Dale vN Marshall’s latest exhibition aims to help to raise awareness of mental health in the young, drawing inspiration from the time he spent painting and talking with teenagers in Edinburgh who live with conditions such as anxiety, ADHD, autism and circumstantial trauma.
Originally a graffiti artist who sprayed paint on the streets of Bristol under the tag 'Vermin’, Marshall was once sectioned in one of Britain's oldest psychiatric hospitals, St Lawrence's in Cornwall. He draws inspiration not only from his graffiti days, but also from his time at St Lawrence's and from his studio in a former Victorian workhouse in Wales, redolent of suffering and poverty.
In advance of the exhibition, Marshall arranged to work with performance poet, Jenny Lindsay and Edinburgh-based theatre company, The Acting Scene, in order to stimulate a shared experience and raise awareness of mental trauma. The emotions expressed were remarkable with the children commenting, we have to play roles in life to get by and I have a lot of thoughts but I’m afraid I’ll be put down. The concept of being listened to but not being heard was a strong component of Dale’s time with these teenagers. What they chose to reveal about their lives and Marshall’s own experiences come together to produce a powerful and emotional body of work.
Marshall’s multi-media work consists of a symbolic language of abstract expression, text and mark-making, using materials ranging from needles, threads, acrylic, wax crayons and watercolours as a language to tell his compelling story. This new body of work explores heavy mark making with elements from the children’s poetry and graffiti text, shining a light on our innermost thoughts and feelings.
Through this collaborative process Marshall celebrates the courage, strength and resilience of these teenagers. The importance of cross-generational influence is hugely relevant here as the teenagers also inspired Marshall with their courageousness as he revisited his own trauma and mental breakdown.
Vanessa Brodrick from VB Fine Art comments, This exhibition is about shared experiences and giving the youngsters a platform to be heard. This body of work will make us stop in our tracks and think about what today’s teenagers might be going through. What came across loud and clear during the time we spent with the youngsters is that they all seemed to feel that they were heard but not listened to and that they were unique. Dale spoke to the group on an equal footing and, in turn, they gave Dale renewed courage to re-visit his darkest moments from his own youth. All of their stories are complex, individual, yet powerfully interwoven.
Marshall previously received much acclaim with his highly successful Walls with Wounds solo museum show at the Herbert Museum and Art Gallery. It sold out within hours and attracted over 8,000 visitors, reducing many to tears.
Dale vN Marshall
3rd August – September
Scottish Storytelling Centre,
43-45 High Street,
Edinburgh, EH1 1SR