Stewed Screwed & Tattooed

An interview with Patrick Dagg

I went to China Heights on Friday to see Pat's first solo show, titled "Stewed Screwed & Tattooe ". I first met Pat from the band TENNIS where he plays bass and I had recently found out he was also a student of COFA, so I was pretty excited to see what kind of works he was going to present at the show.

J: I first met you when you played a gig at the Hopetoun through my friend Eve and after numerous nights out later - you had told me you were also into painting and culture of art, so how do you feel after your First Solo show at China Heights?
PD: After my first solo show I feel great, I can now allow myself to be referred to as a painter without wincing. I feel like I've earned the right, previously I was only a sunday painter! So it's good to get a body of work out there that people enjoy, and to get a roll on for the next show that should be coming up around September.

J: Can you tell us how you got started with your art?
PD: I could never, and still cannot, draw well. At school art was beyond me and I struggled with the finer details of what art was, I just knew that I was no good at it. But I had a crazed art teacher in my final year, a tripped out surfer, who was getting me to try 15 second drawings and more gestural experiments. This opened my mind up to the potential of what art can be and I started getting into a lot of the abstract expressionist painters of the 50s in New York. The freedom of using colour and gesture as the main parameters in which to work was very liberating. Since then it has been a process of continual education, each work spawning new ideas.

J: What were your inspirations for your first solo show?
PD. The inspiration for this first show sounds a bit tacky: love, life and death. But it all references my life over the last year or more. Ultimately the most inspiring force, as devastating and soul destroying as it was, was the death of my father at the beginning of 2007. This one moment threw my life into a whirlwind of turmoil, with the resulting grief taking a number of forms- some of which were negative and some positive. At the same time I was attracted to tattoos, particularly sailor and prison tattoo's, and what they all meant. There was a common theme of marking an important event that moulded them in some way, to remain with them in permanence. So firstly I went out and got a tattoo, a day of the dead dancing skeleton down my left bicep, just to see what all the fuss was about. And yes it really hurt, thats no lie. Then I started painting, using the idea of the old tattoo as a way of talking about my own life. I must add there was also quite a messy breakup from my girlfriend at that time, so with all this fuelling the fire I got this show "Stewed, Screwed and Tattooed" together. There is a lot of humour in this show with bright colour, and crudely drawn skulls and femme fatals creating a polarised snapshot of that time and place.

J: Some of your works reminds me of old school 60s sailor tattoos. Being an avid ink lover myself…I am definitely interested in the style you have incorporated into the collection. Can you tell us a little bit about how this style came about?
PD: My style has progressed over time, especially with this show, it needed to be a little finer and constrained within black lines- as a tattoo would be. It began to frustrate me as I developed the show and the results were more gestural works, such as the three skulls on yellow- with dripping paint and looser brush strokes. The style of the show depicts the old sailor tattoo, and also contains the expressive qualities of vibrant colour and free movement. I have always enjoyed work that shows the makers mark as there seems to be more immediacy and importance in this expressive painting.

J: Being part of Tennis, does music cross over for your artworks and ideas too?
PD: Music and painting are definitely linked for me, as ideas freely flow from one medium to the next. I was lucky because when everything fell apart I had my painting and the band to pour my ideas into. I approach my music like I do with painting. As I never learnt to play bass my technique can prove quite crude, but its the idea that carries a work. Sometimes too much knowledge can be a dangerous thing and stifle a song or painting, I prefer to work it out as you go. That way it remains a purer reflection of your own ideas, rather than someone else's.

Music and painting cross over in the sense that they both allow a physical expression, one that has infinite possibilities. And once complete, there is a product that is neatly wrapped up in that idea and time- that you can finish with and move on.

J: What do you love most about what you do?
PD: I love watching things evolve. Coming up with an idea and following it through. Because for me it's in the process that I get new ideas and discover bits and pieces buried away. The subconscious is an interesting part of our personality, and I find the more I work at something the more of this I can access. Also the idea of someone enjoying your work, whether it is art or music, gives me a big buzz. Painting allows me to express things that cannot be put into words, and this form of release is very fulfilling.

J: Who are some of your heroes in the art world, past and/or present, how have they shaped your own ideas about what art is all about?
PD: I began my appreciation of painting with several of the New York School artists of the 50s such as Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline and Cy Twombly. I enjoyed the scale of which they worked, and the gestural movement of their paintings left an impression on me. When viewed their works give a very physical reaction to the audience, a more direct translation of ideas than more figurative work. The freedom was very appealing, with a large blank canvas and pot of paint there seemed to be endless possibilities in expression. Also British artists such as Francis Bacon and David Hockney inspire me as they take a more figurative approach to painting, keeping an element of expressionism that cannot be reproduced. This risk and free approach to painting inspires me. It's a bit like rock and roll- there is beauty in it's disorder.

J: Do you have any wise words for other aspiring artistic musical gurus?
PD: Well, I've never been one to give very good advice. But if you want something you have to take it, I guess. Whether it is music or art, if you are really passionate about it you don't exactly have a choice- you have to do it. To me it's all about hard work, the more you put in the better the product. So any advice would just be to work as hard as you can and enjoy the process, because for me that is the best way of moving forward.

J: Last but not least, where can we find out more about your work, any upcoming shows we should look out for?
PD: I'm in the process of developing a website that will have my work up there for sale and some information about what's coming up. For now I'm getting my next show together for late September, so I'll do some running around to let people know when and where that will be. So keep an ear out!

Thanks your time and keep on painting Pat, you rock!

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