Born in Clapton, north-east London in 1937, Dave was supported in his aspirations as an artist by his parents: his father Sam was a tailor and his mother Ann was, in later years, a prolific self-taught artist. Dave was evacuated to Leicester at the age of seven. He attended Parmiters grammar school in Bethnal Green, east London, and studied painting at both the St Martin’s and the Royal Academy schools.
In the late 1960s and 70s, his work was inspired by Vincente Minnelli’s 1956 film Lust for Life, starring Kirk Douglas as Vincent van Gogh. Dave filled his house and studio with larger-than-life installations, including The Potato Eaters and The Bedroom: he resented having to leave the studio even to buy food, and for months on end survived on little more than lemonade and cream biscuits. Although he exhibited – notably in this period at the Bluecoat gallery, Liverpool, the Serpentine and Hayward galleries in London, the Ikon gallery, Birmingham, and Chester arts centre – he continued to work obsessively.
After teaching at Harris College, Preston, in 1964 he began his long association with what was then the Manchester College of Art and Design, where he remained until retiring in 2002. He was a central figure in the evolution of the foundation course in art and design for almost four decades, including a spell as course leader. In 1991 he became subject leader for BA Independent Studies and BA Modern Studies, and also co-ordinated the programme of European exchanges for the school of art.
He loved to create an event and to challenge conventions, as when he and a fellow teacher swapped beards one afternoon, shaving them off and then gluing them back on each other’s faces. He also staged events as part of teaching, notably a realisation of Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals in 1988, a multi-media extravaganza of a live performance involving more than 40 students. Indomitably energetic, he continued to write and paint even in his last weeks.
He died of cancer on July 19 2008