in-patient at St Lawrence’s Psychiatric Hospital to the reclamation of his psyche & self over the last decade. Human narratives of survival are incredibly important to me, they save lives, they give hope, they offer people who are lost or alone a voice in the world, a world which is not always black and white, a world sometimes frightening and confusing. In a time when community life is sparse and family life can be fractured these narratives provide essential coping strategies for people finding themselves adrift in a big wide world. Learning from people who battle everyday hardships and inner demons and who get to walk away warrior supreme, is for me, what it’s all about… And so, with this in mind, when I was recently asked by Dale to help with some aspects of a film making project for his upcoming show, there really was no hesitation, I was flattered that he had considered and invited me into his home and into his world. Dales studio is appropriately based in an old Victorian institute in mid Wales, The Workhouse dates back to 1839 when it was set up to care for impoverished members of the local parish, people with no means of caring for themselves, paupers, orphans, or young girls impregnated by their Masters before being cast out of their homes. Walking around the buildings of The Workhouse it’s comforting to still see the presence of those children, the decaying walls, cracked and peeling, etched with names probably dating back over 100 years by the children who resided there, old school Victorian graffiti. Presently in this studio, which is built on the foundations of the past, preparations are under way for Dale’s future, a show which will hang for two months at The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum in Coventry in February 2014. The atmosphere in the studio fluctuates between calm and uncertainty and although the walls and floors are burgeoning with works in progress there’s a faint whisper of ” there’s something big about to happen and it’s freaking me out… but I think I’m alright with it” interspersed with the linseed oil in the air.
Dale’s studio is surrounded by the lush fertile fields and hills of mid Wales, a truly green & pleasant land that really is an idyllic environment to work in, far away from the maddening crowd. A place to grow and flourish, to propagate new ideas and practices, to bring about a harvest of the last few years, a new body of works to coalesce his past, present and future, an eternal trinity we all struggle with.
An abundance of butterflies surround the Marshall home and studio, Peacocks, Painted Lady’s and Wood Whites feed off the nectar of the Buddleia flower, they blow in the wind, fragile yet so strong. Like Dale, the butterfly’s struggled with metamorphosis, with having a new way of being and appearing in the world, with new methods of getting around and spreading their wings but the metamorphosis is an essential part of their survival. Its hard to believe that these delicate beings migrate across the Atlantic to Southern California to continue their cycles.
This is all a far cry from Dale’s beginnings, the lost years of drugs and psychosis, the Vermin graffiti years, the hospitalisations and isolation. Presently Dale is the one directing his life, he has taken control and is getting to where he wants to get to. He has forged a whole new way of being this last decade, in a new land, with a new family, with a new artistic painting style and these huge steps are both admirable, inspirational and deserved. The show in February looks like it will be an incredible success.