Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : December 8th 2013 Contents B30
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt December 8, 2013
In Rex Dixon s latest exhibition, The Death
of Painting: Returning Painting to its Essence,
he questions the demise of the practice of
using brush and pigments and insists that
painting is still a justifiable means of com-
"I am not saying painting is dead, but I am
exploring what you can do with it as far as
communication, when you think of what
advertising does, or what videos, films and
performance art do. Painting is competing
with all of these things," said Dixon.
Dixon is not the first person to consider the
collapse of painting. The 19th century French
painter Paul Delaroche is believed to have
declared the death of painting when he saw
early technological inventions in photography.
In 1921 five Russian avant-garde artists said
farewell to painting, pronouncing the practice
obsolete in the context of their society. In
response to the Russian Revolution and the
civil war between Bolshevik and anti-Bolshevik
factions, the artists sought creative forms that
would be practical and useful to everyday life.
Artists like Aleksandr Rodchenko, therefore,
turned to graphic design and photography.
In later years, painting would come under
threat of termination again. The rise of con-
ceptual art in the 1960s in both Europe and
North America, came with less painted images
as ideas took precedence over aesthetic factors
and the form of the finished work.
"Painting was seen at that time as an old-
fashioned way of working," Dixon said. It is
against the background of conceptualism that
Dixon would confront painting s relevance in
his fine arts bachelor s degree thesis entitled
The Death of Painting, which he completed
in 1971 at the Stourbridge College of Art in
West Midlands, England.
Over his 40-year career as an artist, Dixon
has remained focused on the validity of paint-
ing. He has taught in the painting departments
at the New University of Ulster in Belfast,
Northern Ireland and at the Edna Manley
School of Visual Arts in Jamaica. He has also
exhibited his work both regionally and inter-
In our present-day context, Dixon s concern
about the potency of painting is still the subject
of much discussion. For example, art critic
Jed Perl writes in his recent article The Rec-
tangular Canvas is Dead: "Painting, which for
centuries reigned supreme among the visual
arts, has fallen from grace [...]. Which is not
to say that painting is dead, or dying, or even
in eclipse: excellent paintings have been done
in the last few years [...].
"But the painter s basic challenge, the
manipulation of colours and forms and
metaphors on the flat plane with its almost
inevitably rectangular shape, is no longer gen-
erally seen as art s alpha and omega, as the
primary place in the visual arts where meaning
and mystery are believed to come together."
It is precisely this basic challenge of the
painter that Dixon takes up in his new body
of work. He presents us with his evolved style,
one that has moved from a largely gestural
approach to the consideration and incorpo-
ration of strong geometric shapes: rectangles,
triangles, diamonds and parallelograms. His
new paintings are a mix of chance---letting
the paint do what it wants---with more con-
trolled treatments of the surface of the canvas
in a technique that demonstrates his manip-
ulation of form to produce works with varying
degrees of spatial depth.
In a number of his pieces, dark triangles
can be interpreted as deep openings into which
we can fall. He destabilises the two-dimen-
sional surface so that in many instances it
loses it flatness.
"All of the paintings are about space in the
picture plane. I think I am playing with surface
and depth," Dixon said.
He also engineers colour placement in this
series of paintings so that we get the effect
of simultaneous contrast, that is, he positions
colours side by side so that they interact and
affect the value and intensity of each other.
In his masterminding of form and colour he
skillfully shows painting s communicative
He cleverly expresses the transition from
dawn to dusk in the piece Morning Noon and
Night, he conveys the kinetic energy, the rise
and crash of water in the painting Breaking
Wave, and he articulates a silhouetted palm
tree in the tropical heat without stereotypical
picturesqueness in his piece called Palm.
While his paintings are created in an eco-
nomical, almost minimalist manner, they speak
volumes. Images of chevrons and parallel lines
in his art call to mind road signs: pedestrian
crosswalks and traffic symbols among others,
which do the work of communicating infor-
mation to us. Seeming to draw on those signs,
Dixon illustrates the capacity of painting to
relay data and to be full of meaning. It is this
essence to which he returns in this exhibition.
Today, amid the plethora of computer art
and other forms of expression, Rex Dixon is
doing his part to ensure that painting has a
heartbeat. Painting is not dead, and Dixon
continues to draw breathe from its existence
"I maintain painting as an activity, and I
keep myself alive in it by changing my style
a lot," he said.
The Death of Painting opened on
November 22 at Soft Box Gallery, 9
Alcazar Street, St Clair, and continues
until December 21. Gallery hours: Mon-
Fri 10 am-6 pm, and Sat 10 am-2 pm.
CALL: 622-8610 or e-mail:
Is painting dead?
Marsha Pearce ruminates on Rex Dixon's latest works
Visual Artist Rex Dixon.
PHOTOS: MARSHA PEARCE
Breaking Wave, by Rex Dixon.
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