Friday 23 August 2019

What lies beneath: Bacon and Cabbage by Dave West

Bacon and Cabbage by Dave West

Oil on canvas

Courtesy of the artist and The Doorway Gallery

Bacon and Cabbage by Dave West
Bacon and Cabbage by Dave West

Niall MacMonagle

Easter Sunday. A dancing sun. And Queen Elizabeth, to boot, is 93 today. For her birthday lunch, traditional spring lamb? A vegan option? Bacon and cabbage anyone? Dave West's Bacon and Cabbage is given a classy, stylish look in this beautifully orchestrated, textured composition: potato, sculpted bacon, diced cabbage, a bay leaf, one peppercorn on a gleaming, reflective surface.

Born in Penclawdd in South Wales, West grew up in Swansea. "There was no art in the family bar a distant relation to 18th Century artist Benjamin West," but from his "engineer father and creative mother - sewing, knitting, cooking", West sees a link.

"My art is an equal combination of creativity and analytical thinking."

Now Balbriggan-based, through "extensive genealogical research", West discovered he's "a heady mix of wealthy Irish landowners of Norman stock, landless agricultural labourers and poverty-stricken emigrants from Roscommon - and no Welsh at all.

"I just see myself as a person in the world now."

He's completely self-taught. "I scraped through school, scraped into an art course and found it easier to pick things up myself."

His days begin with meditation, getting the kids up and out, a short run, cycle or swim and then out to paint for the morning. He does "all the cooking in our house - my wife says it's better for both of us!" and for this work he tried regular bacon and cabbage but it just looked weird.

"For formal purposes, I wanted strong, geometric shapes and these raw ingredients are the base elements before the alchemy of cooking happens."

He's painted still lifes - cakes, cheese, glace cherries - but place also features. "The wild bleak tip of Kerry in dark, wild January resonates with me as does the baking sun-drenched landscapes of Catalonia." He works "from the subject exclusively, no photographs, so the cakes were done in sections, the cheese started to curl."

But for West, "painting outdoors is the best feeling in the world". Bacon and Cabbage - painted indoors - took "the best part of a week" but he usually only spends "a maximum of an hour a day actually painting. The quality of my brushwork dips sharply after that. "I spend time digesting the arrangement, finding a relationship between light and shadows". The result: this Michelin star bacon and cabbage. Fit for a Queen.

West's exhibition 'Diamonds and Rust' is at The Doorway Gallery, Dublin, to April 25.

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