Dan Baldwin's "Dead Innocent" at FORSTER

The first UK show this year from the spraypaint-wielding West Sussex artist.

"Autumn Girl"
Dan Baldwin, an artist often compared to Banksy and Basquiat, is back with a new body of work based on images from popular culture, fine art, and religious and political history. Since graduating from Maidstone School of Art in 1995, Baldwin's work has been published widely (including in Dazed & Confused, I.D, Vogue and Elle) and he has exhibited in the UK, USA and Germany. His first UK show in a year opens at FORSTER, Shoreditch on September 12.

Dazed Digital: Are the sinister elements of your paintings a reflection of the contemporary world? Or are they a constant in art?
Dan Baldwin: Yes and no. Always they are there, some more subtle than others. It’s always a balance between the two – life is full of the sinister but it’s beautiful. It’s always dark meets light, good vs. bad, optimism vs. cynicism. A deer is innocent and majestic, symbolic and folky, but place a creepy skeletal hand next to it, a diagram of a jawbone, a screaming face, it becomes a story.

DD: Can beauty exist without death?
DB: Nothing exists without death. Death is part of life and vice versa. In my garden, a newly born robin falls from the nest into the cat's jaw – just like that, it’s born, it dies. Life is precious, death is omnipresent. I came across the Vanitas movement by accident it. It was all skulls and guns, decay and flies, fruit and flowers… I saw a correlation between what I was doing and what they were saying; a lightning bolt.

DD: How do you feel about being referred to as an urban artist?
DB: Well, I am certainly grateful for the attention that scene brought me, but I’m not urban – graffiti and stencil art aren’t my thing. I enjoy using spray paint but that’s more a love of colour. There are political references in my work but I have always exhibited in the fine art world. Though Banksy and Hirst are collaborating now; maybe there are no rules any more.

DD: Why do you use a variety of different media? How does it affect what you create?
DB: I’ve used mixed media, ever since discovering Joseph Cornell, Robert Rauschenberg, and Peter Blake. I’ve always collected objects: sheep skulls, knives. I don’t plan my work - it’s an instinctive, a piece grows organically. I’ll be close to completing a painting and I’ll think: "what does this need?" Sometimes the element will start the journey - a butterfly, an Iraqi banknote, a WW2 photo, a bible.

DD: Which other living artists do you admire and why?
DB: I love Hirst because he is a showman – same with Jake and Dinos, they don’t give a fuck. I love Hockney’s skill and constant passion for paint and pencil; Peter Blake is a true gent and I’ve always loved his attention to detail. I like Jeff Koons - another showman. I have some Paul Insect pieces I love – dark & sexy - and OBEY. Fiona Rae makes beautiful works, the expressionistic and graphic that I love playing with in my own work. And Grayson Perry’s pots are fantastic.

DD: What was it like being on the first series of The Apprentice?
DB: I love the show - although we didn't know how successful it would become. I gave up two days to set up this studio and I was filmed for three hours and on air for 12 seconds! When team one arrived, they were really into the work and I was buzzing but team two were a right bunch of twits and I thought: "what have I said yes to?"

DD: What have you got planned for the rest of the year?
DB: My next show's keeping me busy, then SCOPE London in October with FORSTER. After that I produce a piece for a charity event for Prostate Cancer Charity and then I start my solo for LA 2009. No rest for the wicked.

DD: What would you like to achieve long-term?
DB: I guess a show out in New York would be special as it’s always had that Warhol - Basquiat appeal. A book! One day… I’m just warming up; I’m beginning to make some really good work. I'd like to be in museums and great collections and have more success on an international level – worldwide international art stardom! Not much really!

Dead Innocent is at FORSTER, 1 Chapel Place, Rivington Street, EC2A 3DQ until October 25.
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