MannequinEnvy: Dean, thank you for being with us at Mannequinenvy. I would’ve liked to start our interview with your beginnings in the womb but that could be another interesting conversation in the future. Let’s start with one of your artworks titled, From Womb to Tomb, which in a way answers the first question but challenges me.
It has whiffs of Guernica, a sort of birth/rebirth, progress/regress, ash/ash, clay/clay reading it from right to left. Stylistically, the clean line work gives an entirely different feel to it. I became interested in the action of the character with her fingers teasing what looks like a vulva unless the title guided me there subliminally. The symbol of the acorn also underlines my feelings about the meaning. Such artwork is difficult to achieve especially with the transparency of overlapping subjects and to still be compositionally well organized. In a way the dark mass at the right, even though unique stylistically, is counterbalanced by the treatment of the female figure & therefore does not look out of place.
Dean: Trust you to mention a vulva! A mountain range is a sort of birth and the body is a continual dying and being born. Every six or seven years we are loaned possession of a completely new body. Waves of overlaps, impressions, 'chance' correspondence and a dialogue of opposites and similarities all claiming a right to catch the retina's attention. In calling this piece "from the womb to the tomb" I guess it was as much the inclusion of a skull and sort of baby face that inspired me as anything more intellectually driven. Guernica is a gigantically noble and savage expression of a tormented and ripped apart world, civilization laid bare. The essence of the horror of war given pictorial expression. An Apocalypse. A Now moment in art. It is with profound gratitude that I say thanks for such a reference. These drawings are the work of a magpie, the work of a person drawn to looking and gathering together impressions that whilst random also have an underlying sense of structure, of composition and the space or spaces between the impressions always try to say as much if not more than the meager attempts at conscious/unconscious signification as aided by a black ink pen. I have always been fascinated by hands and the direction of a character's look/gaze in paintings and drawings. This primal preoccupation informs all of my senses and sense of style. Thanks for taking my work on, in the way you do. It is a welcome excursion from isolation. All artists struggle with isolation. It is the name of the game.
MannequinEnvy: Speaking of isolation I remark in numerous pieces that presence. The presence of absence and as you so aptly title some of your pieces the absence of color or absence of this or that. It’s like guiding the viewer towards a meaning without really making it the obvious in your artwork. For instance in your piece, Grey shows your exposure to the artwork of mentally deviant patients and explains much about the nature of your line artwork. Yours have the uncanny ability of mimicking their brain process to a tee. What I admire in your work is that you follow through with a style with style. It is a natural!
Dean: The interesting part for me is the attempt to cram a vast amount of information in a small spaces Sometimes when I immerse myself in that direction it scares me momentarily because it acts like a runaway/snowballing condition. I’d name such work contra-minimalist in that there’s not enough time/space to document all at once & that therefore it must be an ongoing process.
MannequinEnvy: In the drawing, The Doctor what arouses my curiosity is for one the title & relating it to the rest of the scene with the caption inside the drawing. Other notable areas are the dual facial perspective of the character, the wedge in the cranium that could be due to separation of frontal & profile views.
The river flow from the left stopping abruptly past the character's left ear and especially the dominating amount of emptiness is remarkable as to its significance assuming the sketch is a finished product.
I see a strong differentiation in the two halves of the drawing, one being overloaded with detail, the other much emptier in contrast. The character's stanza is one of satisfaction & control of self.
Dean: The title (during Xmas) was created on the spur of the moment. I wanted to post an image for this time of the year and a burst of irony overtook me - the picture is a reaction to the madness of the world, the world being - in this case - a lunatic asylum. The 'doctor' figure, I think, is influenced by a string of learned experts I encountered during my mother's long history/career of mental illness. But one might equally drop in a Rumsfeld or a Cheney or a Blair with equal relevance. The satisfaction and conceit of many 'leading characters' is well known and well documented.
It's all a seemingly in one ear and out the other process. They create desolation and call it peace type thing, a blue planet turning black, a looney bin.
The emptiness? Perhaps my take on hope? Beyond mankind's mess there is, perhaps something else on offer in the supermarket of the universe.
In many ways this drawing expressed my basic political instincts.
By the way, my exposure hasn't been to the artwork of mentally sick artists ... but rather to the life of my mother who had a profound and chronic mental sickness. Although you are probably right in drawing a connection between my line artwork and mental sickness. A coalescence of therapy and symptom? The cramming of information and impressions into a single piece has, I suspect, long been a characteristic of much of my work - in all its guises. It is with necessity that now and then I reach out to a less crammed expression be it with words or images.
All of this is but an ongoing process, an unfinished work, with parts and pieces abandoned and titled and offered to the public space.
I am aware - gradually - of having and plying a quite distinctive style, a magpie style that still, eventually, transcends the borrowed/referenced ... a rose is a rose is a rose and all that stuff coupled with no man is an island and tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps etc. all wrapped up in a relentless impulse to mould into a cohesive shape and form and composition to corner the impulses.
MannequinEnvy: Dean, thanks for the clarifications. In regard your mother I thought she was professionally exposed & in regard mentally dysfunctional artists I did NOT mean sick. I meant cerebrally organized in the sense of this is how their brain perceives & interprets their environment in every day fashion. Such individuals fit outside the norms yet their thinking process appears normal to them. Ok, did Picasso, Magritte etc “think” in the way they painted? No, I don’t think they didn’t. It was a consciously directed cerebral process and not a natural course of action.
MannequinEnvy: Dean, you have a vast array of styles. In your, Nothing to do with Mondrian it is puzzling how you framed it in an elongated imagery container. I mention this because the framing, the defining of boundaries, is such an accepted convention.
I like the simplicity, strength & positioning of the line work & color spots. To my eye it leaves the impression that the artwork is in color in its totality. I like very much the buff paper background. The contrasting 2 styles of oval shapes further arouse interest.
The treatment of the leaping figure is very dynamic; it literally escapes its container. The hairy effect of the ova yes, yes don’t you laugh, is subjective to several interpretations. Of course any original story can be derived from the combination of additional portrayed details. The reflected partial figure is of extreme interest also. It is as if the reflection looks up from beneath the reflection being the other self & I hope others look into this figurative work & input their own visions. Notable is how the body is stylistically crosshatched in 3 distinctly different techniques.
MannequinEnvy: Ok, Dean, now one piece definitely provokes a negative reaction on my part so don't expect only niceties from me. I once stood before a few De Koonings & mentally spat him up & down from corner to corner of his canvases. Of course he laughed his way to history but his investors had to stand behind their magnified millions. Ok, what I mean by my rant is that there's a degree of sloppiness I'm willing to accept but in general I'm a neatness freak & like relatively defined edges. Also you have a knack with titles & this one smacks. Does it describe Adam, wrestling Eve for 3 minutes? Or is it a 3-minute painting? Now, in regard the title I must say the painting reflects a head-on violent encounter.
Dean: One of the cleanest uses of neatness for me is in the drawing by Rauschenberg 'Erased De Kooning' drawing. This is a wonderfully liberated/liberating interview with Rauschenberg. Whatever sort of brief encounter you would like this to be it's just that, but it should be brief and more an outline that a filled out/in encounter. Also, there should be copious amounts of color involved but not necessarily those you see here. I trust you enjoy Rauschenberg and his work and his relationship with booze? Thanks for your purple velvet gloved treatment!
MannequinEnvy: Well, it so happens I do know about that happening. I'm sorry he stopped only at that one artwork... lol. Ok, I've been for years bent on downsizing many of the great names in US art that burgeoned starting in the mid 40's. I even put my foot in mouth with the following first essay to be followed maybe with one about Cy Twombly & even Rauschenberg & a few others but I question if I want to waste more of my time on them at the expense of writing something seriously serious. I don't mind going on a limb. What with the shitty Pound Cantos?
Dean: Well now, taking umbrage with the AEs is bold and of course, most art 'movements' can be assaulted with good sound justification - the inflation of the monetary value of an artist's work and the inflation of its aesthetic value often run hand in hand. If it sells and sells big it must be good ergo the opposite is likely to be the case. A bit like that thing concerning the sound of a tree crashing in the middle of the Amazon rain forests, what's left of it, if no one is there to hear it does it make a sound. I see art history rather as a palimpsest than chronological development. I am profoundly cautious in tendering 'good' / 'bad' appellations but have, over the years, come to certain 'taste' positions. I've always known what I like and what doesn't touch me deeply enough to feel like getting excited and to feel like spending a couple of hours with it. When I was a young lad in London and chanced upon a Rothko room in the National Gallery and found myself drawn into the large dark purple canvases returning again and again to that room and feeling an intimacy and yes spirituality. I fell in love with Rothko and that love affair never died but became renewed with a recent retrospective of his work here in Munich all those original emotions were rekindled but much more than that walking from his early figurative pictures to his most famous abstracts and ending on his 60's pieces of predominately black and grey. Yes, true - because of his failing health some of this was actually directed by him but executed by assistants which I actually like this artesian quality but then - at the end was a canvas that reminded me of the color palette of a couple of pictures from his earliest figurative pieces and I could, in a few steps, go back to those early pictures and confirm what I knew anyway - that Rothko had always been interested in the qualities that he explored to epically intimate effect in his mid and late works. I have never really cared about art being overrated or overpriced about critics waffling and often failing to convince me that they had actually truly communed with the canvas or metal or clay art can be a personal odyssey and to discover 'heroes' for oneself is the real thrill mine are Rothko and Bacon and Klee and Giacometti, Rembrandt and Caravaggio, Picasso and Courbet, Duchamp and Cézanne and Manet to name a few. I love the phenomenon of Abstract Expressionism because it feels to me like an organic fusion of something very European, in terms of the influences that the émigrés exerted, but also very US American, a sense of freedom, of exuberance, of rawness and a childlike ignorance/innocence. I recently saw a small exhibition of Rauschenberg's Cardboard box works and loved them along with some Duchampian assemblages. 99.9% of the stuff was in his private collection and I liked this. But what I really liked was the healthy balance between seriousness and playfulness it felt like how I feel sometimes when playing in a sandpit or by the beach with my kids.
I'll come back to the shitty Pound cantos later! Lol