Howard Dyke 'Dance of the Techno Polar Bear' 

5. Jun - 28. Jun 09 / ended Acme Project Space

12pm - 6pm, Thursday to Sunday

Exhibition | Painting | London

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Howard Dyke 'Natascha' 2009 [detail of work in progress]

Howard Dyke 'Natascha' 2009 [detail of work in progress]

'Dance of the Techno Polar Bear' combines process painting and Expressionism via a Pop sensibility, re-evaluating 80s Neo-Expressionism.

Dyke begins with the image of the Burka or hijab-clad figure and expands the symbology; relating to the Madonna of Western art, dressed in a veil of our times, she presents a conflicted image, ubiquitous in the press and cosmopolitan cities. She is a celebrity and also, paradoxically, anonymous.

Dyke sees the paintings’ real subject as constructions hidden by or revealed beneath drapery. In luscious colour, the physicality of the paint drips over an image-structure which acts as a ‘scaffold’ or rationale for the paint. The paint, like the veil, conceals and reveals; it becomes the fetishistic veil. Dyke moves towards transcending the subject, allowing spontaneity and chance to work through the process and the framework.

How to negotiate expression in an era of mediated emotion and alienation?

“Never be afraid to cough up a bit of diseased lung for the spectators... How are people ever going to help themselves if they can’t grab onto a fragment of your own horror?...”1

Gesture takes the place of a literal narrative. Dyke meditates on the Burka - an idea of repression, of subjection - the figure, the facial expression; perhaps expression enabled through restriction. Gestural marks are contained by a rigorous framework and disciplined approach, however there is a move away from the restraint of the clothing, a desire to escape.

The imagery transforms. Veiled women become mountains or airplanes or even 50s sci-fi figures in spacesuits. Textures change from soft fabric to hard reflective surfaces, then become dripping paint again. There is a discernible cartoonishness. The titles knowingly blend cultural references: Guston’s Klansmen, religious painting, as well as celebrity stardom are present in ‘Ikkkon’; Nigella Lawson meets Rauschenberg, de Kooning and 70s feminism in ‘Domestic Goddess Combine Painting’.

The most recent work, which emerges out of the veiled women paintings, achieves disruption of the support having reached a point of collapse, dissolving or transcending of the image/structure. The actual support, the fabric ground, takes the place of the image and diversifies as Dyke uses various patterned fabrics. The marks become more diffuse, responding to the ground. It seems as though the point of view has become so close up the figure cannot be seen. The figure is the paint, the gesture; the veil is absorbed and internalised. Panels are montaged together to create new relationships and junctures, thresholds and joinings, opening up the paintings and forming dialectics between them.

This overview of the past year hangs across two rooms which mark a transition, diversifying or zooming in, as the focus of Dyke’s painting moves from clothing to fabric, image-structure to a fascination with the seams.

Stephanie Moran 2009

1 Douglas Coupland, Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture, 1991

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