:Dark Delights: David Van Gough
Dark Delights with Ladyaslan Presents:
David Van Gough – Artist
Welcome, Mr. Van Gough, Thanks for joining me here on Dark Delights. What should my readers, aka #Babybats, know about you?
David Van Gough: Thank you #Babybats. I’m an English Necrorealist artist living as a man out of time and at altitude in the mountainous climbs of Julian, California.
Ladyaslan: What inspired you to be an artist?
David Van Gough: The immediate thing that comes to mind is Hieronymus Bosch—The Garden of Earthly Delights triptych. I was around ten I think, and seeing my weird scrawls one day, an art teacher had the fortitude to expose me to this old dusty volume of Art with a reproduction in it, except it was only in black and white. Regardless, it just split my parochial little world wide open with color and dark possibility. I probably thought I was already in Hell at that time, so why not paint what I was seeing in my head. I was never particularly good at articulating as a kid you see; like a lot of us at that age, I was pretty awkward and shy. Of course when I hit my teens, I figured out it was a good way to meet girls and convince them to pose for me—I mean my art.
Ladyaslan: Summarize your different art pieces/collections in one to five sentences as if you were speaking to someone unfamiliar with your work and print ads and its topic.
David Van Gough: Let me see—a mortal, esoteric, alchemical, and spiritual quest for life’s meaning through dark and often disturbing symbolism, copious amounts of paint and wine.
Ladyaslan: What is the overall theme (central topic, subject, or concept) of your art and paintings/collections?
David Van Gough: No matter how I dress it, and the various props and characters I use, it keeps coming back to the same central tenet, that thing that Milton said about what is dark within me, illuminate. It’s dispelling the ever nagging truth that we are all going to expire someday, so it becomes that never ending existential need to qualify and quantify existence beyond the end. It’s that eternal paradox, you know the quest for meaning, and hopefully the truth turns out to be more than something like Ligotti said, which is about us being the sum of self-conscious nothing-hunks of spoiling flesh and disintegrating bones, in denial that there is no significance other than that we ascribe. I keep on regardless, because the notion is as inherently terrifying and nihilistic as the alternative, which is that there is a divine order to everything, an omnipotent reason for suffering by some supreme architect.
Ladyaslan: What is the significance of the number “three” in your life?
David Van Gough: Ha! You really did your research. One looks for patterns and signifiers through life, and for me three seemed to be a constant prevailing number. It’s the same need I was talking about finding meaning in something. I was one of three children, born in the third month to parents also born in March, and I have three children of my own. Over the years I have lost three best friends, the first of which was 1986 to a car crash, the second in ’93 to cancer and the third in ’99 to heart disease—so even though I am not in any way religious, 6, 3, 9 became 6:3-9 Romans which says, “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?”
Tesla also claimed that understanding 6, 3, 9 meant having the key to the universe and so naïvely, it set me on this esoterical path of research into numerological significance, Christianity, Thelema, Masonry, all this mystical stuff. Since my dad had narrowly escaped death and broken his back in 1976 when he was 30, I became obsessed with this notion that it meant I wasn’t going to live beyond that age either, and I actually, stupidly, regretfully tried to precipitate it one night and ironically discovered that as hard as life is, dying isn’t actually that easy to do either. All of this stuff went many years later into my Theothanatos series, and since I was born on a Good Friday, questions of mortality became inextricably linked with the holy Trinity, the three wise men, the three crosses on Golgotha—like I say, completely batshit, but the search for meaning is no different than putting faith in God.
Ladyaslan: What were you like as a young lad growing up in Ireland?
David Van Gough: I honestly couldn’t tell you, because I was three (again) when we left to cross the Mersey. My memory of being a kid in Liverpool is much more pronounced, it wasn’t the blue suburban skies the Beatles sang about, it was grey and unrelentingly gritty. We first lived in the Toxteth area, who for anyone in the U.K. of a certain age will know was where the riots took place. We lived in the Catholic end and my mother would keep us inside when the Orange Lodge marches would come through; but Toxteth really was a seething, bubbling mass of disquiet. There’d be mornings when you’d wake up to burned-out cars and broken bottles, and you really got a sense that you took your life in your hands when you stepped out the door. It’s well recorded that Maggie Thatcher in fact wanted to abandon Liverpool altogether to a managed decline, so in the midst of all this, I was just probably very quiet and moderately behaved and retreated into my imagination with my felt tip pens and comic books.
Ladyaslan: Is there any subject currently trending in the news that relates to your different artistic style?
David Van Gough: I’m not entirely sure that my work or style could ever be considered as part of a trend, by its very nature it’s too confrontational and uncomfortable to be immediately palatable to the masses, but I guess if there’s one thing that keeps coming up, it’s Charlie and his Mansonites.
Ladyaslan: How did you get involved in the documentary Serial Killer Culture?
David Van Gough: It was really through an exhibit I’d done in 2012 at Hyaena Gallery which incorporated all my art and research surrounding the Manson case, and months after the show was over, I’d been invited back to talk about the series to John Borowski. I didn’t really know anything more about it, and was desperately hungover from absinthe the night before, but somewhere in what I was saying must have connected because it ended up in the documentary, and eventually streaming on Netflix.
Ladyaslan: I see you have an art collection on Manson/Sharon Tate. How did that travel from your mind to canvas?
David Van Gough: Man/Son and the Haunting of the American Madonna started out as this need to find a tragic muse figure, a Lizzy Siddal. I’d seen Sharon Tate in Fearless Vampire Killers in my teens, and had been utterly transfixed by her, and when I discovered this whole back story about Manson in the ’60s, it had really resonated and more so once I came to L.A. Except there was this disconnect between the whole Helter Skelter thing, the four happy go lucky mop tops from Liverpool. So as with everything I started researching and it was Peter Levenda’s Sinister Forces trilogy which really set me on a dark path. Suddenly the series became mired in the occult, Freemasonry, ritual sacrifice and the corruption of the swastika from its original Eastern symbolic form, through Blavatsky, Hitler, and as an eventual sigil over Manson’s third eye. It really became like a detective story, where you are connecting the dots and unraveling a mystery, but there was something so oppressively dark with that series, that I believe I almost lost my mind, because as with any conspiracy and the aid of long hot days at the easel, the danger is that you become a tinfoil hat wearing pontificate.
Ladyaslan: Here comes the hard question…you have a Bowie special collection of art—you have made a “Starcophagus” and inside there are random words printed on paper. What is the story behind this?
*Side note* I, too, was gutted when I heard he passed; I cried all day. Because of his Ziggy Stardust days, he inspired me to create my alter ego “Ladyaslan.”
David Van Gough: “You’re not alone,” as the great man said himself. Yeah, three months on and it still feels as if a huge star-shaped hole has punctured the ether doesn’t it? I mean, how does one summarize a lifetime of adulation, and honor an icon who has been the soundtrack to your life and shaped your world view? You can’t—but when I approached the Stephen Romano Gallery for their Saint Bowie showcase, I knew it was important I at least try. And since I’d never really tried my hand at three-dimensional objects before, in the experimental spirit of Bowie’s craft, I thought I’d create something that was a different approach for me. So what you have is a Hermetic polygon box made from pine that evokes planetary constellations, and is furnished in the center with a recreated version of the circuit board fabric that Freddie Barrett designed for Ziggy. Part of Bowie’s process was to adopt the cut up technique that Bill Burroughs used, so I wrote out random lyrics from his catalog, took a pair of scissors to them and put them in the box, so you can take them out and reorder them to compose an entirely new David Bowie composition yourself. Up until then, I hadn’t really processed what his passing meant, but I was on my knees once I’d finished.
Ladyaslan: Tell us about your one of kind, collector’s item Christmas cards you send out.
David Van Gough: It’s just a nice, unique way for me to say thank you to all my friends and people who have helped support me through the past year. This year it was a medieval style drawing of Krampus holding the infant Christ. It’s a nice counterpoint to all the saccharine forced platitude—enough to curdle someone’s eggnog I suppose. Bah Humbug.
Ladyaslan: You have seemed to mix dark Gothic art in with surrealism, how did you combine the two and make it work? Those are two different mediums that don’t always mesh well together, and your piece “Night Kept Chained” just speaks volumes on ability and vision. How did your marry the two?
David Van Gough: Good question, and the answer is probably by making a lot of artistic missteps. I’ll tell you something that not a lot people know, but when I first came over to the U.S., I was doing art that was licensed to…let’s just say a certain well-known alternative high street store that took the word “emo” out of demographic. Just that I used the word demographic tells you everything you need to know that was wrong—but anyway, I was utterly miserable, because I knew what kind of art I wanted to do, and what I liked and it wasn’t some homogenized cultural gothic appropriation. And you know what, I got horribly shafted when my license got resold to some company in Asia, which on reflection is probably the best thing that could have happened to me, because it made me refocus on what my work should look like.
Ladyaslan: What inspired your collection Purgatorium?
David Van Gough: Legacy and obscurity probably. It was that question all artists ask—the whys and wherefores—what’s the point? It was my kind of raging at the sky and shaking a fist series—“Is anybody fucking listening?”
I’d just hit 45—a small hill, but a hill nonetheless—so burdened by the shadow of my more famous namesake, I recast him as Prospero from The Tempest—exiled there on the island with his grimoires and Magick. It was me pushing against type and all those boorish artistic stereotypes, because believe me when I say that there is no honor in the garret.
Ladyaslan: Let’s go back to your very first exhibition. What was going through your head? Were you nervous? What advice can you give first time artists on the ABCs of their first exhibition?
David Van Gough: Was I scared, excited, bemused? Maybe I was just worried someone was going to figure out I was faking it, I don’t really remember. I do recall an early show where I thought I’d met my future wife—this goddess who stood there entranced by my piece as if a shaft from heaven had illuminated her, and as I sidled over imagining this incredible deep connection we’d make, her boyfriend got there before me to ask, “Do you like that?” to which she said, “Yeah, but it wouldn’t go with the curtains.”
So I guess my advice for first time exhibitor would be the same as it would to a seasoned one; don’t take yourself too seriously, be courteous, humble and ready to talk if someone asks you what your piece is about, don’t be an arrogant ass—oh, and go easy on the booze.
Ladyaslan: What are the three words that best describe you?
David Van Gough: Romantic, raconteur, libertine
Ladyaslan: Are you a publicity-lover, or publicity shy?
David Van Gough: Not a lover I would say, more of a friend with benefits.
Ladyaslan: I love music and I’m always interested in the musical tastes of my friends. Tell me your five favorite songs.
David Van Gough: Oh Lord—that’s a tough one. This month I’ve mostly been listening to:
David Bowie – “I Can’t Give Everything Away”
China Crisis – “Black Man Ray”
XTC – “Complicated Game”
David Sylvian – “Blemish”
Eliza Rickman – “Now and Then”
Ladyaslan: Have you ever had any paranormal experiences? If so, what were they?
David Van Gough: Quite honestly, there are too many to summarize here, but the most notable one was when we first moved to the U.S., we were living in this old rented duplex in San Diego. One night I was awoken suddenly by an old woman with this severe 1960s-style bowl haircut standing by the side of the bed, and she was reaching for the coverlet as if to climb in.
The freakiest thing was that she was just in her underwear, and she looked emaciated because all of her ribs were protruding, which should have made me jump with a start—I mean holy shit, there’s a naked old woman trying to climb into bed with me—but it didn’t. In fact my first thought was “this isn’t your bed,” and it was the oddest thing, because she paused, sighed and then turned herself to walk away, literally disintegrating into the dark from the ground up. A few nights later I was awoken again by a voice saying “it’s Emory,” but I convinced myself not to open my eyes.
Then we were at the grocery store, and we were doing that thing where you get a discount and have to give your telephone number of your home address, and as the cashier was handing me the receipt, she said, “Have a nice day, Emory,” because I guess that number was listed under that name.
Later we finally asked our landlady about the previous occupant and she revealed her mother had once lived there and had passed away from cancer in the house—her name of course was Emory, and when she showed me an old photo, there was little doubt—same severe bowl cut.
Ladyaslan: The zombie apocalypse has started. Who is the ONE person you bring with you and what is your weapon of choice?
David Van Gough: Hah, I guess someone who can summon the dead at will, is hot as Hades, and is a destructive force to be reckoned with; so I’d take the Goddess Kali. She’d literally be handy in a zombie ruck, and let’s see, what would be my weapon? I guess Bruce Campbell’s chainsaw in Evil Dead 2 would be badass—oh, yes, it’s attached to his arm, right? Okay, Bruce Campbell’s arm then.
Ladyaslan: Last but NOT least, where can my readers/#Babybats get more information on you?
David Van Gough: Thank you Ladyaslan, it’s been a blast. You can go to www.davidgoughart.com or follow me on Instagram or Facebook: davidvangough. I also have a studio at La Bodega Gallery in San Diego and people can come and see me there.
**About Ladyaslan: She is a published gothic poet and horror erotica novelist. Ladyaslan’s second book was just released on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and other established book retailers internationally. Check out Lipstick & Absinthe and her other books at the link below:
Official Website: http://www.lipstickandabsinthe.com/