Dave McKean’s “Black Dog” Premieres, Show heads for France Next Week

Artist Paul Nash in the trenches. Art from "Black Dog" © Dave McKean

Artist Paul Nash in the trenches. Art from “Black Dog” © Dave McKean

Last night saw the world premiere of illustrator, filmmaker and musician Dave McKean‘s multimedia performance of his new graphic project Black Dog – The Dreams of Paul Nash in Kendal Town Hall – the first of a number of shows across the summer, taking in the On a Marche sur la Bulle festival in France next weekend and the Lakes International Comic Art Festival in October.

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”3″ gal_title=”Black Dog Premiere”]

The thought-provoking and powerful performance from Dave himself, violinist Clare Haythornthwaite and cellist and actor Matthew Sharp, convincingly brought the disturbing dreams of World War One war artist Paul Nash, who was plagued by personal demons throughout his life, exacerbated by his wartime experience. Drawing on many of the stunning images from the book – initially released as a 300 limited artist’s edition published by LICAF – the show gave a challenging focus to Nash, raising questions about how Great War combatants coped with what happened to them during the conflict. Many, of course, simply bottled up their feelings, but Nash apparently seemed to defeat his own “Black Dog” through his art and writing.

Black Dog – The Dreams of Paul Nash by Dave McKean has been co-commissioned by the Lakes International Comic Art Festival, On a Marche sur la Bulle and 14-18 NOW, WW1 Centenary Art Commissions, supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The commission is also supported by Cumbria County Council, Kendal College, Kendal Business Improvement District and South Lakeland District Council, whose Chairman, Councillor Sylvia Emmott, who spoke at a pre-performance gathering before the show, praising both the Festival, the work and paid tribute to the Fallen of the Great War.

The event also included a short question and answer session from the stage with Dave and a signing of the limited artist’s edition book. There will be free talk by Dave about the project later today in Kendal, at the Brewery Arts Centre.

A full publication will be released in October at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival (14-16th October 2016), published by Dark Horse.

Black Dog – The Dreams of Paul Nash - Sample Art 2

Art © 2016 Dave McKean

“I am no longer an artist. I am a messenger who will bring back word… to those who want the war to go on forever. It will have a bitter truth, and may it burn their lousy souls.”
Paul Nash, writing home from the frontline

Painter Paul Nash joined the British army when he was 25 years old, signing up six weeks after the start of World War One. The appalling experiences he endured, first as a soldier and later as an official war artist, prompted him to create paintings of disturbing, lasting power.

Last night’s premiere was the first of a series of multimedia performances, with text, images and music performed by McKean and friends, exploring Paul Nash’s role in the birth of modernism and surrealism, “and how those movements were actually witnessed by Nash in the dream-/nightmare-like battlefields of the war,” says Dave. “He used the landscape that he loved to try to deal with what he’d been through, and to try and find calm and solace beyond.

Dave McKean with a copy of the Black Dog limited edition. Photo: Chris Dissent/ Creative Concern

Dave McKean with a copy of the Black Dog limited edition. Photo: Chris Dissent/ Creative Concern

“All the things that happen in the book are real things that happened in Nash’s life, but filtered through my imagination,” says Dave. “Much in the same way that he looked at the landscape and turned trees to bone and the ground to tortured flesh – you see something real transforming under his brush. I thought I could do something similar with his life. Dreams are a form of reimagining – you put different events and emotions together and out of it, another way of looking at the world emerges.”

If you get the chance to see this impressive interpretation of the graphic novel, then do – it’s an incredible work.

• For more about the Lakes International Comic Art Festival (returning 14th – 16th October to Kendal) visit www.comicartfestival.com

For details of upcoming performances of Black Dog, visit the 14-18 NOW web site

• Read Tony Esmond’s thoughts on the Black Dog graphic novel here on downthetubes

• Read a full interview with illustrator Dave McKean, where he talks about how Paul Nash influences the Black Dog commission

• Black Dog: Dave McKean delves into the dreams of war artist Paul Nash – in pictures on The Guardian web site

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