Lives and works in Sydney
Represented by nanda\hobbs
13 April — 29 April 2023
Jonathan Dalton is an enigmatic artist who challenges his audience to see past the obvious. His painting is a beautiful labyrinthine of shifting perceptions. There is an intricate precision in his compositional methodology—the subjects are flawlessly rendered, drawing the eye into the complex theatricality of his mind. Technically, his treatment of the painted subjects is a seductive play on the audience's eagerness to recognise the three-dimensionality of form within the picture plane. Through the artist's hand, the reflective qualities of light on metal, of the bending of forms in water, become real rather than representational to our literal seeking eyes.
In The Black Swan and Other Lost Poems, Dalton’s provocative storytelling is at its best. In visual terms, he provides us with enough pictorial information to become comfortable, before turning the world as it exists on its head. He leads us into a place where everything is not as it initially seems. This is a metaphor-rich exhibition—Dalton’s narratives are gifts from the history of humanity's apparent rational thought—an endless supply of contradictions, absurdities, and failed truths—providing a rich vein for the artist to mine.
A central tenant to the exhibition is the black swan—imaged in origami form—a vision of aesthetic perfection. From the time of the Romans in the first century CE, the black swan was regarded as a mythological absurdity in Europe, where the endemic colour of swans is white. The depth of this belief ran through all strata of society and helped reinforce many societal norms about the impossibility of a particular event taking place.
The European exploration of the Southern Oceans in the 1600’s and 1700’s led to the consequential realisation that black swans had in fact always existed in Australia. The experience has become a philosophical trope for our ability to be so sure about something yet so wrong, and then justify the error with the rewriting of the historical narrative. The outlier becomes the norm as the black swan has escaped the captivity of the human mind.
The submersion of the once revered objects of man's inventive mind—film cameras, rotary dial phones—now inhabits the fishbowl. Through this vessel, the artist magnifies the relentless surge we have for acquiring new technologies and experiences, only to have them discarded as trinkets of a pre-digital age. Here in the present, important objects of the past inhabit a watery grave of ambivalent relevance, destined to be investigated—or is it ignored by inattentive goldfish?
The importance of Dalton’s work is in his visual articulation and commentary on contemporary society. He brings into sharp focus the many absurdities of our philosophical convictions. Dalton draws on moments in history throughout this exhibition but asks us; What now? What do we hold as true that is in fact false? We need only open our smartphones to see that the black swan has now made itself well and truly at home in our world.
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