Rodney Dickson: Paintings For Juliet

Jan 17, 2018 2:09AM


Untitled (2016), Oil on board,  96x60inches

Untitled (2017), Oil on board, 96x60inches

Layers of oil pigments piling on large-scale boards has become a personal symbol of N. Ireland artist Rodney Dickson. In fact, Dickson was famous for his figurative paintings and happening artworks which deeply probed into the traumas of wars before the conversion into pure abstract ones. This could be linked to the artist’s family background, likening the use of oil to the misery and the devastation on the battlefields. However, the conflict and the violence that he experienced in childhood has abated so that he gradually developed a critical viewpoint rising above the regional limitations through the accumulation of cross-continental experiences of exhibition and arts-in-residence programs.

For contemporary artists, the medium is no longer the only criterion for classification and limitation. It always brings to mind Dickson’s pure abstract paintings when it comes to Clement Greenberg’s advocacy of the visual value of the artistic works rather than its literary or historical connection with politics and societies. However, the origin of Abstract Expressionism is by no means the escape way from political issues, and we could not distinguish them from each other easily at the same time; briefly speaking, the interpretation of an artwork is influenced by varied environments in which the creators and viewers exist as well as different experiences that we have undergone, which allows the meanings of the artworks open to reemphasis or transformation.

Untitled(2014), Oil on Board, 121.92x152.4cm

Therefore, if we simply see Dickson’s abstract paintings as his emotional continuation, his state of creating process is highly accentuated. Born in N. Ireland and studying in Liverpool, the capital of the European culture, Dickson moved to New York straight after participating in MoMA PS1 program. The artist is good at depicting individual life experiences from a macroscopic aspect and reflecting the conditions of human beings through paintings. He was not caught in self-compassion caused by his war-torn childhood or lost in national complex; instead, he tried to break the normal perspective of Western-centric interpretation and look for a redemption resonating with divergent meanings.  

Untitled (2016), Oil on board

Dickson creates paintings, installations, and video arts. Abstract oil painting is one of the most significant and representative genres therein. In his early years, the artist mainly painted on large-scale wooden boards in contrast to small size ones recently. His works converge cultural contexts from both the Eastern and Western world, and the struggle from the individual experience and collective memory. In Dickson’s works, we could discover the fullness of colors the Dutch artist Karel Appel displayed, the lava-like texture flowing on its surface as Milton Resnick’s characteristics, and the thick intertwined oil strokes of Eugène Leroy’s. From a technical perspective, the way he continuously built up and shaved oil pigments also reminds us of the philosophy that explores our “inner nature” in the Eastern culture.