In the Studio with Danny Fox.

Words by

Sofia Hallström

In the Studio with Danny Fox.

You’ve previously described your paintings as being “built like poems”. How do you begin your painting process?

To begin, the most important thing is to be compelled by your subject. You must never become uninterested in the thing or person you are painting, if you do the painting will die In front of you. You don’t have to love or even like the subject but you must be moved to the point of action to start.

Symbolism recurs in your paintings. You often depict motifs such as flowers, horses, palm trees and empty cans of beer. Are there any questions you’re trying to answer in your work?

Reoccurrence is more prominent in earlier works because you’re figuring it out. You paint so much and so often, you repeat yourself because you’re in training. The elements that you mention were things that I thought told the story of where I was from in Cornwall. The palm trees weren’t meant to be tropical; they were supposed to be bent over backwards in an easterly Gale on a council estate in Penzance. The horse riders weren’t meant to be cowboys in spaghetti westerns but Cornishmen lost in a fallen British empire, but then I went to Los Angeles and my perspective on those elements changed and in some ways I think they became the things they were being mistaken for.

You’ve previously spoken about your process as “just painting what I see and trying to show the beauty in life that exists even in the cracks.” How much of your personal experiences are in your paintings?

Some paintings are more personal than others in terms of subject matter, but as a painter you know that this shouldn’t matter. As I said before you have to be moved enough to make the thing, then once it’s done you have to be moved enough by the thing to keep it/not destroy it. I’m not sure it matters if art is made from personal experience or not, or should I say, I’m not sure if it should matter to the audience if the art is made from personal experience or not. It’s a very loose idea, we all have personal experience with death but none of us have personally experienced it. Some of my paintings are about personal experiences in certain places with certain people, but some of them are about watching history documentaries on TV when it’s raining outside and you’re down to the last custard cream.

I’ve read that you moved to Los Angeles and had a studio space next door to Henry Taylor. Has working alongside another painter influenced your practice?

A lot has been written about Henry and I working beside one another. I think people are naturally drawn to the idea of two artists working somewhat symbiotically. Gauguin and Van Gogh, Picasso and Matisse, Basquiat and Warhol, Schiele and Klimt, the list is endless. I have to say though that Henry never asked for that. I turned up at his door ready to work and he was kind enough not to turn me away. If you want to talk about personal experience and influence, I went to see Henry and I didn’t come back for 5 years.

Danny Fox, Mine, 2020, Ceramic Pot on Granite Plinth. Photo: Copyright The Artist
Courtesy of Saatchi Yates

You have recently returned to your hometown of St. Ives, Cornwall after living in Los Angeles. How have these places influenced you and the narratives that you depict?

Imagine I just said ‘the light.’

I’m on the train now.

There’s a flood on the tracks and the driver is telling people to get off and turn back. No service past Exeter, and no road service due to staff shortages. No one is getting off. Turning back is rarely an option for people is it? We’ve already said goodbye, it’s better to keep riding into the flood, live by the decision and go down with the ship. I’ve become superstitious over the years. I’m asking myself if this is a sign - no - accept the challenge.

You never studied art in an art institution. How did you learn and when did you begin to think of yourself as an artist?

I learned through failure and this might be a trick question but I always thought of myself as an artist.

What excites you about your practice?

Maybe that I can translate into different mediums. There is a sculpture in my new show called ‘the centre of earth’ that brought me much ‘excitement’ in the making of it. It’s big and heavy and the risks were higher. Like making paintings used to be. It’s easy to forget that making a six foot painting 10 years ago meant risking everything I had at that time. Sculpture feels like that to me, an outside bet.

Is there anything you dislike about being an artist?

I like it all, anyone would, I’m very lucky. The worst thing about being an artist is trying to convince everyone else that you are an artist and this is the reason you can't wash the dishes sufficiently.

You have a solo show coming up at Saatchi Yates at the end of the year. Can you give us some insight to what we can expect to see in the show?

Down in the hole and up on the hill. Come to me, come to me and I will make you feel pure again. Gather at the broken tree and remove your bandages. Bring to me your deepest fear.

Tell me softly, tell me again, tell me of that everlasting pain. Stay with me forever, I will never leave you. Lay down beside me under the golden sky. Breathe with me in the rhythm of the Universe.

This was meant to be, I am yours and you are mine. Offer me your shallow cup and I will fill you up. Give me your hand and walk with me, I will be your crutch. I will be your life raft when the river breaks its banks and washes through the town.

Pass me those soaking rags and let me dry them in the sun. I am the sun. You are a flower, drink from the Earth. Here is your body, you are not your body. I am the father. You are not your mother. You can be free. Follow the light and grow towards me. You can call me Daddy. I am a master, you are a masterpiece.

You are safe now. Take off all of your clothes, you can trust me. I’ve been everywhere and I know everything. You could fry an egg on my heart. I’ve been waiting for you, too late is the perfect time. Comb my hair and rub my back. What’s for dinner?

I have been working so hard. Nobody knows what it’s like to work like this, like a dog. I gave you everything. Come back to me. I am the king of a dead zone. Can you smell the Nag Champa? Can you taste the Old Spice? Let us be young for eternity. I can make you young. I can make you famous. What size shoe do you take?

I will unveil you in the court. I will open the door. I will use the bolt cutter. Don’t talk to anyone else at the party. Welcome to paradise. You are mine now. Tell all of your friends, you can bring them too. We shall make a circle. We will be a family. I am your family. You were lost when I found you. I am your shepherd. Look for me when you wander away from the truth. I am the truth. I see you. I see greatness in you. We don’t need anyone. Falling from me to you , a single drop of blood, from under the boot of judgement.

Cast out of the fire, beyond the burning empire. From the bottom of the sea to the top of Brown Willy.

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Images: Copyright The Artist, Courtesy of Saatchi Yates