Berlin, Nolan Judin Gallery, Dichter und Drogan, 10 September - 22
October 2011, cat no.16, illus colour
Biel, Kunsthaus Centre Pasquart, Dexter
Dalwood, 21 April - 16 June 2013, cat no.4, illus colour
Dexter Dalwood has become known for his disquieting paintings of empty interiors and landscapes, which commemorate real-life figures and events. His subjects range from political episodes, McCarthy’s List; Desert Storm, and moments in literary and art history, Burroughs in Tangiers; Mapplethorpe’s First Loft, to quasi-fictional locations, Laboratoire Garnier; Neverland, which seem to inhabit a parallel realm. Dalwood chooses stories which fascinate and preoccupy him, particularly those in which the key image is withheld. As such, he shares the viewer’s position as an outsider, his paintings ‘creating a space for both myself and the viewer to project into’. 1
His compositions begin as small collages, usually no bigger than 8 x 10 inches, the images evolving as they are transcribed to a large scale. In some paintings, Dalwood recreates the torn edges of the original collage, but, even without this, individual elements appear obviously cut out. His process produces only barely believable pictorial spaces, which become less coherent when examined closely; views through windows look like cinematic back projections and walls stop abruptly as they do in computer games. The disjunction between different areas within the paintings, highlights their artificiality, and adds significantly to their eerie atmosphere.
This painting takes as its subject the German Romantic poet Heinrich Von Kleist, who, in 1811, after a civilised picnic, shot his terminally ill friend, Henriette Vogel, and then himself, on the shore of a lake. It was first shown in Poets and Drugs, the Berlin exhibition in which Dalwood incorporated screen printing into his work for the first time, allowing him to repeat motifs across his paintings.
Dalwood adopts the stylistic tropes of other artists, who, like their absent leads, inhabit his paintings like ghosts. Here, the image is a direct transcription of Edvard Munch’s Moonlight, 1895 (coll. National Gallery of Oslo), although Dalwood’s version is twice the size of the original painting. Here, Munch’s image of moonlight on water, becomes an ominous black shadow, rather like a ladder, which reaches across the central section, an unpainted void which stands in for the lake. There is also a clear reference to another 19th century painting, Manet’s transgressive picnic scene, Le Déjeuner sur l’Herbe, 1862-3.
Beyond their intriguing narratives, Dalwood’s paintings are ultimately about the act of painting itself. There is an obvious enjoyment in surface and the seductive possibilities of paint. His conscious appropriation of existing painterly languages reflects a concurrent tendency in pop music where remixing, covering and sampling has become the dominant aesthetic.
1 The artist quoted in Dexter Dalwood, Tate St Ives exhibition catalogue, 2010, p7