A new 'Offcut' series from Welfe Bowyer ~ View HERE ~

Spilling Heavy Water Christian Dimick

KAUKAU presents Spilling Heavy Water, a solo exhibition by Christian Dimick. 

Extract of accompanying text below by Emil Scheffmann. Full text available here

“Abstraction is the hardest art to write about.” I write this at the outset of my fourth draft. How could a word possibly come to a mark, a colour, a form and not diminish it, not trap it in the specificity of language?

I asked a senior painter to help me, “How would you write about abstraction?” Their reply was short, “I wouldn’t”. Noting the movement of my palm to my face, they elaborated with a little hope. “If you going to write about abstraction – and let’s be clear, ‘abstraction’ as you’re referring to it, does not exist – your only viable pathway is to engage process and procedure within the practice.” I sighed and complained, “anything but that, I hate writing about process in art.” A shrug of their shoulders told me to suck it up.

The senior painter had also given me a new problem. Abstraction does not exist. The painter spoke about the historically constituted and myriad genres of abstraction, which together form an almost complete vocabulary of marks, nulling a genuine operation of ‘abstraction’. To speak of abstraction is, at best, to imply a verb that is ethereal and disjointed, with no internal coherence.

I might not know what it is, but I know what it can do. When it’s working, abstraction can leave a person speechless, upturned, and dumbfounded. These are joyful states of being, though miserable for a commissioned writer. For the gallerist, it’s not so bad. I recently sold one of Christian’s paintings, and all I had to do was point at it and say, “God, it’s good, huh?” When abstraction is working, it is self-evident, and no explanation from the artist or gallerist is needed. In fact, words are downright hazardous.

I travelled through the scraps of writing from Christian’s studio, looking for answers. If there’s a procedural retelling of the practice, it should be found there. I spend a lot of time in artist studios. Properly understood, these places are crime scenes that tell a story of making. Evidence from Christian’s studio suggests that the practice constellates around words, drifting in and out of notations and paint. Across the paintings of Spilling Heavy Water, there is an emerging syntax of marks and a lingering desire for representation to occur. It is clear that Christian is always reworking, revisiting, repainting, re - re - re, the reiterative processes of a painter who shows up every day to stare at the canvas. That’s the process; that’s the procedure – and it’s not what I want to say.

I don’t have anything coherent to say about these paintings, but I do have a lot of incoherent things that I’d like to say. And maybe that’s more honest, more dumbfounded in the way that abstraction (whatever it is) should make us feel.