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Altered States Of Paint - Peering Through The Doors of Perception

Dundee Contemporary Arts, 5 July-7 September 2008
According to clichéd legend, if you can remember the 1960s, you weren’t really there. The artists taking part in ‘Altered States Of Paint’ who were around then were still in their wide-eyed infancy. The ones who weren’t are barely out of theirs. Which, for a show that posits the gallery space as a portal to leap through en route to self-knowledge, is how it should be. For the spirit of Aldous Huxley’s maxim in his 1954 mind-expanding handbook ‘The Doors Of Perception’ that 'The man who comes back through the Door in the Wall will never be quite the same as the man who went out' to be pursued via painting alone, however, is itself something of a jolt.

“It’s paintings that do something more”, according to curator Graham Domke. “I’ve always been fascinated by this idea of the mad scientist, who look for life’s meaning and take it very seriously, but take it too far. Like in ‘The Man With X-Ray Eyes,’ where initially everything seems great and he can see girls pants, but ends up seeing too much. That’s why the exhibition starts off psychedelic and gradually gets darker.”

So, skipping backwards through the alphabet, Jutta Koether, Till Gerhard, Andreas Dobler, Angela de la Cruz, Neil Clements and Rabiya Choudry aren’t involving themselves in some Stuckist reaction to Conceptualism, but, as with the poets, mystics and psychedelicists who inspired them by way of William Blake leaping into Lewis Carroll’s Looking Glass into Alexander Trocchi’s ‘invisible insurrection of a million minds’, are desperately seeking something. Something other, at that.

Which is why the work in ‘Altered States Of Paint,’ named after Ken Russell’s crazed 1980 sensory overload flick, will appear on walls and doorways, painted as murals, and, in the case of de la Cruz, deliberately twisted, smashed and mangled.

“The show started with Angela’s paintings,” says Domke. “The way she transgresses the canvas and literally breaks on through the paintings and physically pushes herself with it.”

Accompanying the show is a season of films by Kenneth Anger, which sit alongside a set of reference points that include Zachary Lewis’ imagined sixties novel, ‘Sway.’ Also invoked are a bunch of very Scottish counter-cultural icons, from Aleister Crowley and ‘The Wicker Man’ to ‘Performance’ director Donald Cammell. Domke maintains, however, that this is more contemporary than hippy revivalism, something which the presence of Neil Clements, the youngest of the group, testifies to.

Clements has previously shown black-painted shapes based on flamboyantly sculpted guitars. Here, “They are all from the 1980's,” Clements points out, “as opposed to my previous interest in those originally patented by Gibson in 1959. Whereas the original guitars were later adopted by rock musicians, the later generation were made for a market of metal fans.”

“We’re trying to do something less tight-assed with this exhibition,” Domke says. “You can be intelligent and playful about how you do a show. Hopefully it’s going to burn.”

The List, June 2008

ends

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