Magazine article Art Monthly

Dexter Dalwood

Magazine article Art Monthly

Dexter Dalwood

Article excerpt

Dexter Dalwood

Tate St Ives 23 January to 3 May

In a recent talk at Tate Modern with Harun Farocki, critic Georges Didi-Huberman asked, in relation to Nazi propaganda, how the construction of images can contribute to the destruction of human beings. In Dexter Dalwood's bold and engaging ten-year retrospective, that question begins to undo itself: how can the destruction of images contribute to the construction of humanity? Each of Dalwood's iconic paintings emerges from small collaged studies, cut-outs from magazines and art historical sources, and often import the rough 'scissored' edges to canvas, isolating certain motifs. In early work, Dalwood apes the omniscience of a novelist to construct settings from the lives of notorious characters--Sid Vicious, Solzhenitsyn, Sharon Tate, Ulrike Meinhof through their domestic spaces in which their absence and continued public presence is the dominant theme. Often the mood of intimate loneliness conjures the loser lounges of Patrick Caulfield, but Dalwood is just as likely to invoke Hockney's Pop portraits of the 1970s.

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In each portrait we confront the fractured memory and image of the 'celebrity' re-imagined through Dalwood's interiors, whose uncertainty and underplayed irony make us re-examine the potent impact of myriad cultural representations. If our history is a mediation between fact and fiction, why not accept these fictions as 'true' history? Already they have become another layer of myth, merging the distinction between 'real life' and its presentations. Hendrix's Last Basement, 2001, speaks of Jimmy Hendrix as instantly as a clanging guitar, so that we realise how the funky, psychedelic Hendrix brand has mated with the colour pour of Morris Louis to create an extravagant, assured psychological portrait of those of us alive at that time but only now able to fully cohere these cultural references. In Gorbachev's Mountain Retreat, 2000, Dalwood removes the lid of the ex-Soviet prime minister's chalet, just as he wishes to lift the lid on the ways that certain histories are hidden. Was this one of the locations for Perestroika meetings, where Gorbachev planned the dismantling of the USSR? A tone of muffled satire pervades Neverland, 1999, a portrait of Michael Jackson's bedroom with a pile of etiolated teddies and a ghostly outline of a bed, suggesting nuits blanches, where sexual consummation has rarely been enjoyed. There is a surprising sincerity at work here--the way a writer must endow even his villain with likeable characteristics. …

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