Paul Dash in Conversation with David A. Bailey at 198 Contemporary
On 14 March 2019, ICF’s Creative Director David A Bailey was in conversation with artist Paul Dash at 198 Contemporary to discuss Dash’s solo exhibition at the gallery. Not many artists wait until their 70’s for their first solo show, which demonstrates that Dash has not has the attention that his work merits. 198 Contemporary seeks to redress this by presenting Lifeline: A Retrospective of works by Paul Dash, which opened on 1 March. Lifeline was the first major solo exhibition by Dash and for the first time, brought together works from throughout his career, spanning the 1960’s to present day. The collection of works presented include figurative and semi-abstract large-scale paintings, and a selection of ink drawings focusing on several themes drawing on his Caribbean heritage such as carnival. Dash’s more recent work confronts the reality of the current refugee crisis in a series of sensitive pieces in ink, water colour and collage.
A member of the Windrush Generation, Dash migrated from Barbados to Oxfordshire in 1957 at the age of 11. After completing his foundation course at Oxford Polytechnic, he moved to London to study painting at Chelsea School of Art. However, he explains, his figurative approach caused some concern: “Staff a Chelsea didn’t take kindly to my love of more traditional figurative art-making practices… in the second year whilst painting a complex carnival piece, a member of staff stood behind me and pointedly said ‘figurative art is dead, it went out with Cezanne.’ When he left the room, I turned the picture upside down and painting an abstract over it. That was the beginning of my period in the wilderness as a creative being.”
Dash spent the majority of his professional career as an educator in arts and multicultural education, most notably as a lecturer and senior lecturer at Goldsmiths University for 20 years. Describing his journey as an artist, Dash says “It was some twelve years later whilst teaching at Haggerston Girls School in Hackney, that I painted the self-portrait showing in this exhibition. That was the start of a four decades’ crawl from the bleak shadows in which I subsided to a firmer connection with the lifeline that has given my life meaning. At times that line has shown signs of wear of threatened to break but it has held firm and enabled me to build a life of purpose, meaning and hope for the future through my ongoing art practice.”
When describing his work Dash identifies his painting practice as a ‘lifeline’ which brought him salvation through hardships in his experience as a person of the Windrush generation.
A video of the conversation can be found here.