Dale vN Marshall is a fine art contemporary painter whose work is the sum of hard-won experience and traces his life from mental illnesses through to redemption. Born in Bath, United Kingdom in 1974, Marshall began his artistic career as a graffiti artist, working under the tag ‘vN’ or ‘Vermin’ and enjoying the freedom that the street’s unrestricted scope allowed. Central to his practice at this time was Marshall’s impulse to connect the rawness of the bare wall with his own lines of poetry, undeniably challenging the preconception of graffiti art. Through displaying such raw poetic phrases as There Is Beauty In The Lonely and the poignant and foreshadowing line From A Young Age Cracks Had Started To Appear. Alongside the unrestricted creativity offered by the streets, Marshall became drawn in by the darker side of this limitless life, gradually turning towards drug use from which a series of psychotic episodes followed. These culminated with Marshall being sectioned in the notorious, commonly known, Cornwall County Asylum, a stay which was followed by seven years of clinical depression. However it was with Marshall’s own initiative to self-discharge from anti-psychotic medication that a personal transformation began – a transformation which mirrored itself in Marshall’s art that in turn became a vehicle for, and the physical manifestation of, his healing process and redemption. The result was a move away from the isolating walls of mental illness and into Marshall’s studio in rural Wales; whilst his workplace bears a striking resemblance to the enclosed space of the Cornwall asylum where Marshall was confined to, it is crucially and poignantly removed both physically and metaphorically from this time in Marshall’s life, with the walls now instead defining as a space of creativity and transformation. Similarly, Marshall’s canvases are both the product of this time of emotional damage as well as emblems of catharsis. Consider Marshall’s textured canvases as references to cracks and the loss of emotional orientation: his application of string across paint as a symbol of scars traced across skin, his heavily layered oils as the reflection of wounds; the canvases begin to appear as mementoes to the chaos that mental illness can envelop us in. Crucially, however, it is this very chaos which Marshall has now been able to embrace, tame and steer towards beauty, clarity and a series of artworks which resonate with unflinching honesty, courage and talent. Both documenting and challenging the preconceptions of mental illness, each canvas maps Marshall’s own journey through ‘the wasteland’ years of psychosis and depression, but also readdresses our understanding of these afflictions; discovering the creative forces they can be transformed into and arguing that the scar left from the wound can be a thing of rare beauty.
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