IN THE ARTIST'S WORDS:
GETTING TO KNOW DAN McDERMOTT
Dan McDermott paints dynamic photo-realist canvases. Working in an energetic and highly individual style, he captures our perceptions of the fast moving world around us through strongly nostalgic and American inspired images of city streets, speeding cars, passing figures and urban landscapes.
McDermott is a highly prolific, internationally acclaimed artist working in a spectrum of mediums, from screen prints, wood cuts and oil paints, to transfer moments held in memory into a long lasting image preserved on canvas.
"I deploy my materials, paint and oil, abundantly and energetically in the studio, using the highest possible quality pigment available. A great many things happen to change, heighten and transform the image in the process of looking and translating into paint. I feel like I am entrapping the image, holding it in time in order to look for longer and see more."
PEOPLE AND PLACES
Above: 'American Street'
"I have been making pictures and selling them since I was about 15" Dan tells us. "I was born in London, grew up in the Yorkshire Dales, and went to art school in Newcastle. To make extra money when I first left art school, I painted sets and scenery for the pop video industry and movie sets in Saltlake City Utah. I went back to art school at the age of 38 to get an MA." Before his MA Dan ran a family restaurant and jazz bar with his brother and father in Leeds. Dan has held an art studio in Brixton for 18 years and to date has placed over 350 paintings in art collections worldwide. "I have learnt most about the nature of art by teaching it to adults and young people."
INSPIRATION - "THE FLEETING IMAGE"
"The majority of my reference images are single frames found in vintage film or television archives. I love the fleeting image. I grab hold of what is normally seen and lost in an instant, hardly an image at all, to render and rebuild it in paint as a picture. The mercurial nature of oil paint allows me to imbue each painting with an electric static, a sense of kinetic energy held in place. I hunt for and collect stills all the time, only a very small fraction of them make it as paintings. It’s hard to say why certain images will make good paintings and others not. I look for things that have emotional resonance - something to do with memory, growing up and the influence of TV and Film."
"This image is from archive film footage, most likely shot in LA around mid 1960's as newsreel or location footage for the movie industry.
For me it has a great perspective and space. There is a series of diagonals cutting through the space at 45 degrees with a single vertical line (the lamp post) that seems much closer to the viewer than anything else. All the action is happening in the space between. Formally it is very structured; the eye can travel up and down these lines taking in the pockets of detail along the way.
As with all my work a sense of movement and transition is important. I have painted a lot of American cars from the 50's and 60's. For me their design conjures up a feeling of a future that never came to be. They gleam, they cruise, they look like they were designed to glide across continents like luxurious spacecrafts - effortlessly and soundlessly - powered maybe by sunshine itself. They are utterly utopian. I am most interested in them as pure image. Standing next to an actual vintage car, for me, always disappoints. It can’t be compared to the image of such a vehicle trapped in a celluloid pocket of time - eternally and simultaneously having just arrived and about to depart."
"Warhol was a great artist - a very instinctive observer and documenter. He was cool, he seemed confidant and people followed him. He became an icon and all this from a deeply shy man. There is nothing wrong with shyness, shy people can often be overlooked but they are often the most insightful among us. In archive interviews Warhol would nervously draw back his breath and words even before they have fully left his mouth. He was as non-verbal as his pictures. That’s what my painting is about."
"The title of this print refers to a memory... I was 16 years old on a family holiday to New York City. I’d never been there before. Manhattan seemed like a country in its own right. It was different from anything I had ever known, including every American cop show or movie I had seen. The air was different - thick and warm. Coffee cups were very thick and warm and heavy. Everything was bigger except for electric plugs - they looked dangerously flimsy. Life seemed totally unreal - a dream.
The memory in question is a cab driver telling us - whilst driving unnecessarily fast in a long sequence of short bursts of acceleration before sharply applying very spongy breaks in order to not smash into the cab in front - that we were currently “riding the green wave”. This is when you are catching the traffic lights just as each one turns green all the way up the Avenue. At first this image was an oil painting, I liked it so much I gave this title and turned it into a screen print."
Explore more of Dan's work here >