Darren Nixon uses the materials and tools of paint to question the function of painting and its relation to other media, incorporating strategies from other practices. On entering the exhibition what first strikes viewers is the arrangement of the paintings. These are arranged as physical structures which can be navigated rather than hanging on the gallery walls. Throughout the duration of the exhibition Nixon reconfigures and reconstructs the existing artwork, creating it to be in a constant state of flux, which consequently allows the work to operate in different states of existence with no definite stage of completion. Nixon works with the potential of painting to explore definitions and ideas, and is interested in ‘what painting does and doesn’t do’. The paintings act as a construction of thinking rather than as a vehicle to communicate a set of ideals or messages. He opens up a debate on not only how people view painting, but how it relates to other media, highlighting both painting’s strengths and limitations.
Dancing and None Dance forms a conversation between two dance styles; one based on contemporary dance, which although abstract in style has definitive movements, the other a personal expression that does not follow a particular style of dance, but rather the artists own interpretation. The piece aims to highlight the limitation of a painting as a static object, however Nixon’s reconfigurations permit it to move in a way it previously couldn’t. This allows it not only to become a visual representation but to act as a physical representation to convey ideas surrounding the medium of dance.
By breaking with the conformity of traditional perceptions of painting, Nixon’s work becomes inherently a vehicle of his thought process, and the paintings rather than being autonomous objects constantly develop. His piece Overheat illustrates this concept perfectly, as it examines the word ‘heat’ and its ambiguity by using its multiple meanings and forms to create a conversation. Nixon depicts variations of the word heat on tent like structures which also communicates a tent’s thermoregulatory properties. Nixon incorporates these layers within the piece, exploring how the word expresses itself in different media, and by freeing the painting from its traditional two dimensional image Overheat becomes a conversation not an expression of the word ‘heat’.
Throughout the exhibition Nixon has collaborated with the photographer Stephen Iles who has documented Nixon’s working process within the gallery and the photographs are presented alongside Nixon’s artworks. The photographs are not intended to act solely as record of Nixon’s working process, but rather they become an artwork in themselves. Iles aims to use the camera ‘to create transparency in which rather than creating a window the image creates a mirror’; in which the images reflect Nixon’s own approach to his paintings. Iles uses the photographs not as a validation of Nixon’s work, but to create a debate or conversation rather than just an image. Ultimately it is the way both Iles and Nixon use their work as part of a visual language to explore the thought and creative processes which makes the exhibition so innovative.
Claire Walker is a writer based in Wigan.
Image courtesy of Stephen Iles and Castlefield Gallery.
Launch Pad: Darren Nixon, Castlefield Gallery, Manchester.
21 May 2015 – 31 May 2015.