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Monday, January 26, 2015

David Mitchell: Artist's First West Coast Solo Show Comes to San Francisco

Posted By on Mon, Jan 26, 2015 at 10:10 AM

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British born photographer David Mitchell, who makes his home in Southeast Asia, offers his first solo West Coast exhibition here in our very own City at the Dryansky Gallery on Union Street. The artist, once a world renowned and in-demand high fashion photographer,  changed course after being diagonosed with epilepsy.

While in the fashion world his work was seen in Vogue and Elle, with his camera taking him to London, Florence and Milan; in 1991 he moved to Hong Kong.

Mitchell began experiencing partial seizures in 2004 which led to a diagnosis of Left Temporal Lobe Epilepsy. This condition made commercial work difficult, and led to a journey of self-discovery as a fine artist.

He says, in his official bio, that "the fervor with which he creates and the ardor for particular places, objects and color is directly related to the neuroscience of LTLE."

David Mitchell chats with SF Weekly about his current work, which is very different than what he did during his tenure in the fashion world.

SF Weekly: How would you describe yourself?  

Mitchell: I am an artist. I use a camera but I haven't followed any typical protocol in becoming an artist. I am pretty sure I was born feet first.

SF Weekly: How did you first become a photographer?

Mitchell: I worked as a photographer's assistant. It was an internship. I basically worked for sandwiches and learned all the technical stuff and I went to college to get a qualification in photography. I needed a validation—I have no idea why—yes I do, tell the truth, fuck it. I didn't take my exams at school. That's right—I sat for them but irreverently, I never wrote a word, never made a calculation. That explains the motivation. Photography would be my "ticket out". 

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SF Weekly. Who are your artistic influences and role models?

Mitchell: I have no formal education in art. I started not knowing who or what.
When visiting the UK I went to the Tate Modern—first time in an art museum, I am serious—to see Rothko Seagram's commission. The only other work I saw or remember seeing was L'Escargot by Matisse, one of his late cut outs, a collage piece that was very large. I loved it and was overwhelmed by it's scale. The Matisse and Rothko works both had a profound impact: the scale and proportion. It was after going to Tate that I created large scale C-prints in 2013. Rothko's idea that a viewer should be in the work rather than looking at it resonates with me. I am still making large work. 

SF Weekly: What do you look for when you create an image? What are you trying to convey?

Mitchell: I am not trying to convey or replicate anything in the literal sense. My pictures are an accumulation of visual experiences and the emotions which accompany them. All the things I've seen and felt go into my art. Memories surface and merge with recent or rather immediate experiences. I look for mystery, luminosity, juxtaposition of form and space and the placement of colors and how they react to each other to increase or diminish depth, set a tone or a mood, or recall some structure or place actual or imagined. Compositionally, I look for a balance of complexity with simplicity, playfulness with maturity, and the obvious with mystery.

SF Weekly: Does your epilepsy influence your current work?

Mitchell: It inspires me to work art in an obsessive compulsive manner — I just can't stop it. In general, epilepsy has changed the way I think and process things. It influences everything I see and experiences. The effect that a seizure has on me drives me to record something that comes from imagination. Lewis Carroll (Alice in Wonderland author) and Van Gogh both had LTLE and if you think of Van Gogh's painting of his Bedroom Arles: all tilted and his altered fanciful colors and his prolifacy or Lewis Carroll's Alice shrinking and enlarging and going down the rabbit hole, it makes total sense. The absinthe or the LSD stories may be true but when I look at this work or read it, it suggests LTLE for sure. There's something in all that. I know it.

SF Weekly: What has your condition taught you about yourself?

Mitchell: It's taught me that I can take some serious shit. This truly tests one's strength. 

SF Weekly: Any advice for others.

Mitchell: Yes. If you feel like you have anything artistic to create, get on it, before you piss your whole life away. 

His photographs will be on display at the Dryansky Gallery  until March 12.
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