Pressure Sensitive - Interview

V∆ND∆L Gallery will soon be celebrating the opening night of ‘Pressure Sensitive’, an exhibition by artist Joel Dickens

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“Children unleash scribble in a moment of uninhibited, spontaneous, emotional expression - subconscious, absent-minded and pure.

This is not that.

Here, childlike and spontaneous gestures are constricted by the neuroses of adulthood. The paint never reaches the boundary; staying within the lines. Identity is restricted by the adult ego, and passions are sacrificed to the day-to-day realities of life. Good intentions meet their limitations. A nervous breakdown that you’re not allowed to have.

The paintings are created by laying many layers of paint, before meticulously chipping away to create a calculated expression of hi-key emotional outburst.

The gestural works encapsulate a tension between the modern adult’s state of freedom and imprisonment. Taking flight in a cage.”

Over the past couple of years Joel has experienced a number of confronting events which have both inspired and hindered his practice.

‘Pressure Sensitive’, is a series of works made around these events, the title alluding to this period in the artist’s life. This exhibition at Vandal Gallery will be the first time these new works have been shown as a series, showcasing his new approach and marking a new period in the artist's career.

Art Pharmacy writer, Karl Sagraab sat down with Joel to discuss how he came to create ‘Pressure Sensitive’.

What made you decide you wanted to be a painter?
I saw a photo, when I was about 15, of Guernica hanging at the UN which made an impression on me. It suggested to me, that painting could make a difference in some way, and that's what I wanted to do. It turned out that Guernica was a tapestry copy and that the UN is less than perfect, but at the time it pulled two things together in my mind, art and wanting to make the world a better place. I'm a bit more cynical now but I continue to believe that art can make a difference to people's thinking and that the ripple-effect from one person's interaction with an artwork or book, upon society, can be significant.

Can you describe your practice, your use of medium and material, for the series of works in Pressure Sensitive?
Like most artists I struggle to find the amount of time I would like to paint. I have a family, a house and a day job. In this way the work has a performative aspect to it, inasmuch as it is created within and in reaction to life's events. Time to paint is snatched from the jaws of everyday responsibilities and the work is, in no small way, inspired by this predicament. In terms of medium, I use both acrylic and oil; a number of layers of acrylic underpainting and then an oil layer which I extract the gesture from. The title refers to both the technique of the production and the environment the work is painted in.

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Did you have an underlying theme in mind when creating the works or did they come about individually and come together in exhibition form in the end? In other words, was there a particular inspiration for these works?
The inspiration for each work can differ dramatically. As with previous work, they are painted in reaction to events, be they personal, political or environmental. With this work now, however, there is a greater emphasis on the language, the motif,  which I've spent a few years developing and arriving at. The individual works are painted in their own space and time and in response to a particular event. But the exhibition might be read as a series of diary entries, scribbled utterances, or a cross section sample of one person's existence.

This exhibition is in Sydney but do you have a favourite place to exhibit your works?
I had a couple of exhibitions in Buenos Aires which was exciting. There's a vibrant painting scene there and, for some reason, my work went down well. In terms of where it ends up, my work has been bought for display in foyers and restaurants. It gives me a kick when the work can be seen in public spaces, where the viewers are many and constantly changing.

Are there any painters or artists that inspire or influence you and you work?
The work I'm influenced by is the work that has had the greatest emotional impact on me. I'm a fan of anything that investigates the human condition. There are many artists I like but I have been inspired and influenced by; Pablo Picasso, Franz Klein, Willem De Kooning, Ernst Ludvig Kirchner, Edvard Munch, Kathe Kolwitz, Helen Saunders, Bram van Welde, Graham Sutherland, Alexander Calder, Jean Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Sylvia Plath, Hermann Hesse, Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen. I sometimes feel embarrassed that my influences aren't more obscure, but there you go...

Vandal Gallery will be hosting the opening of Pressure Sensitive on Tuesday 5th of September.

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