Dominic Dale*


Art And Soul

Dominic Dale, snooker's connoisseur of high culture, names his five favourite artistic figures in a revealing (and very long) Q&A.

When did you first become interested in art?

As a teenager, the first thing I was interested in was horology, which is measuring time. I'm still fascinated by clocks and watches, and the fact that so much of what we do is 'by the clock'. Gradually, in my late teens, I became more aware of art and looked more closely at paintings I saw. I particularly liked the Art Deco style, so I looked further into how it came about. During the First World War, there was, inevitably, a lot of pessimism in Europe and people's state of mind was very dim and dark. Art Deco was intended as an outlet, to break away from this drabness. It was different, linear, stylistic and extreme.

Can you tell us a bit about the five figures from the arts who have most inspired you?

The first one would have to be the Polish Art Deco painter Tamara De Lempicka. When I became interested in art, I found her cubist-style paintings captivating, and I wanted to see more and more of her work. I bought a book about her called Passion By Design, which was written by her daughter. She was born into a wealthy Polish family then they moved to France. She moved around high society in Paris, and had various liaisons with powerful men in order to get work, in the same way that actresses did at the time. It was there she found her niche as an artist.


My second choice is the photographer Andre De Dienes. Photography is very similar to painting in a way, because both artists have to create a picture and get the lighting right. De Dienes was born in Transylvania, then moved to the USA in 1944 and worked for Esquire and Vogue magazines. He mainly worked in fashion, but he also took some photographs of Apache Indians which have just been released for sale. His life changed in 1945 when he went to an agency looking for a model to photograph, and they had just hired a girl called Norma Jeane Baker so they suggested her. The two of them went away for a month and he took hundreds of pictures of her. Of course she went on to become famous as Marilyn Monroe, so the pictures are now quite valuable. He had a principal of never retouching his photos, as he believed the original image should remain intact. De Dienes fell in love with her during that first month and they became engaged, but she later broke it off. She had a turbulent life in terms of relationships. She was fostered 12 times as a child and never had a father figure, which is probably why she always married older men.

Breakfast in bed 1953 Andre de Dienes[1].jpg

The next artist is the Austrian symbolist painter Gustav Klimt. He was fascinated by the female form and painted hundreds of pictures of nudes, using atmospheric lighting. He had 14 children then died quite young, in his mid-50s. Where I live in Vienna is about five minutes from where he lived. During the First World War his paintings were seized by the Austrian government, and for many years no one knew where they were. It was only in the 1980s that his family challenged the government and said that Klimt's sister had never given permission for the paintings to be taken. The case went to the High Court in the USA and in the 1990s the paintings were finally given back to the family. Some of them were odorned with jewellery and were very valuable. I think his most famous painting, The Kiss, sold for something like £135 million.


My next choice is the singer Mario Lanza, an Italian-American who lived in Philadelphia. He wanted a career as a serious opera singer, but he had strong connections in the mafia and they preferred him to work in the film industry, so he appeared in seven Hollywood movies. He had an eating disorder which meant that he couldn't stop eating, his weight fluctuated between 16 and 23 stone. When his weight ballooned, he went to a clinic where they put him on a drip for about two weeks, and after two weeks of semi-consciousness he would emerge rejuvenated. He died at the age of 38 in a clinic in Italy. His trainer, Terry Robinson, alleged that the mafia had killed him, because they wanted him to sing in a concert and he wouldn't do it. The story was that Lucky Luciano sent one of his henchmen to the clinic to inject air into Lanzo's catheter. Personally I think it's more likely that he died from a complication related to the eating disorder, as some of his children suffered from the same thing. I love operatic singing and I have been professionally trained myself. Roy Orbison is another of my favourites, he had a fantastic tenor voice. Lanza was a genuine opera tenor and one of the finest voices I've ever heard. He appeals to people who find opera too serious, because he sang a lot of popular ballads written by the likes of Cole Porter and Rogers & Hammerstein.


My last choice is the Austrian sculptor Josef Lorenzl. He was also prolific in the Art Deco period and sculpted the female form. He captured the gymnastic movement of dancers beautifully and his sculptures are extremely elegant. The limbs of his figures seem to go on forever, yet they still look as if they are in proportion.


Did you move to Vienna because of its artistic attraction?

That was one of the reasons, yes. It's a cultural society and a very aesthetically pleasing city in terms of the architecture. There's such a wealth of history here and so many museums.

What do you think of recent art, from Andy Warhol onwards?

I like Warhol's repetitive Marilyn Monroe prints. I love the colours he used, the pale blues and oranges. But I'm not a fan of things that are happening now, like Damien Hirst cutting animals up and putting them in formaldehyde. It's imaginative, but just because it hasn't been done before doesn't make it clever. I'm a traditionalist so maybe I'm a bit narrow minded.


What about snooker, how is your game at the moment?

It's great, I'm practising six hours a day at my club - the Köö 15 Reds in Vienna which I've never done before in my life. At my age you become more philosophical. I've been through a lot of highs and lows, and come out the other side and I'm happy now to be dedicated to snooker. It takes a lot of your life away and can affect relationships; it's the same for actors who spend a lot of time away from home. I'm more mature now with a stronger mind.


So do you think your best years could be ahead of you?

Steve Davis has shown that as long as your eyesight and fitness is ok, you can play for a long time. There are a few players my age who are a bit punch-drunk because they've played so many matches, like a boxer who's had too many fights, and they find it harder to generate adrenaline. But I feel fresh with enthusiasm, and when I get to the TV stages of tournaments I'm full of excitement, which helps to raise my game. I'm out of the top 32 now but look at what Michael Holt did last season after he dropped out, he had probably the best season of his career. I feel as if next season I can do the same.



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