- Artist Talk -
An Interview with Rodney Dickson in May
You have come to counter your strong color with white. What is the reason for this and what special significance does white hold for you?
For a number of years the main aim in my work has been to paint light. I have tried this in a number of ways such as working on the contrast between light and dark but in my most recent work I am only thinking of light, therefore to go towards predominantly white paintings seems an obvious direction. At least this could be part of an answer to this question, from an aesthetic point of view. Another reason is that my wife killed herself on March 26th 2016 and since then everything in my life has changed. The first few days after her death I thought I would never paint again, there seemed no point in continuing but after a few days I felt very strongly that I would continue as it seemed to be the only vital thing left in life. It was in fact 3 weeks before I got to paint again and I started with a series of 10 small paintings, predominantly white, which were an outpouring of my raw emotion of that time.
I did not think consciously about why I chose to paint them white, it just seemed a natural thing to do at that time. If there was a concept it could have been to bring light and peace to Juliet in her death for in her life she could not, in the end, find it. Since then my work has continued in this much lighter palette. Perhaps these two reasons put together might be an answer to your question.
Untitled (2017), Oil on board
What is the magic that turns an idea into an artwork?
My motivation to make another painting is usually to attempt to make it better than the last one. When I finish a painting I can say for example, I have gone to the end of that road but not finished the journey, there is always more to discover and learn and the possibilities are endless. In my current work I am not trying to illustrate an idea as my work does not really have a specific subject, so I am not sure that entirely this question applies to me. To answer it in my own way, I can say that my paintings come from inside of me, subconsciously, and they build as I continue over time with the painting and develop my own relationship with the work.
I think some people may refer to my work as being visceral and I might say it is an attempt to reveal something of the human condition. Francis Bacon said something like - painting should affect the nervous system, some people have told me that after spending time with my work it has had this effect on them.
Untitled (2017), Oil on board,
We have a belief that artists don't become who they want to be but, as life unfolds, artists become more of who they are, a truer, more serene self. Art has accompanied you a long way, would you reckon the art of being a artist is to grow with your work, or let the work grow with you?
Would be lovely if the work would grow with me but unfortunately it does not and it can not. I try my best to let a painting evolve naturally and my dream would be for the work to do this entirely by itself. It seems though this can never happen and I have to nurture it; I have to do the work. Seriously though, it is hard to answer your question as it seems to me you are talking about one of the big questions in life, the meaning of life. For all people, artists or not, life has its own path and we go through it as best we can. Presumably we learn along the way and I do hope we can become better with time and experience. I think the best answer I can give here is to say that as I go through life I try to learn and as time passes, this inevitably has its effect. My work changes as I change and I hope that through my work I learn more of an understanding of life and of course the big hope is that my work reveals this. One hopes as an artist that one's work deepens this exploration of the world and the human race.
Untitled (2016), Oil on board
We've read a book by Irish poet and author Pádraig Ó Tuama, he mentioned a old Irish saying, ''you are the place I stand on the day my feet are sore.''("Mo sheasamh ort lá na choise tinne,") It described the tranquility when an argument take place and it being alive. Being an artist, how do the dialogues happen in your heart, and when you are conversing with yourself, are there any arguments?
The great thing about art is that it has no beginning and no end, no rules and no right or wrong, it is perpetually open ended. As well as being a great thing, it also makes life very difficult as one never really knows were one stands and this can drive you kind of crazy or some may take to the drink. Therefore an artist needs to have some level of confidence to be bold enough to go with their own beliefs. For the above reason, an artist's life must be filled with many internal arguments. Having said that, I think as I get older I argue with myself less about these things, and especially since the death of my wife I now think of life in a simpler way.
Untitled (2016), Oil on board
Northern Ireland has a history of intense political conflict. As a child of the North, what particular elements and stories in Northern Ireland shaped you during your childhood? Do you remember what gave you the most fun when you were a kid?
Growing up in N. Ireland during 'the troubles' had a profound effect on people living through it. It gave us a critical view of the norms of society - politics, religion and in my case this led to my becoming an artist, some kind of outsider apart from that world. In the beginning, I felt my work was something through which I could explore the psychology of the troubles and years later this led to my work in Vietnam. I think that what I took out of it is a need to treat people with kindness, I think that is the most important thing. Also in relation to my art work it gave me a belief in never giving up on any struggle. Even if one knows one will never be completely successful, one must continue to try. This probably relates directly to my painting and what I have said here previously. My greatest pleasure when I was a kid? It is riding motorbikes, was then - is now.
Untitled (2016), Oil on board
In your present stage of life, what are the things that you might long for but have not yet happened upon?
I would like to paint better, that has always been my aim in life but right now and given what has happened recently in my life, I would like more than anything else to be able to speak with Juliet again. I guess that will not happen so I will just concentrate on the painting instead.