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 )

Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished

TV reviewGrace Dent: Jimmy McGovern's new drama sheds light on sex slavery in the colonies

Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl
filmFirst look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month
TV reviewHouse of Cards returns to Netflix
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford will play Rick Deckard once again for the Blade Runner sequel
film review
Arts and Entertainment
The modern Thunderbirds: L-R, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John in front of their home, the exotic Tracy Island
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
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.

    Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
    Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

    Lost without a trace

    But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
    Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

    Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

    Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
    International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
    Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

    Confessions of a planespotter

    With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
    Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

    Russia's gulag museum

    Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
    The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

    The big fresh food con

    Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
    Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

    Virginia Ironside was my landlady

    Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
    Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

    Paris Fashion Week 2015

    The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
    8 best workout DVDs

    8 best workout DVDs

    If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
    Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

    Paul Scholes column

    I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
    Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
    Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

    Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

    The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable