Benjamin Murphy talks to David Shillinglaw

BM - For those that might not know, please explain who you are and what you do.

DS - I am David Shillinglaw. I am an artist and illustrator. Sometimes the work I make is very colourful. Sometimes it is black and white. Sometimes the work I make covers an entire building, other times the art I make is small enough to fit in your pocket. 

BM - Have you always been so energetically creative?

DS - Compared to what? Compared to who? My energy level changes from hour to hour, and has a lot to do with how much food/coffee/sleep I’ve had, or what music is playing. The mood and vibe equation goes something like: music + food x coffee ÷ sleep

BM - How important is play in the creation of your work?

DS - Playing is definitely a big part of the process for me. It is a balancingact. The fun and playful is supported by planning and consideration. In the studio I have a kind of multiple personality disorder; one side of me is very specific about what I want to achieve, and I'm hard on myself when I don’t get it done, the other side of me goes off on a tangent and creates something in the moment almost as if by mistake or a bi-product of the process.

Like with cooking, sometimes you must follow the recipe, but sometimes you create something delicious just with instinct and using what ingredients you have available.

BM - Words and phrases often lead on from one another and read like a game of word association, how do you come up with the text in your work?

DS - I collect and collage things I hear and read. Words and phrases act both as a trigger for meaning, but also a visual device to join and fill spaces.

A word or phrase can conjure up an image in a way an image cannot, as a metaphor or an idiom, there is a sense of humour and cultural reference, for example, I just painted the phrase ‘A Love Supreme’, this means: a supreme love, (which is a difficult thing to paint an image of) it is also a famous jazz album by John Coltrane, so I can say multiple things with one phrase. Some words are a mantra, they just read well, they sound nice in my head, sometimes a certain word just fills a space really well and becomes a compositional tool or visual punctuation.

Words and numbers are in a way some of the first abstractions, they are just shapes and lines until you learn what they mean. I play with this, and use words and phrases to build up the picture, in the same way when you walk down the street you overhear other peoples conversations, or walk past a kebab shop with a big neon sign, these add to your visual and audio landscape, they add to the texture of your experience. I am also aware that some things don’t translate, if you are Chinese you might not understand some of the cultural references, but you will get the sense of information, of conversation, of the contemporary landscape. How often in the city do you not see or hear words and phrases? it is difficult to escape words and numbers, with internet pop-ups, brands, advertising, mass media, I feel that typography and numbers are part of the architecture of our environment and the inside of our brains.

BM - How much do you rely on spontaneity and happen stance when painting?

DS - I trust instinct. If you feel like you should do something, you probably should. but I also make choices that I regret. Painting is a special medium for that reason, you can not undo, you can plan things, but there is always room for error and change. it never gets boring for me.

BM - Your work seems to be an amalgamation of thoughts, symbols, images that you have collected on your travels and during your daily life. Do you create the works as a way of remembering all of these diverse things?

DS - Yes and No. All of my work is, in a sense, a self portrait, a diary, collecting and building with metals I find and experience. But then I also take work for others, whether someone who will maybe own the work, or just someone walking past a mural I make in the street, so there are potentially 2 dialogues going on. The first is just for me, a record, story, poem or a joke, conversations with myself. The second is a conversation with an audience, or with the critical eyes of art history.

BM - What made you want to get involved with Art On A Postcard?

DS - I was asked to and thought it was a great cause to help raise awareness for.

BM - What other exciting things are you working on at the moment?

DS – I just returned from doing an exhibition in Vienna where I released my first Risograph print.

BM – Where can we find out more about your work?

DS - www.davidshillinglaw.co.uk or Instagram.

A Piece of my Mind is available from Jealous Gallery now - limited editions of 50

About the writer

Benjamin Murphy is an artist who primarily creates delicate figurative works using black electrical tape. As well as this, he regularly writes about contemporary art. He lives and works in London.