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English

Dexter Dalwood

Dale Berning

Art history plus punk spirit: Dale Berning met British painter Dexter Dalwood at his Tate St Ives solo exhibition.

Dexter Dalwood’s cultural roots lie in the experimentation of ‘60s rock and early punk. He left school at 16 to pursue a career in music, playing with a number of bands including Bristol-based punks The Cortinas. Dalwood discovered painting in the late ‘70s: ‘a light came on’, he says, ‘and I became really fascinated’. He went about studying the great masters with characteristic thoroughness. In London, at both Central St Martins and the Royal College of Art he fought against the prevalent teaching style, then still infused with the remnants of abstract expressionism and the ideal of ‘true’ painting. Instead, the pluralism of the ‘70s, of Andy Warhol's Factory, William S Burroughs' literary cut-ups, David Bowie’s lyrics and David Salle’s pastiches were an inspiration. From his punk beginnings, Dalwood kept the defiant and fiercely independent attitude as well as an experimental, DIY approach to creativity. Following in the footsteps of pop artists such as James Rosenquist and Richard Hamilton, ‘sampling’ became integral to his practice.

Catalyst

Since 1998, Dalwood’s works have primarily depicted figureless spaces: interiors linked to the tragic passing of celebrities (Kurt Cobain’s Greenhouse, 2000; Hendrix’s Last Basement, 2001), as well as symbolic places (Bay of Pigs, 2004). He often starts with a single catalyst - a date, a name – from there drawing a personal line through the world’s political and cultural history. In The Brighton Bomb (2006), on the 1984 IRA bomb at Brighton, Dalwood borrowed Jean-Michel Basquiat’s aesthetic and colours which, in his memory, were particular to that period: the acidic pinks, yellows and blues of the painting thus refer to the ubiquitous ‘80s shell suit. Dalwood builds up his works gradually through visual and conceptual association. ‘I want to create images which make you think about other images’, he says. ‘The painting works as either a foil against your imagination or places a new, stubborn image there.’

Looking around the Tate St Ives show is a singular history lesson. Painters are explicitly quoted – Willem De Kooning, Henri Matisse, Clyfford Still, Cy Twombly amongst others. This borrowing is never irreverent, nor is it an ironic end in itself. Rather, it speaks of Dalwood’s intense admiration for and thorough knowledge of the painters who came before him. ‘To walk into an empty gallery of Nicolas Poussin paintings or Ed Ruscha paintings still gives me a thrill equal to untrodden snow’, he says.

Collages

In Death of David Kelly (2008), a tortuous tree trunk cuts obliquely across a flat deep blue with a bulbous moon overhead and ripped earth underfoot. The tree is Lucas Cranach's, and the ground Edvard Munch's. The sky is exactly as it was on the day of David Kelly's passing. Kelly was a biological warfare expert involved in the British government’s enquiry into weapons of mass destruction in Iraq; he committed suicide on July 17 2003, in the woods on Harrowdown Hill. His death came as a profound shock to the British public. The compositional reduction of this painting is altogether more potent because Dalwood relates it specifically to this man’s story. In a few pictorial gestures, the artist questions the political circumstances of Kelly’s death and places it within an artistic context. The visual minimalism that characterises the work stands in stark contrast with Burroughs in Tangiers (2005), a vibrant composition that combines collaged newspaper and cards with painterly quotations, including part of a Robert Rauschenberg. This is the third work Dalwood has made about a writer who has particular importance for the artist. ‘Burroughs is complicated for me’, he says. ‘I’ve been with him for a long time. With him there isn’t one single incident.’

Pulsating with the sheer urgency of the present, Dalwood’s work constantly questions what an image of ‘now’ would look like, and what painting can be today, at the beginning of the 21st century. ‘I always thought that if I could be the person who assembled stuff and painted in any way’, he says, ‘the parameters of painting would keep moving outwards.’

Dexter Dalwood
23/01/2010- 03/05/2010
Tate St Ives
St Ives, UK
www.tate.org.uk

Dexter Dalwood
11/06/2010-15/08/2010
Frac Champagne-Ardenne
Reims, France
www.frac-champagneardenne.org

IMAGE CREDITS

Dexter Dalwood The Brighton Bomb, 2006
Oil on canvas
200 x 160 cm
Private Collection
© Dexter Dalwood
Photo credit: Dave Morgan

Dexter Dalwood
Mandelay, 2009
Oil on canvas
200 x 250 cm
© Dexter Dalwood. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery
Photo credit: Dave Morgan

Dexter Dalwood
Birth of the UN, 2003
Oil on canvas
207 x 247.5 cm
David Rosenberg
© Dexter Dalwood. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery
Photo credit: Dave Morgan

Dexter Dalwood
Solzhenitsyn’s Reading Room, 1999
Oil on canvas
91 x 99 cm
© Dexter Dalwood. Courtesy of Gagosian Gallery

Dexter Dalwood
Sharon Tate's House, 1998
Oil on canvas
183 x 235 cm
Saatchi Collection
© Dexter Dalwood. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery
Photo credit: Dave Morgan

Dexter Dalwood Death of David Kelly, 2008
Oil on canvas
203 x 173 cm
Private collection Lake Forest, Illinois
© Dexter Dalwood. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery
Photo credit: Dave Morgan

Dexter Dalwood
Truman Capote, 2004 Oil on canvas
173 x 213 cm
Mr Jose Vasquez
© Dexter Dalwood. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery
Photo credit: Dave Morgan

Dexter Dalwood
Greenham Common, 2008
Oil on canvas
200 x 250 cm
© Dexter Dalwood.Courtesy of Gagosian Gallery

Dexter Dalwood
Hunter S Thompson, 2009
Oil on canvas
148 x 150 cm
© Dexter Dalwood. Courtesy of Gagosian Gallery
Photo: Dave Morgan

Français

Dexter Dalwood

Dale Berning

À l'occasion de son exposition monographique à la Tate St Ives, le peintre britannique Dexter Dalwood retrace ses influences entre histoire de l'art et punk attitude.

Les racines culturelles de Dexter Dalwood remontent au rock des années 1960 et aux débuts du punk. Il quitte le lycée à 16 ans pour poursuivre une carrière musicale et joue dans plusieurs groupes dont The Cortinas. À la fin des années 1970, Dalwood découvre la peinture : "C'est venu comme une révélation, dit-il, j'étais vraiment fasciné." Il se plonge alors dans l'histoire de l’art, étudiant scrupuleusement les grands maîtres de la peinture classique. À Central St Martins et au Royal College of Art de Londres, l’artiste rejette un enseignement encore dominé par les vestiges de l’expressionnisme abstrait et l’idéal de la "vraie" peinture ; il se sent plus proche de l'éclectisme des années 1970 : la Factory d’Andy Warhol, les cut-ups littéraires de William S. Burroughs, les paroles de David Bowie et les pastiches de David Salle. Dalwood garde de ses années punk un esprit rebelle et indépendant ainsi qu’une créativité expérimentale et bricoleuse. Dans la lignée des artistes Pop James Rosenquist et Richard Hamilton, il place le sampling au cœur de sa pratique picturale.

Fil d’Ariane

Depuis 1998, les œuvres de Dalwood dépeignent principalement des espaces sans figures : des intérieurs liés à la destinée tragique de stars (Kurt Cobain’s Greenhouse, 2000 ; Hendrix’s Last Basement, 2001), ainsi que des lieux symboliques (Bay of Pigs, 2004). Un détail – une date, un nom – sert au peintre de catalyseur, de fil d'Ariane dans les méandres de l'histoire politique et culturelle. Dans The Brighton Bomb (2006), la date de l'attentat de l'IRA (1984) l'amène à introduire l’esthétique de Jean-Michel Basquiat et les couleurs qui, dans son souvenir, dominaient l’époque. Les roses, jaunes et bleus font ainsi référence aux survêtements à la mode dans ces années-là. Dalwood multiplie les enchaînements visuels et conceptuels : "Je veux créer des images qui font penser à d'autres images. Le tableau doit perturber le fonctionnement de l'imagination du spectateur ou placer une nouvelle image au centre de celle-ci."

L'exposition de Dalwood à la Tate St Ives est une singulière leçon d'histoire. On y croise Willem De Kooning, Henri Matisse, Clyfford Still, Cy Twombly. Pourtant, il n'y a chez l’artiste ni irrévérence, ni réelle ironie, mais plutôt une admiration profonde et une connaissance intime du travail de ses prédécesseurs. Il raconte: "Quand je me retrouve seul dans une salle de Nicolas Poussin ou d’Ed Ruscha, j'ai des frissons, comme devant un paysage de neige immaculée."

Collages

Dans Death of David Kelly (2008), un tronc d'arbre tordu coupe en diagonale la toile d’un bleu profond. Une lune renflée éclaire un sol déchiré. L'arbre est de Lucas Cranach, le sol d’Edward Munch. Le ciel est exactement tel qu’il était le jour de la mort de David Kelly, expert en guerre biologique. Impliqué dans l’enquête sur les armes de destruction massive, il s’est suicidé le 17 juillet 2003 dans les bois de Harrowdon Hill. Sa mort a bouleversé le public anglais. Le minimalisme de cette composition est d'autant plus puissant que Dalwood le lie de manière étroite à l'histoire de Kelly. En quelques gestes, l’artiste interroge les circonstances politiques de ce suicide et place l’évènement dans une lignée artistique. Cette économie visuelle contraste fortement avec Burroughs in Tangiers (2005), un tableau exubérant où collages de journaux et cartes se mêlent aux citations picturales, notamment de Robert Rauschenberg. Il s'agit de la troisième pièce de Dalwood sur cet écrivain qui tient une place particulière dans son univers culturel. "C'est un personnage complexe, j’ai passé beaucoup de temps avec lui, ce n’est pas l’affaire d’une seule rencontre."

Prise dans l'urgence du présent, l'œuvre de Dalwood cherche constamment ce que pourrait être une image "de maintenant" et quelle forme la peinture pourrait prendre en ce début de XXIème siècle. "J’ai toujours pensé que si je pouvais assembler des choses et les peindre dans des styles très différents, le médium pictural pourrait continuer à dépasser ses propres limites."

Dexter Dalwood
23/01/2010- 03/05/2010
Tate St Ives
St Ives, UK
www.tate.org.uk

Dexter Dalwood
11/06/2010-15/08/2010
Frac Champagne-Ardenne
Reims, France
www.frac-champagneardenne.org

IMAGE CREDITS

Dexter Dalwood The Brighton Bomb, 2006
Oil on canvas
200 x 160 cm
Private Collection
© Dexter Dalwood
Photo credit: Dave Morgan

Dexter Dalwood
Mandelay, 2009
Oil on canvas
200 x 250 cm
© Dexter Dalwood. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery
Photo credit: Dave Morgan

Dexter Dalwood
Birth of the UN, 2003
Oil on canvas
207 x 247.5 cm
David Rosenberg
© Dexter Dalwood. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery
Photo credit: Dave Morgan

Dexter Dalwood
Solzhenitsyn’s Reading Room, 1999
Oil on canvas
91 x 99 cm
© Dexter Dalwood. Courtesy of Gagosian Gallery

Dexter Dalwood
Sharon Tate's House, 1998
Oil on canvas
183 x 235 cm
Saatchi Collection
© Dexter Dalwood. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery
Photo credit: Dave Morgan

Dexter Dalwood Death of David Kelly, 2008
Oil on canvas
203 x 173 cm
Private collection Lake Forest, Illinois
© Dexter Dalwood. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery
Photo credit: Dave Morgan

Dexter Dalwood
Truman Capote, 2004 Oil on canvas
173 x 213 cm
Mr Jose Vasquez
© Dexter Dalwood. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery
Photo credit: Dave Morgan

Dexter Dalwood
Greenham Common, 2008
Oil on canvas
200 x 250 cm
© Dexter Dalwood.Courtesy of Gagosian Gallery

Dexter Dalwood
Hunter S Thompson, 2009
Oil on canvas
148 x 150 cm
© Dexter Dalwood. Courtesy of Gagosian Gallery
Photo: Dave Morgan

 
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