Red lines: Robert '3D' Del Naja's massive attack on the art world

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Away from music, Massive Attack's Robert '3D' Del Naja has become a sought-after modern artist

Massive Attack's founding member Robert "3D" Del Naja is working on their fifth studio album – but he's also been busy in his garden shed in Bristol, creating blood-red paintings inspired by war.

The paintings include ghostly, skeletal figures with their organs showing through transparent bodies, faceless figures standing in war zones. A passenger jet reflected in the glass of a skyscraper recalls the attacks of September 11.

The 12 paintings in the War Paint exhibition at the Lazarides gallery in London were part of the artwork for UNKLE's third album, War Stories, released last year by the electro rock collective. Produced by James Lavelle on his new label Surrender All, the album comes with a 50-page booklet containing 3D's paintings and several ethereal photographs taken by long-term UNKLE collaborators such as Warren du Preez and Nick Thornton Jones. These are also in the War Paint exhibition.

This is 3D's second solo show of paintings; the first, in the late 1980s, was at the Black Bull gallery in Fulham, just before Massive Attack released their first trip-hop album Blue Lines in 1991. He'd just begun to experiment with figurative painting. "I have been pretty slack at painting over the years," 3D says. "I get caught up in music."

3D, a former member of the Wild Bunch crew and a graffiti artist in the 1980s, has always fused art and music, taking it on himself to design all Massive Attack's merchandise, including the album sleeves and on-tour laminates.

The first two Massive Attack albums feature many of his paintings, but he stood aside from the artwork in the last two. "I didn't want to superimpose myself on the band. On 100th Window, Mushroom had left the band and Daddy G wasn't involved. It didn't contain any of my artwork so that it wasn't perceived as some mad ego project."

His latest war paintings include No Surrender (black faceless figures waving white flags, against a red sky) and the cover sleeve's Peace At Last – two ghostly figures with glowing halos – which, he says, has "a Mexican Day of the Dead festival feel". The artwork is a perfect fit with the foreboding quality of this antiwar album.

Lavelle always encouraged 3D to paint. The War Stories project got 3D back into the art studio last year, after too long a gap. 3D says: "We share a political stance, and I had an idea of what images to come up with." An active antiwar campaigner, he and Damon Albarn paid for full-page adverts in the NME opposing the Iraq war.

It took 3D two months to paint 25 works for Lavelle, using brushes and sprays. Nine became album artwork. "I can stare at a blank canvas for a month, but when I know what I want to express, I paint really quickly," he says. He describes the paintings as "snapshots of scenes that tell a story; it wasn't a mission to create the ultimate cover image." His paintings became "more political" than he'd intended when they were designated for particular songs on the album.

"When I had got back into painting again, I wished I could have spent a year doing it because I felt a new channel for that creativity – but I can't do that," 3D says. "I'd get up early to paint and then go to the music studio in the afternoon. I can't take my kit to the studio because I make a mess and get covered in paint."

Other paintings include International Jihad, depicting European Christian carol-singers. "It's a take on the idea of crusaders. When people talk of any religious crusading, we think automatically of negative images of Islam, almost forgetting the impact of the medieval Crusades waged by much of Christian Europe," 3D says. Unbelievable Proof – a skeletal head against a red background – is "an essay about confusion". Hold My Hand – a syringe above an outstretched arm – is "about excess, greed and control; the addict in the clutch of the drug rather than needing support from another human being".

"The paintings speak for themselves, really," 3D says. "It's abstract, but it's also pretty straightforward. I've made it a little obvious in places. I wanted people to catch an idea of what it's about from looking at it quickly, rather than having to study the painting."

As Massive Attack – now featuring Grant Marshall (Daddy G) – prepare to curate the Southbank Centre's Meltdown Festival in June, 3D's painting career will have to go on the back burner for a while.

"I usually paint a few bits and pieces every year, but I haven't really taken it seriously enough to exhibit paintings until now," he says. "I often paint works for people who like my work. I often swap paintings with John Squire [of The Stone Roses]. I wish I could just paint for a while – but I have other responsibilities."



War Paint, to 25 April, Lazarides gallery, London W1 ( www.lazinc.com )

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
art
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in the first-look Fifty Shades of Grey movie still

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

    Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on