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Dalek Interview

Written by Manuel Bello   
Wednesday, 21 March 2007 06:17
"Early one morning while taking a walk in Greenpoint, Brooklyn I begin to get a strange feeling as if I was about to witness a car accident..."

Written by: Manuel Bello

Early one morning while taking a walk in Greenpoint, Brooklyn I begin to get a strange feeling as if I was about to witness a car accident. I pay it little mind and continue about my business when suddenly my head is grazed by a flying creature showing little to no regard for where it was going. Curious, I begin to chase after it as it knocks over trash cans, fruit venders and pretty much everything in its path. After about three blocks of a serious sprinting, spilling my coffee and tripping more than a few times. I appear to have it cornered in a small 5x5 foot vestibule, or so I thought. When suddenly the door flies open and it races up the stairs. At that moment I notice a tall gentleman with a curious grin on his face who called himself Dalek. Before I have a chance to speak, Dalek apologizes for the erratic behavior of the space monkey and quickly dismisses the incident and invites me up to the studio where his creatures are created. Sworn to secrecy, I can not tell you everything I saw that strange winter morning but I can show you some newer works by Dalek and let you read all the things we talked about.

Dalek: What is that thing, a tape recorder? You're going old-school on me?

Manuel: Yeah you know, keeping it core. Tell me a little bit about your youth and childhood and how it affects you and your work today, if at all.

D: I was a navy brat, moved around a lot. It's hard to say how that affected me. I think that because of that I tend to be maybe a little more self sufficient. We moved around so much that I think I probably spent a lot more time just kinda off doing my own thing as well as having this ability to just sorta adapt to new people, and new environments pretty quickly, so I would see a lot of new things and environments which I am sure had something to do with my development. I did spent a lot of time drawing as a kid, reading comic books and watching cartoons and things like that.

M: Is there any truth to the wooden stake head puncture story?

D: Yeah, that's true. I was living as a kid with my parents in South Carolina and they were having a deck put on the back of the house. So I was watching the workmen throwing the stakes out of the back of this pick-up truck into the yard. So I think I was like seven and being a kid I was just wanting to help, so I went and picked one up and went to toss it and sure enough it went straight up and came straight back down and just planted itself right in my head. It fell out, it didn't stick in there too long. I definitely had a hole in my head and a lot of blood. That kind of stuff was pretty common. I was a pretty active and accident prone as a child.

M: As a kid did you see yourself as an artist?

D: Oh no, not at all. I still have some issue with that. I drew to draw, there was no conscious decision to do art or make art. I didn't really know anything about art until I really got to college. But I really didn't pay much mind to it as a kid. I think drawing was maybe just therapeutic in a way. It was just one of those things, I just sorta did it mindlessly. I drew a lot in class as opposed to paying attention. The same thing when I was home just doodling and drawing and things like that. But I really didn't give it much mind.

M: I read someplace that the first Space Monkey was painted on a wall in Connecticut. Was that initial Space Monkey a throw up or was it something that was bouncing around in your mind for some time?

D: It was real loose. I had been drawing characters of that nature for some time. I had done similar characters before but with this one in particular there was not any set game plan. That is funny because that was kinda the cross over from what I had been doing to a couple new things I was trying. I was trying for something a little more cartoony since everything I was drawing back then was sorta tacky. Sorta went through the whole Giger phase with this crazy detailed type of drawing. So I was interjecting something a little looser mostly because of who I was painting with. That was really it. It wasn't named or dubbed or anything, it was just the first inclination of what would become these characters. I have no idea if it's still there, I would assume probably not.

M: Are you still playing with spray paint at all? When was the last time you threw up a piece?

D: ....A while ago. It's been at least a year. Not very much any more. I just don't have the time. I do like painting with good friends, but that's usually when I travel. I have a few people that I paint with here in New York, but I really just don't have the time anymore to get out and do it.

M: This past year Pictoplasma released their Characters in motion which had your Fuel TV animated short. How involved were you on that piece, was it a hands on flash project or was it something that was more concept driven on your end?

D: It was more concept driven, I did the story boards for it in Illustrator. It was the first time I ever really did anything like that. I really took the still frame ideas and wrote all the text and sorta how I saw it. But really it was just the people who worked on the project. The company is called CACHEW and the guy who was working on it just had a really good understanding of how to put things together. He worked with me on creating the pans and zooms and was really able to capture the energy that I wanted to come out of it. It was the first time I had ever really done something like that.

M: It has this kinda late 80 youth uprising feel to it, maybe it was just the circle jerks. Did you choose the music?

D: Yeah, I did. They were able to get it. Pretty cool process as well just knowing how they have to go and approach people and get rights and all that. So they had to go and talk to Keith Morris and just the fact that he was cool with it, was a cool thing. Circle Jerks were definitely a band that I was into when I was younger. Still am for the most part.

M: In 2001 you began to work with Takashi Murakami, how did that come to be and how would you say it is influencing your work today.

D: At that time I was just looking for a way to find a style. I had the beginning components, but I just didn't really know where to take it. I was up in Boston and I saw his show at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. After seeing that show I started seeing that super-flat context was how I really wanted to develop my work. Just his use of color and the sharpness of things. So just sorta on a whim I emailed his studio, got the email address out of this book right over here. I wrote to him saying I know it's a long shot, but I would like to apprentice if possible. At that time I was thinking I would probably have to go to Japan, but as luck would have it they wrote back saying they had a studio here in Brooklyn and it turned out to be just a ten minute walk from here. So I went in and assumed there would be some crazy process to get in and everything but I showed up and they were just like sit down and start painting. It was like a boot-camp. They throw you right in and I learned a lot really quickly. It had a pretty big influence on how I worked. Not so much imagery wise but technically. That studio practice really played into how I worked and still does a little bit. I really tried to follow that process to a tee at first but like anything I eventually adapted it to fit my own needs. It was definitely a key experience in my development.

M: Did you take anything from that in terms of sculpture or has any of that apply to some of your toy designs?

D: Well, at the studio hear in Brooklyn they didn't really develop any of his sculpture stuff. Aside from what I have seen in museums I haven't really seen or worked on any of it too close up. I have had some problems with the Space Monkey as a toy. A 3D version was a bit of a pain in the ass. It was really designed flat and when we tried the Space Monkey toy it didn't really work. But I just haven't really had that desire to pursue any other sculptural stuff in my brain. It's a whole other element to developing a painting. I did built this bird house that I am hoping to get painted by the March show. I am hoping to get it done. So that is it, as things change and develop the world just continues to grow, then those things might happen, but for now sculpture is just not something I am thinking about. It doesn't really apply to the toy stuff either. Toy stuff has to sorta be it's own learning process. Again going back to animation it's just learning how to think differently. Learning to think three dimensionally and developing something specifically for a 3 dimensional piece is slow and coming. I am just trying to figure things out as I go along as you do. But the whole toy thing is becoming to much to manage plus the market has just gotten so crazy and saturated and obnoxious on a lot of levels now. As everything is that starts off so small and becomes big, everyone gets a little wrapped up in-making money and then it just becomes exhausting and at the end of the day painting is a little more important to me. I am really scaling back on any of that until I have the time and the right idea.

M: I am a bit of a skateboard collector and I think I have seen more decks come out of you than almost any other painter in recent years what makes you keep pumping out decks and do you still skate.

D: Yeah yeah, I have skated for many years. I got my first board in 83. It was a Zorlac Big Boys with Indy's and krypto's. So yeah, it's a big part of my life, always has been. Like a lot of things I don't get to skate as much as I used to. I worked in the industry for a while. I was the team manager over at Duff shoes so I still have a lot of friends that are skaters and work in the industry.

M: You must know Matt Hensley then, I did some stuff with Matt last year.

D: I do know Matt, Matt is a great guy. He road for me at Duffs. He is one of the few guys who is still over there. But yeah, the whole thing with skateboard decks is, it is just fun. I enjoy doing it and it is just something I love. I also collect skateboard decks just for the art. It's just enjoyable and fun to still be a part of that community.

M: How did you get linked up with Natas Kaupas and Designarium?

D: How did that happen...? I was actually working with somebody else, this guy Ryan Hetzel on a separate project and he actually told me about Designarium. So I got linked up to Natas through him. That was it, Natas gave me the briefing and it was a real honor to be able to work with him on something like that. My dealing with him in the whole process was minimal, he's a super busy guy and he pretty much approved the graphics and from there I pretty much just dealt with NHS and Jeff Kendall. But yeah those were really fun. Doing dye cut boards they really went out of their way to make that happen. They were having some problems trying to get those cuts made and pulling it off, getting it to take that die cut shape and they really did a great job.

M: What is your primary focus right now, commercial work, product development or painting?

D: Just Painting... that's what I am really hoping to focus on permanently. I am not saying that there won't be commercial work or product stuff but in the last two years I just sorta got caught up in all that. Between toy stuff and product and prints and all that it just got to be too much to try to do that and paint. Switching mind sets like that was just a lot so I am really just trying to focus. The work was starting to suffer. The paintings were starting to go the wrong way and I was not that focused on what I was doing. I really just needed to nip it in the bud before the whole thing just caved in. The idea going forward is to just paint and do the occasional outside project if it makes sense and if there is time for it. I always want to make sure that I have the proper time to paint in the right way. I was just getting to the point where I was just going through the motions for a good year or so. I was just exhausted, I wasn't into painting, I didn't want to paint. But all that has turned back around and it's nice to have that position again where I actually feel focused.

M: What does Dalek have planned for this coming year?

D: Not much at all... No, I have two shows this year. One here in NY at the end of March and one out in LA at Merry Karnowsky in August and that is pretty much it. I might throw a couple pieces in an art show here or there and I have a few products I did last year that will be coming out. I am definitely trying to scale back and disappearing a little bit. Just making more time for my time and my family and not working all the time and feeling stressed about it. I am trying to change the dynamic of my life a little bit and my work and what I put out there.

M: Any words of wisdom?

D: Nope, nothing. It's too easy or too hard. I think that usually one just needs to figure things out for themselves. I don't know if I am wise enough to dispose anything on anybody....

be sure to check out Dalek's solo show that opens Mar 31, 2007 @Johnathan Levine Gallery in NYC.

For more info: DALEKART.COM

Interview conducted by our NYC correspondent, Manuel Bello. {moscomment}

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