It was after coming across the "Serial Killer Culture"documentary on Netflix, that I discovered the amazing art of David Van Gough who was featured in the film for a series of paintings he did based of the Murder of Sharon Tate. While other artists who appeared in the film merely paid morbidly endearing homage to various serial killers David's work explored deeper esoteric truths that resonated with me in a way only the art of Mark Ryden and Alex Grey have. So it's an honor to have Mr. Van Gough take the take to do this interview with me .
Wil : How has the response to your work changed since your appearance in the Serial Killer Culture Documentary?David ...It's definitely gotten me more exposure, which has been a massive integral shift for me. I'll tell you something that a lot of people don't know, but two years ago, I crashed pretty hard after I did the Man/son show. I was mired in all the usual self pity bullshit of post show blues, and I was coming up to my forty fifth Birthday with the notion that I was completely cast adrift as an artist. The show had gotten one glowing review in a small independent blog- but largely it had been unrecognized by the 'scene', and so it became more and more apparent to me that the arbiters of the Art mainstream could give a flying monkeys arse about what I did, regardless. So Purgatorium was going to be my very final show, which was why I used the arc of Tempest -you know, the alchemist Prospero exiled on an island, breaking his staff over his knee at the end of the story, and I know it all sounds very melodramatic, but that was going to be it, one last blast, a bitter retort of crashing my plane so to speak. And then the week I was away in San Francisco preparing for the new show, Serial Killer Culture hit Netflix, and my inbox literally blew up with book orders, and hundreds of emails, and they were all wonderful and supportive, personal snapshots of peoples lives who connected directly with what I was doing, and so it was hugely vindicating, and polarized absolutely in my mind that I have a place in the mire, that my work exists as a cognitive forces in peoples lives, and it doesn't depend on whether I am acknowledged by an elite magazine or whatever.
Wil : When you saw the final edited version of what were your initial feelings in regard to your segment?
David ...More Vaseline on the lens next time John.
Actually,it was better than I'd hoped-I was desperately hungover-and worried I'd had a tendency to waffle, but what you see in the end is condensed from takes of a three hour conversation and I think that is were John Borowski should get full credit as a director, because in the chasm of information I unloaded, he managed to find the kernel of what I was saying and encapsulate it to around twenty minutes.
If only it had been fifteen Mr Warhol.
Wil: What music do you find most inspiring to your work?
David ... It's very much judged by the moment. For instance I listened none stop to the White Album-particularly Revolution 9 when I was producing the Man/son series. Try doing that when its a 109 degrees with Charlie's voice in your head , it will send you doolally. I listen to a lot of other things-lot of classical music or Electronica, but probably cap it to a period no later than around 1979-1980 for some reason. Maybe there's some kind of mercurial static coming through the grooves that embodies the end of something innate that was lost after that. Or maybe it just resonates, because a lot of it is what I was listening to as a teenager. I mean, anyone who knows me, knows I am going on a thirty year love affair with Bowie's music, so I did listen to 'The Next Day'-particularly the title track a lot whilst I produced the last series. It was so venomous.
Wil : Of all the artists in the Serial Killer Culture Documentary, the whole true crime element , even in your Manson series, seemed to be secondary to the occult influences, what this intentional ?
David...Absolutely, it's that thing again that speaks of a certain period, and the 70's-when I first became aware of Manson and Sharon Tate- was steeped in occultism. There's this whole school of thought that I've recently discovered called Hauntology, but it embodies all of influences that were around then, and maybe it was a hangover from the 60's, Leary's open doors of perception and all that, but it was this cultural dilution of esoteric ideas through media, so what you got were kids TV shows on the BBC like Children of the Stones, or a double page spread on Exorcisms in the News of the World. It was all this latent, heavy stuff that I was exposed to, that sent me on a path of study, so when I approached the Manson case as a series, it was all going to be from the ritualistic standpoint. Of course, its only when you sit down and research that particular case, that you unravel all kinds of occult threads of dark intent.
Wil : You have said you that aside from surrealism you identify most closely with the Necrorealism movement that came out of Russia in the 70's , but rather than exploring the pyschopathological , aspect you look at spiritual side of death, how did your exposure to Catholicism growing up influence this ?
Wil : Both the Hammer Films and Polanski's horror movies seem to set the stage for people to feeling more comfortable in exploring sexuality in the context of horror films, than in the traditional sense which has been just as demonized as Horror in the States. How do you see that side of sensuality expressed in your work?
Good question, I think with my own work, I am just following that very European tradition of sex and death, the clash between Eros and Thanatos. So with something like the Man/son series, it began with my desire to cast Sharon Tate as the ultimate tragic muse,and to me her burgeoning sensuality became part of this purification process that had happened because of her murder, into a mythological chaste Madonna figure. It was such a dichotomy in the media, and I get a sense of the same thing happening in Horror- particularly with slasher movies-because the proliferation of killing women is at the core-seems to me a very misogynistic device to cast female sexuality as profane.
Wil : One of the themes to your works looks to be the juxtaposition of horror and beauty, which side of the equation do you feel is the most natural to convey?
David ...For me, one is not exclusive of the other. By that I mean that I think it's a very normal and natural human response to look at a beautiful scene, stand by a lake or whatever, and feel a prevailing sense of mournful melancholy that the moment is transient and that the shadow of mortality is nestling under a damp log somewhere. The end of beauty is the true horror, because in essence,the need to attain beauty is an eternal aspiration in us all.
Wil :With the Thelemic Star in Helter Skelter and the use of Nuit, how else has the exploration of the Golden Dawn/O.t.O influenced your work?
David ...Since the tendrils of research for the Man/son showcase, led right back to the feet of Madam Blavatsky, I suppose it was inevitable that I would appropriate some of the emblems inherent with Theosophy, and in doing so I'm using sacred motifs and symbols which the O.T.O adopted for their own nefarious ends, but I wouldn't say that it goes beyond that, and I mean the alchemical texts and pictogram's from something like the Splendor Solaris resonate much more as an influence overall.
That said, I did refer to the beautiful illustrations from the Thoth deck on the last series, and I even fashioned one of the new pieces-'Poor worm, thou Art infected' with the spirit of Crowley,Craddock and sex magick in mind.
Will : I have always felt creating art in any form is one of the most genuine majickal expressions, do you feel it has a meditative or spiritual quality for you ? and if that's the case Why do you think the arts are being phased out schools if they could help children on a deeper level?
David ...Most definitely, and I agree,it is my spiritual epicenter, the apex of my entire being. I believe Art-at least in a certain figurative form- is like a majickal incantation, a kind of aesthetic, grand eloquence or self actualization. On a broader cultural scale, I think it has the same foundation for society-it is the reflection by which we measure ourselves, it's the context of our aspirations and the parable of our endurance- Art elevates a space and affects on a deep subterranean level much in the same way the weather or the color of a room does. If Art then can be and do all of these things, why isn't fundamentally part of the school curriculum?
Put another way, why wouldn't a Corporately invested government body want to foster a generation of independent thinkers with the capacity for expanded consciousness? I don't believe it takes basic Algebra to figure that one out.
Will : There has always been an interest in the shadow side of the spiritual expression and it seems to go reflect the direction society is headed at the time in the 80's and early 90's the Church of Satan saw a resurgence as we were showy and indulgent, this was followed by the more reflective Kabbalah boom and several mass marketed new age trends, but it seems Crowley is having a resurgence what do you think this says about the path the world is now ?
David ...I don't see it as some turn into a great moral abyss, as some would have us believe, I just see it as a fundamental spiritual need to fill the ever widening hole of questioning, that Orthodox religion cannot, because ultimately religious doctrine is archaic and accommodates so little of twenty first century thinking. Perhaps there is a similar angst or revolutionary idealism that what was prevalent during the late 60's, when Crowley was last in fashion, but I don't sense the same spirit of those times, I feel its a lot more apathetic and possibly just window dressing.
Wil : What new projects are in the works for you that we should keep an eye out for ?
David ...Well I just opened up a new studio at La Bodega gallery here in San Diego, and I'm seeing if I want to expand upon Purgatorium as a sort of secondary exhibit or if the new works might be something entirely different.
Wil : Thank you for your time, your work immediately resonated with me and it's an honor to be able to have this chance to get your insights into it.
David ...My pleasure Wil, it's so integral that there are forums like this one that are counter point to the quagmire.