‘Drinking, strippers, figures from history books, TV and movies’ – London artist Danny Fox lists his favourite things using canvas
Following on from a series of paintings that were “intentionally unambitious”, London-based artist Danny Fox believed he had reached the end of a certain road. That is, he was sick of his “own bullshit” – painting the painful and the personal things in his life – so what did he do? He began to paint his favourite things; an amalgamation of strippers, TV characters and drinking, to name just a few. But there’s more at work here than just that. While his paintings may hold a certain mischievous streak; a man straining his tongue at a naked bum, a naked breast here, a set of legs – so wide open they might well be dislocated – there, they also lend themselves to that of Early Modernism – think Picasso (known to be a little naughty himself) and Matisse – but with just the right amount of sleaze thrown in. While he’s really more of a paint now, ask questions later kind of guy – preferring to throw a few litres of paint at a canvas and go from there – below we get the low down on what Fox wishes he never said, why his bullshit is still hanging around and why the hell he’s still listening to Radiohead.
Could you tell us a bit about your paintings for this series?
Danny Fox: I've always painted from self-experience, using women and family as the inspiration, the typically painful and personal subjects in life. I just got sick of it – sick of my own bullshit. So I started painting the things I enjoyed in life; drinking, strippers, figures from history books, TV and movies. There's still a bit of my bullshit mixed in with them though – quite a lot, actually.
Is there a narrative in there?
Danny Fox: There is a kind of narrative. When you paint a lot of work in a short space of time there is always going to be a thread running through the work, and when you are working on a show you can't help but imagine how the work is going to look when hung up together. But I hope each piece stands up by itself, telling it's own story. I think they do. Most of them are reimagined characters based on people I've met or versions of myself. Even the animals.
Saying that, I’ve read you’ve got quite a trial and error way of painting? Paint first, think later…
Danny Fox: Well, yeah. But that's got a lot to do with how I like the paintings to look and feel. I like to build them up with shit loads of paint, so they're thick and solid. If I start a picture and get it right first I have to paint over it anyway because it would be all thin and flimsy. Also, if a face looks too face-like or a finger too normal, then I will mash it out until it looks better.
And it’s true that Sue Webster had to exhume a large amount of canvas’s from your studio (resulting in the exhibition) as she was afraid you’d die in there under an avalanche of work?!
Danny Fox: I work quickly, so if I have enough money to keep buying materials I naturally produce a lot of work. That had only been possible in last year really, I sold some of the first pieces of this series last year and it enabled me to to get seriously into it. It took me so long to get to that point that when it came, the work just kept pouring out. When Sue first came to my studio, I was in the very early stages of these paintings – I think I painted over everything she saw that day.
I’ve read that your grandmother gave you your first opportunity to draw – in an attempt to numb your boredom...
Danny Fox: That was just something I said in passing in my first ever interview, I think. I don't consider it a defining moment. I think I was just explaining that all kids draw and paint, like learning to read and write, and if you do it well you get thrown a biscuit like when a dog doesn't shit on the carpet. I don't even remember the context, but if I knew it was going to keep coming up I would have invented something more interesting.
What was on your playlist while you were creating these?
Danny Fox: The old classics, mostly. Sometimes I think, “Fuck's sake! How many times can I sit here painting and listening to Radiohead.”