Simon Lee Gallery presents ‘London Paintings’, Dexter Dalwood’s first exhibition since joining the gallery. London has been a setting and subject matter recurring throughout Dalwood’s career. With this recent series of works, the English artist and Turner Prize nominee focuses on the capital and presents us with a new narrative through which to view a seemingly familiar city. Specific London locations or sites are reconstructed from ‘a collage of memory, cultural and political history and subjective association’ according to the gallery – the artist present us with layered paintings of sometimes domestic interiors or subjective slanted scapes; as if leaning out of a loft window; the London city scape is the inspiration and starting point for the artist’s exercise in a particular kind of representation.
The ‘London Paintings’ signal a shift in Dalwood’s approach to his practice; a more fluid, interpretative working method than the artist’s previous works; seemingly more mature, and personal in response. The new works give rise to a consideration of how to attempt an exploration and signifier of history in a painterly form, and how it might continue to be painted over time.
The artist uses historical references and quotations that are repeatedly mediated through his use of paint, Dalwood creates images of London, both interior and exterior, that can never be quite settled upon or interpreted as a single point of history or perspective. No singular position is held – no one viewpoint, or position in time – these are not postcards of London, the works eschew a singular reading, or reflection of an image, as if looking at an old faded photo, or vintage image; instead the process is perpetual, as paint speaks to the viewer of process and change. The surfaces refuse to coalesce into a a single space or location in time. The artist’s paintings are at once a signifier of the act of looking, and understanding what we see – and simultaneously demanding of that very act.
Many of the pieces are collages or re-imaginings of the work of previous artists reflections of London: ‘Old Thames’ 2014 for instance is a reworking of Whistler’s paintings, while ‘Double Portrait’ (Camden Town) 2014, speaking of Rimbaud and Verlaine, with shades of Warhol. Another work in the exhibition ‘The Thames Below Waterloo’ 2014 blends bright colours highly reminiscent of Hockney – with classically subdued hues of paint – creating an image of the Thames that traverses its own history – the depiction of temporality in paint.
With the artist’s works the viewer is met with the practice of layering both image, and paint; this process at once mimics the growth of his subject matter. The archaeological layering of paint, the overlapping of images; looking through to previous incarnations; the paintings reflect the history of the city, the location in physical space, changing over time – and the layered processes of perception that are required to understand the image of it in our very eyes.
Dalwood’s paintings explain the required relationship between the topographical and the temporal when attempting to understand our place in the physical and cultural history of the city when considered through the process of time. The artist moves between the subjective and the specific to create this temporal language. Dalwood does this by combining elements from painting’s past to produce something original in the present, creating an oeuvre that continues to re-invigorate and re-invent itself and reflect a new aspect to contemporary history painting.
Personal, subjective, intimate, and steeped in history; the very nature of the layer in painting instantly speaks of the process of time – juxtaposed with the artist’s subject; the old is layered upon, and in some pieces becomes indistinguishable from the new, this reflects the very nature of the city itself. There is something quietly haunted about the realisation of this layering of time, and people – we are all trapped in the layers of history; the paintings speak of an enduring intimacy.
With Dalwood’s paintings at Simon Lee, the satisfaction of a singular recognition is denied, instead a painterly space is created with a plurality to its actual depth. The artist is a fictional archaeologist of the metropolis; digging through layers of paint to earlier times, and paintings. Tunnelling a window into the history of the image and the paint. Each work acquires its meaning through multiple standpoints; and the reflexive response of the viewer, whose eyes peel the paintings like wallpaper.
Dexter Dalwood London Paintings – Simon Lee Gallery – until 24 January 2015
Words: Paul Black © Artlyst 2014 photo Artlyst all rights reserved