The Brink: Andrew Dadson
We’ve been following the work of Vancouver-based artist Andrew Dadson for years so were thrilled to hear he was the 2011-12 recipient of the Brink Award, aptly named because the prize is bestowed upon an emerging artist living in Washington, Oregon or British Columbia and on “the brink” of a promising career. In conjunction with the award, Dadson’s paintings and photographs are currently on view at the Henry Art Gallery in Seattle, a small but consistently interesting space that forms part of the University of Washington. The exhibition explores Dadson’s persistent fascination with the monochrome, a genre that has a long and lauded history having been explored for several decades now by painters ranging from Kazimir Malevich to Agnes Martin to Yves Klein. Dadson’s solo effort examines the way he is consistently pushing the boundaries of this genre, a format some consider the ultimate expression of painting – paint as paint itself – rather than used to create an illusory depiction of something in the world.
Revelling in the materials he uses, Dadson employs the physicality of the paint he applies, layer upon layer, until this typically slick and flat material is transformed into something pliable with a three-dimensional presence at the top of his canvases. His large-scale paintings evidence their time-consuming process of creation: before the final negating applications of black are added, the rainbow of colours Dadson has applied prior are visible at the margins — the drips at the bottom of the work, their sides, and the quantity at the top which forms a colourful crown when viewed closely. His paintings, set on the floor and leaned up against the wall become sculptures, engaging the space in a way a traditional painting doesn’t. Dadson celebrates the canvas itself and its physical structure; in smaller canvases, he has flipped the painting from back to front, using the verso instead to paint into the depressed rectangles that form the centre of the stretcher. The many coats he applies form a mass exploding from its confines.
In an interesting reversal, Dadson uses photography to depict paintings he has created using quotidian spaces and objects as his picture plane. In these works, he uses paint not to represent but to mask. Taking the monochrome to the streets, as it were, Dadson painted a formerly green lawn – complete with a white picket fence – over with black paint, demarcating a particular area with his treatment. His photographs of the lawns he has painted black or white, take on a kind of political undertone – as if he had planted a flag of sorts – inflecting his monochrome with the significance of borders and boundaries. Another photograph, which upon cursory glance appears to be shot in black and white, is in fact a colour print of a pile of non-descript, discarded objects, that the artist has spray painted in a dark grey. He has applied this treatment to the backdrop as well as the ground in front of the objects, creating a monochrome of the real world. In the foreground, hints of green grass creep through betraying some of the original colour of the scene he has tried to disguise. Although a modest exhibition with less than ten works on view, Dadson’s curiously category-defying efforts are definitely worth a view.