Sumer is pleased to present Autumn 1989, an exhibition of paintings on paper by Julian Dashper. The exhibition comprises of a selection of previously unexhibited works which were produced across a few months in the earlier half of 1989.
In many respects these paintings represent a pivotal moment or juncture within Dashper’s career. In these works we see the loose painterly abstraction that typified his paintings of the mid-to-late Eighties, with the emergence of new hard-edge elements; most notable of these being the various concentric circles. To those familiar with Dashper’s work it goes without saying that circles are recurrent forms central to much of his work. Be it a target, a drumhead, a record, a chain link, an “O”, a “0” or some other object, the circle in its varying incarnations is the visual form or motif that dominates his artistic production above than any other for the following two decades, the remainder of his life.
When one thinks of Dashper’s work there is a tendency to divide his oeuvre in two distinct groups of work: the energetic and playful early paintings, and his later work, characterised by a cool post-minimal pop aesthetic. Within this is an assumed point of rupture, and certainly the notion of a radical shift is something that the artist himself would have most likely endorsed*. Certainly his work did change markedly shortly after this date, and when considering his practice as whole, what is perhaps most significant about these works, as with others of this period, is that they provide something of a conduit between the artists’ two seemly disparate modalities*. This is not to say that such works challenge the artist’s abrupt change, but rather in these works we can see the artist’s adoption of motifs and formal elements which would remain present in his work for the rest of his career, whilst operating largely within a painterly style for which he would soon abandon.
Of course appearances only tell part of the story with Dashper’s work. And while his working methodology would change drastically, the enquiry and those ideas grounding his work were more continuous. As many have previously stated, Dashper’s work from the very start functioned as an enquiry. A deep thinker, his work interrogating his own context as an professional artist, as a painter: speaking to narratives sometime grand, and other times personal and esoteric. His work most often reflected upon painting from a New Zealand perspective—speaking of New Zealand society, its artistic and cultural production and its market. It spoke of a context informed by both conditions of colonialism and geographic isolation; to New Zealand’s regionalism; to the competing forces of internationalism and parochialism; and of the idiosyncratic and aberrant forms of modernism which developed here.
Through Dashper’s work we are provided with clear, inspired and genuine critical voice which spoke to both art and society—of irony, paradox and serendipity. His work reflected upon his upbringing, his education, his day job, his encounters with family, friends, and peers, and for those artists and art figures from here and elsewhere which he revered. What was unique about Dashper’s critique, whilst thoughtful and considered, it was also one that was characteristically witty, light-hearted and kind.
Julian Dashper was born in Auckland, New Zealand in 1960. Dashper graduated with a BFA from the University of Auckland in 1982 and has exhibited widely on an international scale. His work has been the subject of a number of major New Zealand retrospectives, including Julian Dashper & Friends, City Gallery Wellington (2015) and Julian Dashper: Professional Practice, Gus Fisher Gallery, Auckland (2010). In 2001 he was awarded a Senior Fullbright Scholarship to visit the University of Nebraska and Chinati Foundation in Marfa as an artist-in-residence. Julian Dashper died in Auckland 30 July 2009.
Julian Dashper’s work appears courtesy of the Julian Dashper Estate, Michael Lett and Fine Arts, Sydney.
* His 2005 mid-career survey and most his comprehensive monograph Midwestern Unlike You and Me only included works from the early Nineties on.