b. 1946, USA

David Lynch Biography

Best known for his dark, enigmatic movies, Academy Award-winner David Lynch is one of the most important figures in contemporary film. He is also a painter, visual artist, musician, and writer.

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Early Life

David Lynch was born in in Montana to a research scientist and an English language tutor. Interested in painting and drawing from an early age, he enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and made his first short film in 1967.

Six Men Getting Sick (Six Times) was a 16-millimeter experimental film projected onto a panel of six disembodied heads, which Lynch created for an experimental painting and sculpture contest. Initially intended to be an extension of his painterly practice and a way of artistic experimentation, Lynch soon decided to work on film alone, supported financially by the American Film Institute.

Early Works, Themes, and Influences

Upon moving to Philadelphia to study painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Lynch witnessed the appalling poverty and decay that haunted the city at that time. He later credited these experiences as a catalyst for his work as a filmmaker.

In 1980, Lynch directed The Elephant Man, based on a true story of Joseph Merrick‚ a Victorian man that became a sensation due to his major facial disfigurement. Surreal and shot in black and white, The Elephant Man turned out to be a huge commercial success that earned eight Academy Award nominations. Since his earliest films, Lynch has worked hard to make sure that they defy any explanation, embracing the mysterious and the unexpected.

Working on films, paintings, songs, and furniture, Lynch's transdisciplinary practice is heavily influenced by art movements such as Dada and Surrealism. Film critic Pauline Kael referred to him as 'the first popular surrealist'.

Both his films and artworks seem like they come from another world. Creepy, violent, and quirky, Lynch's works are puzzling and thought-provoking, recalling what usually remains hidden within the unconscious—dystopian, nightmarish fears that make us question our sense of reality.

Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks

After the success of The Elephant Man, Lynch directed one of his most well-known films, the critically acclaimed Blue Velvet (1986).

Blending psychological horror with film noir, Blue Velvet was ahead of its time and invited countless interpretations. Switching between tones and genres, the film is known to have inspired such filmmakers as Quentin Tarantino and the Coen Brothers.

After directing Blue Velvet, Lynch worked on the mystery soap opera Twin Peaks (1990—1991), which soon became a pop cultural touchstone and was revived in 2017. Telling the story of the double lives of the eccentric yet innocent-looking people living in a seemingly quaint town, the show is the perfect example of Lynch's unique filmmaking style: a mix of strangeness, dreaminess, and black humor, which leaves the viewers questioning and hungry for more.

David Lynch's Paintings and Other Artworks

David Lynch's artworks are characterised by dark tones and often dark themes. Influenced by artists such as Francis Bacon, William Eggleston, and Diane Arbus, his pieces are violent and raw. They are 'organic, violent comedies', as he says.

Often painted in a primitive, crude way, Lynch's works invite the viewer to see the world as Lynch sees it: sometimes odd and macabre, sometimes sublime and magical.

In 2007, the artist's work was the subject of a major retrospective at Fondation Cartier, Paris, titled The Air is on Fire. It was the first time that Lynch's paintings, drawings, experimental films, and sound pieces were shown in such a great number. On view were also site-specific installations created specifically for this exhibition. This was a rare occasion to see some of the artist's earliest artworks, which enabled the visitors to dive deeper into Lynch's personal world through reconstructing his childhood experiences, adolescent fantasies, and adult preoccupations.

Using texts, dark colors, and fragmented human figures, Lynch's alarming paintings show a profound interest in primal fantasies and the subconscious. In Boy Lights Fire (2011), the artist portrayed a child with disproportionally long arms. The painting is three-dimensional and shows Lynch's continued interest in bridging the barriers of the painterly medium. In his photographic series, the themes and the atmosphere are also gloomy, going from sensual and dreamy to dangerous and troubling, as seen in 'The Factory Photographs' series (1980—2000).


A recipient of an Academy Honorary Award in 2019, Lynch has also received three Academy Award nominations for Best Director, the César Award for Best Foreign Film twice, the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival (1990), and a Golden Lion award for lifetime achievement at the Venice Film Festival (2006).

Gallery and Exhibitions

Lynch is represented by Kayne Griffin Corcoran in Los Angeles and Sperone Westwater in New York.

His solo exhibitions include David Lynch: Infinite Deep, Nikolaj Kunsthal, Copenhagen (2021); David Lynch: Squeaky Flies in the Mud, Sperone Westwater, New York (2019); David Lynch: Between Two Worlds, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane (2015); David Lynch: The Factory Photographs, The Photographers' Gallery, London (2014); and David Lynch, Leo Castelli Gallery, New York (1989).

Lynch's group exhibitions include Wood Works: Raw, Cut, Carved, Covered, Sperone Westwater, New York (2021); Crime and Punishment, Musée d'Orsay, Paris (2010); Dark Night of the Soul, Kohn Gallery, Los Angeles (2009); and Fetish, Galerie du Passage, Paris (2007).

David Lynch Foundation

In 2005, Lynch formed a foundation that seeks to fund the teaching of Transcendental Meditation in schools. Since then, the foundation has widened its scope to other at-risk populations, including homeless people, prisoners, veterans, and refugees.


The artist's YouTube channel can be found here.

Maria Markiewicz | Ocula | 2021

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