To gain a deeper appreciation for Vermin’s work means to delve deep into the artist’s past. One must understand that Vermin’s art is fueled by his experiences. From leaving his mark all over the streets of UK as a graffiti writer, to being confined in an asylum and more recently gaining wide recognition from successful exhibitions, Vermin’s is a story of pains and triumphs. The strong emotions of his past are echoed within the myriads of rhythmic brushstrokes, colors and strong lines of his paintings. The contrasting bold lines from his graffiti past and his impressionistic colors reflect these times of emotional turmoil and survival.

Here is an interview that I did with Vermin recently. Through this interview, I developed a broader understanding of what he is trying to communicate in his art. Read on, perhaps you will develop that deeper appreciation as well — THIS IS DALE ‘vN’ MARSHALL aka VERMIN.

Interview by Crist Espiritu.
Photos by Soze Gallery.

Let’s start off with a little bit of your history. When and how did you start getting into graffiti? Who were the people that you look up to during this time… your influences?

I started painting walls in 1986 and in the early 1990’s I was influenced by Troubled Children and Da Freeze Mob most notably, who’s amongst the UK’s premier graffiti collectives. Graffiti was a decease that spread like wildfire back then and it spread to our town also, I really enjoyed those early days.

What’s the story behind your street name, “Vermin”?

It chose me, when I first started writing vermin I didn’t know, in fact it troubled me a little. But now it’s the base to tell a story in contemporary art. Am I Vermin?

When did you start diverting from the usual letters of graffiti? Was this a conscious decision? What triggered this metamorphosis?

I started Fine art school with the intention of being a screen printer, but I chose to be a fine art painter whilst studying the works of Frank Auerbach, Turner and artists alike. I loved the impasto textures which contain a beautiful quality. I then fell in love with the impressionism period and this is where it all started. I wanted to go back to this era to learn my skills and to let this develop into where it’s continually taking me.

Why did you choose to use oil and paint in an impressionistic (or expressionistic) abstract style?

I’m a romantic, I love the history of painting. I love oil because it’s rich in color and I find it versatile with my style of work.

You’re current works resemble impressionist paintings yet (for me) they retain a certain amount of street angst. I still see lines that may have come from your days as a graffiti writer. Are these lines residues of your graffiti roots? How vital were those roots when you started venturing into your more refined style of painting?

I always aim to achieve a contrast between darkness and beauty in my work. The darkness comes from my time of being locked up in an outdated mental institution back in the UK to my appreciation of this wonderful life now. I like to think I will always keep my roots from the streets and life experiences to fine tune into a contemporary painting practice for people to hopefully enjoy.

Tell us a bit about your upcoming show on SOZE. What is this show about? What’s the concept behind it? How is this show different from your past ones?

My shows are usually based around personal investigations with titles like ‘Room101’ and ‘The California State Institution’. The show at Soze is titled ‘Best Kept Secret’, which is a collection of raw and honest contemporary works before I leave for some shows in the UK. It’s a conclusion of my soaked influence from Southern California, which is a collision of the beauty and the rawness of Los Angeles painted from memory.

Do you have a favorite piece in your latest series?

I like all the pieces. Everything has a different intensity, from scratchy stitched wound series on paper, the softly spoken impressionism pieces to the large abstracts on canvas.

Do you ever get worried that your visuals might be “too personal” for audience to relate to? I mean… are you the type of artist who wants his audience to have a specific experience in appreciating your art or do you have a sort of openness to their interpretations?

Everything takes time to digest. Ok, I am not painting easy on the eye imagery. My work goes deeper than that, and I feel that’s a good thing. My work is based around personal experiences, storytelling, and I feel very lucky to be in a position to do that. I see it as cinematic. I never think — lets paint something that people will like because if I do then I wouldn’t consider myself an artist. I love the work of Ed Kienholz because it’s challenging and I hold faith that if you create art with passion then hopefully it leaves a memory, an experience for the people viewing. I will never forget my roots with mental health and I hope this shines within some of my pieces.

Do you still go out and hit the streets (illegally)? If so, how is it different now? I’m assuming that you’re decision to paint in your current style will affect your approach to doing pieces on the street.

No. I still enjoy painting on walls, but I have definitely moved on. I don’t use the walls as an advertising space, I don’t paint illegally, I just sometimes like to go out and paint something that is positive for the future. I work in text and layers in an abstract manner and that is as far as the comparison goes, indoor outdoor.

What keeps you doing what you’re doing? What constantly inspires you to push forward and progress?

It’s something that is firmly rooted within me. I feel like I have a book of pain and happiness inside and I want to paint that from memory. I want my family to be proud that I am strong enough to paint about what I believe in, in the hope to inspire other people who are constantly dealing with inner pain that they don’t feel comfortable with i.e. depression etc. I appreciate Soze Gallery for giving me the platform to do this in DTLA.

Do you have any advice for upcoming artists?

Don’t just look to current trend, be passionate and enjoy creating art from within.

What do you think of DOZE?

You are great people, with a highly regarded magazine.. Thanks for the tequila shot and the interview. Many thanks for giving me this opportunity and we will see you at Soze Gallery.

Dale ‘vN’ Marshall’s “Best Kept Secret”
SOZE Gallery
652 Mateo Street, #107
Los Angeles, CA 90021
Opening Reception on Tuesday May 29, 2012 / 7PM


Interview by Crist Espiritu
Photos by Soze Gallery.

Disclaimer: Some artwork photos are taken online. If you are the owner of one or more photos featured here, please contact us at and we will immediately give you credit.

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