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.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Gorgeously imperceptible (almost)

Julian Dashper: Pretty Minimal
Sue Crockford
17 September – 10 October 2008

Julian Dashper is well known for his restrained, geometrical, colour saturated paintings (often made without applied pigment), yet the above title for his current show seems peculiar in its idiomatic casualness. It is slightly wonky, as words go. Odd as a heading for an exhibition.

When you see the particular work it refers to, then the pun becomes obvious. ‘Minimal’ really means ‘barely detectable’, a tiny dot on a large white wall. And ‘pretty’ means more than ‘very’ or ‘fairly’. It is attractive and feminine in that it is a seductive, delicate pink.

Yet it is also more than what you are looking at - in that the other side of the wall is pink as well, so the dot becomes an extremely slight seepage leaking through the medium density fibreboard. The work on the other side is dot-fixated too, a diagonally aligned canvas with a record-like disc in its centre, and a dot-like hole painted in its centre.

There are a lot of coloured squares here (based on the ‘Four Square’ grocery chain logo) and the occasional rectangular combination too (one is based on the Maldives flag – a tribute to legendary German artist Blinky Palermo). Yet the best works here avoid straight coloured planes.

The skinny white horizontal neon tube is a knockout because the glowing line seems strangely compressed – odd in its slight flatness. Even better are the three hanging plastic chains, in the three primary colours. Dashper’s other chain works alluded to the sociology of the art world and how it literally and metaphorically supports the physical and conceptual placement of the work as ‘art’. This 1993-4 piece looks instead at painting and the colour wheel for pigment mixing as a ground for the practicalities of application.

This is a good show. There is lots of humour (One work of three squares is called ‘Four Squares.’) and plenty of ideas testing possibilities about what the activity of painting can be.

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