Sean Dawson: Silent Glitch
26 November 2005 – 28 January 2006
For this, his first major show of solo works in Germany, Sean Dawson reveals a new series of joyously vibrant paintings under the collective title Silent Glitch. The phrase serves as both an apt description of Dawson’s practice – with its spliced, reflective surfaces – and a means of drawing together the artist’s twin passions: the avant-garde, electronic Black Metal music that inspires so much of his work, and the nature of his chosen medium – oil paint.
This ‘glitch’ underpins all the work in the show, but it is perhaps most apparent in Fennesz (all works 2005), the title of which refers to the musician whose tracks Dawson was listening to whilst making these paintings. For Dawson, Christian Fennesz’s music is synonymous with the electronic glitch. One album in particular, titled Venice (2004), prompted Dawson to explore Nicholas Roeg’s celebrated 1973 film adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s classic short story, Don’t Look Now (1971), in which an American couple seek solace in Venice after their daughter’s death. It’s not hard to trace this influence in Dawson’s painting – there’s a decidedly gondola-esque shape on the right hand side of the image and the slick of vermillion, which cuts a swathe from the top right hand corner down to the bottom left, culminates in a form reminiscent of the little girl’s red cloak which the father (played by Donald Sutherland) keeps seeing flashes of in the film.
Given the reflective nature of the surfaces Dawson paints – they most closely resemble a hybrid of metal and glass – it seems somewhat curiously coincidental that the German word ‘glitschen’ describes a kind of slippery surface. This quality is particularly evident in Pareidolia, a large-scale work that takes its inspiration from the inkblot tests devised by Hermann Rorschach, and whose title denotes a kind of misperception – in this instance provoked by the mirroring process via the presence of a cyclopic emerald eye.
Pareidolia is the most complex painting in the show and consequently, perhaps, the most interesting. All of Dawson’s works involve a complicated, time-consuming process that combines photography, projection and paint. In this particular work, though, the areas that were projected then traced onto the image – such as the rounded arch which intersects the pyramidal composition halfway up the painting – cause a disturbance or ‘glitch’, which prompts the viewer to seek a closer reading of the work. It’s a clever move on Dawson’s part as, once we have stepped up to the painting, the alien or insect-like arched form is lost in a psychedelic fusion of glistening striations of colour that splinter over the work like shards of glass. It’s no longer possible for us to find our point of entry – the way back is barred by flashes of iridescent colour and pattern. But, once we’ve reached this point do we really care what brought us there, when it’s such a pleasure to float in the kaleidoscopic haze?
Jane Neal 2006