Like many graduates, Dale Lewis began his art career on the lowest rung, as an assistant first to Damien Hirst, then Raqid Shaw. Two and a half years with Damien were spent on kaleidoscope paintings, which meant placing thousands of butterfly wings in patterns onto paint, while his four and a half years with Raqid were spent working in minute detail on photorealist paintings. It was when he became involved in the year-long Turps Banana painting programme that Dale’s style moved away from the labour intensive processes he’d learnt under Damien and Raqid.
Now, the London-by-way-of-Essex artist paints his vast works, which stretch two metres high by four metres wide, in a single day. Dale’s style has been compared to Jean-Michel Basquiat and David Hockney, both valid comparisons, but in subject at least his resoundingly British paintings remind me of Grayson Perry’s The Vanity of Small Differences tapestries, as tableaux of society. Executed in oil, acrylic and spray paint on canvas are twisted scenes of often subversive, sometimes mundane, largely white, British, male life: boys dressed in Adidas and Nike at the seaside, gang violence, gay sex clubs, all-out human centipede-style orgies, an acid-fuelled funeral.
No doubt there’s much more to come: this year, Dale was one of three artists picked to receive a Jerwood Painting Fellowship, a scheme which awards each artist a bursary (of £10,000) and a mentor (Dale’s is Dan Coombs, who he met during the Turps Banana programme).