Tuesday, 21 June 2011


    MEDICI GALLERY, LONDON     21.6.11
This image doesn’t do justice to the depth and richness of the original oil painting, but it captures beautifully the sweep of light and the echo of faded beauty in a room which has clearly been witness to many a jollification. Rupert Dixon's work – which often features unnamed and unpopulated grand villas, ballrooms and palaces - has an ethereal, dreamlike quality. The artist has been described as having ‘an almost Dickensian sense of light and darkness’. 

By distancing the room from its intended purpose we feel a sense of loss, but it allows our imagination to move around the space without let or hindrance.  He takes images of interiors that he likes, then rips them up and recreates something which is partly abstract, as if leaving us with a canvas for our own imagination. He sometimes uses a mixed medium of gouache and heritage colours, household emulsion, oil on canvas, matt and gloss, intending the work to be both finished and unfinished.

This painting is in the Medici Gallery's exhibition The Influence of Historicism, referring back to artistic styles of the past, often a return to classicism and architectural subjects. The paintings I saw were accompanied by extracts from Lord Byron’s Childe Harold Pilgrimage, Canto the Third. I confess I cannot recall reading Byron but have a daughter who is an expert so I hope she’s got it right...

‘Tis the last remnant of the wreck of years,
And looks as with the wild-bewildered gaze
Of one to stone converted by amaze;
Yet still with consciousness; and there it stands
Making a marvel that it not decays.

I saw this work shortly before I went to the breath-takingly original Magical Consciousness exhibition at the Arnolfini Gallery in Bristol. That’s more than a short walk from my flat (Paddington station is near enough but after that you need a train...). I thought of this work when I read some words of the philosopher Vilem Flusser, who suggests that there is more potential to touch reality in the act of looking in itself, than in what is actually being looked at or read in a descriptive text. The latent potential is your imagination.  I

Dixon’s painting is from a current series called A State of Interiors. An arresting title. ‘State’ has so many associations: a nation, a statement, stateliness - perhaps even  our own ‘state of mind’ or ‘state of grace’?

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