It may seem playful, but it’s extremely considered, incredibly personal and is a conscious reaction to what David refers to as a ‘Happy Place’ - which he considers both universal and individual.
This body of work is autobiographical and invites you to explore various corners of the artist’s personal narrative. David is a prolific artist and draws ideas from a vast array of sketches, drawings and written observations. Unlike previous paintings, there are no words in this body of work and very few ‘figures’ to help guide you. Recognisable ‘sign posts’ direct you through a doorway, towards a horizon from a universal symbol, to an iconic form. The pictures are of imagined spaces, informed by real life, but coloured with the freedom and utopia of the imagination.
The recent introduction of an extremely reduced colour palette is striking. A spectrum of blue dominates the work, sometimes verging on green or touching on black, but always saturated in blue. The artist’s decision to strip back the colours helps to clarify the imagery and allows the viewer to focus on the composition. By forcing himself to work within this limited palette David feels that he’s now able to unite all his work in one oeuvre. Blue has been a recurring theme in Shillinglaw’s work for many years, referencing the sky and the sea but has now become so much more pertinent in respect of his late mother, who’s maiden name was Blue.
David makes art to help him to navigate and map out his own ‘routes’. His work may appear to be coded and very personal to him, but he always attempts to include references that we all know: trees, cars, rivers, bottles, babies, biscuits, bicycles. David explains:
“I don’t want to spell it out - I want the viewer to interpret my work and read between the lines. If I feel that I need to explain the significance, it ceases to be relevant. I don’t know what the works will look like when I start, they are fuelled by my drawings and sketchbooks. I sample my own imagery, remix drawings and stitch pieces together until they sit well with me. Some of the work surprises me - this surprise is something that I am continually searching for: a discovery, a problem solved, figuring something out. In finding my ‘Happy Place’ - things can begin to make sense.”
What began as an exercise to simplify his palette has now taken on a new significance and direction for David Shillinglaw’s work. His recent life changing events have focused his energetic and optimistic outlook on life and have helped him to streamline his visual vocabulary. This restricted colour palette and thoughtfully structured compositions have given his work a new clarity and a heightened focus. For now David seems comfortable with blue and may have discovered his latest and most crucial ‘Happy Place’.