This weekend the Tate St. Ives is opening a retrospective of perhaps my favourite British artist Dexter Dalwood.
Dalwood’s recurring theme is imagined interiors or landscapes, depicting famous historic people, places or moments but with the characters involved removed. They range in subject from major political events like The Death of David Kelly 2008 or The Birth of the UN 2003, to imagined places that are marked by some traumatic history or event, or which have simply become lodged in our collective cultural unconscious; these include Sharon Tate’s House 1998, Neverland 1999, Greenham Common 2008 and Camp David 1999. It is such a simple deceit, but one that creates a truly intriguing and engaging image that draws you in and forces you to fill in the blanks as vividly as a news report reconstruction.
He has also used this method for a series of “portraits” of iconic figures such as William Burroughs 2005, Diana Vreeland 2003, Truman Capote 2004 and Hunter S Thompson 2009, none of which appear in the paintings at all but are instead evoked through the scenes constructed by the artist.
But Dalwood’s works are more than just a gimmicky motif, his unique painting style makes them a powerful impact in its own right too. His paintings start out as small collages – compositions he assembles by literally cutting and pasting from the pages of magazines and art history. He then produces large-scale canvases with the abrupt disjunctures and sharp, clinical edges of the collages faithfully reproduced, preserving the slightly unnerving, almost jarring quality at a sometimes exhilarating and monumental scale.
The Dexter Dalwood exhibition is at the Tate St. Ives from 23rd January until 3rd May 2010. Visitors will also get the added bonus of a selection of works from the Tate Collection personally chosen by Dalwood, including paintings by Pablo Picasso, Roger Hilton and Dan Graham.