Nau mai, haere mai, welcome to eyeCONTACT, a forum built to encourage art reviews and critical discussion about the visual culture of Aotearoa New Zealand. I'm John Hurrell its editor, a New Zealand writer, artist and curator. While Creative New Zealand and other supporters are generously paying me and other contributors to review exhibitions over the following year, all expressed opinions are entirely our own.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Contesting finality

Julian Dashper
Sue Crockford
3 November - 22 November 2009

The eight works here from the late Julian Dashper are in a display he organised to close on Sunday November the 22nd - the same time that the 2009 Venice Biennale shuts down. This is because several of his works focus on a theme he established with a video made for a Film Archive exhibition in February. It records a sideways view down a darkened Venetian lane during the last 15 seconds of the previous Biennale. Dashper probably realised the current presentation would be a posthumous show, for there is a black, rueful humour in its ‘lastness’ fixation. The Biennale snippet he clearly saw as a grim simile for himself; these brief works, for the last few months of his life.

A possible sequence of the list of works goes like this. We have the Film Archive work – Untitled (the last 15 seconds of the last Venice Biennale) – a DVD. Then another DVD, Untitled (the last second of the last Venice Biennale), plus a clear 12 inch record of that same last second. And another related clear record, Untitled (Leaving Venice).

There is also a framed record cover of a third, unseen record, Untitled (Persuasive Percussion). The shape of that cover is mimicked by the three paintings on stretchers, lined up on one wall.

I much prefer these three paintings to the other ‘time’ work because they help the artist get away from himself. They let him forget he is Julian Dashper who is dying. Instead he is having fun with language, for the titles and carefully worded information in the catalogue listings are their point, not what’s on the wall.

Two of these paintings are identical twins, with identical tiles (Untitled) and both described as ‘acrylic on canvas’. However one has extra information. It is also described as ‘black on white square’ - suggesting the square canvas was painted white first, and then the internal, black, six-sided shape imposed. With its replica, the inner form could have been painted before the outside one, or simultaneously. Different processes at work: different sequences of paint application.

The third painting swaps tones within the application procedure to become ‘white on black square’. Its paint applied by Dashper himself or a tradesperson. It doesn’t matter. The preposition and the adjectives are the point. It is a foil to the second work, visually and in tonal details of process, as it is a different sort of method to the first.

These three paintings, with their interest in negative / presence, become parallels for LP covers that remain when the loved records they usually protect have gone. Artworks that make us wonder about their creator long after his driving ‘persuasively percussive’ life is over.

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