Published by Lisa Kehler Art + Projects.
The following interview took place between Derek Dunlop and Winnipeg-based writer, artist, and dj, Hannah Godfrey.
hannah_g: Let’s start with the basics: paint. The paint that you are using for these works is important and particular. Could you talk about the manufacturer of this paint and what makes it unique?
Derek Dunlop: For the most part, these paintings were made using Williamsburg Handmade Oil Colours. I started using them in the summer of 2014 when I was artist in residence with the Golden Foundation for the Arts in upstate New York. During the residency, I was able to experiment with all the material that GOLDEN makes. Williamsburg Oils are all handmade in small batches. They were developed by the artist Carl Plansky in the 1980’s and GOLDEN took over producing them in 2010 after Plansky passed away. The paint is produced in a very traditional way. The grind of the pigments in each colour reflects how best that colour will appear when mixed with the binder. As a result, each colour has a unique texture, mass, sheen, density, brightness, and depth. The paint is close to what early paint manufacturers would have produced before the over-commodification and industrialization of artist supplies in the 20th century. In my experience, only oil can achieve the subtle effects of colour that I seek.
hg: These particular paints with their individual textures and properties are fundamentally anti-generic, and this seems in line with a queer practice. Taking and then queering colours is subversive and expansive: what does it mean to queer colour?
DD: I’m not entirely sure what it means to queer colour. And I’m not entirely sure that I am queering colour. I started producing work for this show by researching colour. I’ve produced about a dozen different colour charts. Some of the paintings have up to seventy-two colours on one canvas. I do think a lot about the historical value of colour and its materiality. I think about how our feelings towards colours have histories, how they are subjective and yet still specific. Many of the paintings in this exhibition explore ambiguous colours with a paired-down palette. These colours are created by mixing complementary colours in order to create shades of grey, and then altering the tone.
hg: These works have more overt emotion in them, there’s a different kind of search happening. What has influenced your trajectory to this point?
DD: My process is becoming less systematic and slightly more poetic. I give myself more room to move. Many of the paintings in the show deal with a very basic compositional strategy of creating a square out of a rectangle, and then improvising with materials in order to express a thought or feeling. It isn’t predetermined. In terms of abstraction, I am interested in process and form equally. How can a way of working complicate and expand our ideas about subjectivity?
hg: The emotion in the work is rooted, of course, in your body which also contains your deep engagement with art history and the history of painting in particular, queer theory, social politics. Your gestures with paint and your choices of colour are intuitive here but that intuition is grounded in rigour. Was it difficult to adopt this process? What were the stakes?
DD: I am constantly responding to my materials, and often there is a compromise between how I want my materials to perform and how they are performing. My most successful paintings go through moments of creation and destruction. I acknowledge the double bind that exists within contemporary painting practice: the desire to paint mixed with the recognition of the limitations of the material. My desire to paint is guided by how it relates to my drawings, and where drawing and painting overlap. Both practices represent a kind of longing and a desire for transformation: a longing for visibility and a longing for invisibility.
hg: What role did your body play in these paintings?
DD: Touch is important to my process. I often think about embodied knowledge. How do we find value in other forms of knowledge? What does this knowledge look like? How are social forces embedded in the body, and how do they find material form?
hg: The space which the paintings create within themselves and within the viewer demands conscious involvement in both spheres. It is a complex experience that involves a degree of surrender and of trust. Does this mirror your state when you produced them?
DD: Trust is very important when considering a work of art. There are so few common registers these days for determining value in art. That’s probably a good thing. I put a lot of trust in my process. I trust my instincts. My process has developed over time. Each series relates to the one before.
hg: Are you asserting a radical approach to the tangled act of looking?
DD: I value difficulty. Which is probably more closely linked to a modernist project than what is happening in contemporary art. Cultural information, including art, is communicated in simple ways. The concept of difficulty has an important role to play in the creation and reception of artworks. Not difficulty for the sake of isolating the viewer, but as a technique for interrogating how objects generate meaning.
A weekly radio show broadcast every Tuesday, 10.30pm, on CKUW, 95.9 fm
Hosted by hannah_g with guest writers & music lovers. 30 minutes of ideas and music.
Original Stories based on This City & Elsewhere, Essays & Letters that attempt to Comprehend The Insignificant and Too Large, and Music from a Juxtapostastic Collection of Known, New, Answered, & Fated.
17 May 2016: A story by Eric Plamondon
10 May 2016: Music to bring back the sun: a mix by the Monkey
3 May 2016: With Sufficient Distance: extracts from an essay by Jeanette Johns
26 April 2016: Drinking The Finger Bowl: an essay by Alex King
12 April 2016: The In Betweens: an essay by Alison James
5 April 2016: Where Are All The Textile Artists? an essay by Jennifer Smith
22 March 2016: The Landscape Of Death– an essay by Tricia Wasney
15 March 2016 : Tolstoy Gets Lyrical- a reading.
9 March 2016: Baby Class– an essay by Esther Simmonds MacAdam
22 February 2016: Valdes The Barber: a story by hannah_g
9 Feburary 2016: The Scarf of Doom- Fundrive special. A story by hannah_g
26 January 2016: Poetry reading: Ted Hughes, Joanne Epp, Carol Ann Duffy
19 January 2016: ThinkCog by Kevin Doole
12 January 2016: Skating: a story by hannah_g
5 January 2016: A Week In Martinique – an essay by hannah_g
24 November 2015: Why Matthew Sawatsky Is Not Like Gertrude Stein– an essay by C. Graham Asmundson
17 November 2015: Remembering Music – an essay by hannah_g
What Song Grabbed You By The Heart & Got You Into Music? – a mix by BossRoss
10 November 2015: a mix by Craig Claire
3 November 2015: on Loving Bodies– an essay by Victoria King
3 November 2015: Poetry Readings & Music- selections by Matthew Sawatsky
27 October 2015: Halloween Hauntings In The Home: Horror & Interior Design
an essay and mix y Hannah Nutmeg Crosson
20 October 2015: Lost Souls an essay by Liberty Karp. Mix by hannah_g.
13 October 2015: Witches & Feminism an essay and mix by Helga Jakobson
6 October 2015: Brushes With The Supernatural a ramble by hannah_g
29 September: Nanny Odjig & The Gleaners by hannah_g
22 September: Nanny Odjig by hannah_g (a story in response to Tiverton Museum artefacts)
15 September: A Few Notes On Loneliness by hannah_g
8 September: Summer, Autumn, September- David Cain and Ronald Duncan from The Seasons; ‘I loved you’- by Alexander Pushkin
1 September: For Amusement Only– an essay and mix by Courtney R. Thompson
24 August: Marital Dissolution & The Art Of Confession– an essay by Bryan Goertz
Songs of failure; songs of hope – a mix by Bryan Goertz
18 August: Poems by A. Nowlan and Jesse Matas
11 August: A Few Notes On Pain an essay by hannah_g
Natalie Daoust: A Cracked Spider Egg an essay by hannah_g
Watermelon ice cream by hannah_g
Canoeing with Avi by hannah_g
100% Birgitta by hannah_g
Being Watched an essay by hannah_g
Travel Shorts: 31J; Cristina; Dawn Chorus by hannah_g
Greek, Iranian, Tanzanian, Jamaican, & Chinese folk music mix.
Poems: Train Journey by Judith Wright; Adlestrop by Edward Thomas
Essay: I Want A Train by Jamie Wright
Response: New Zealand vs China – The Hadron Effect by hannah_g
Essay: Authority, Power, and Evan Soloman by hannah_g
Poems: Frank O’Hara & Elizabeth Bishop
Essay: Feeling A Little Queer by hannah_g
Essay: Listening to Tennis by hannah_g
Extract from Chicago Of The North- I, by hannah_g
Essay: “Dwell. Separate. (Upon Estate: A Reverie)”, by hannah_g
Response: Natasha Torres Garner solo, Vampire Alberta Blues, by hannah_g
Extract from Chicago Of The North- II, by hannah_g
Essay: “Micro Mobility”, by hannah_g
Response: Steven Leyden Cochrane’s exhibition, Screen Wall at RAWGallery
Response: Rosemary Scanlon’s exhibition, X-ray Lake, KIAC, by hannah_g
Extract from Chicago Of The North- III, by hannah_g
Essay: A Bolt, by hannah_g
Extract from Chicago Of The North- IV, by hannah_g
Manitoba Writers’ Guild AGM , Winnipeg, November 2014
Negative Space, Winnipeg, Spring, 2012
PLATFORM: centre for digital + photographic arts, Winnipeg, August 2011
Landsdowne Prize for Poetry, supporting reader, Winnipeg, February 2011
Aqua Books, Winnipeg, July 2010
Folk Tales At The Scout Hut, Bristol, August 2008
The Cube Microplex, Bristol, 2005
Cafe Kafka, Vienna, April 2004
warm Winnipeg nights
fall like goose down,
dogs poke them with their noses;
chase, fetch, drop.
They fritter them with wagging.
I will collect the ones I find
for a quilt
big enough for two,
big enough for the longest winter.