Sunday, 11 December 2016

Katy Dove

What is initially most striking about this retrospective overview of the late Katy Dove's paintings and animations that arrives at the DCA eighteen months after her passing is just how much life bursts from everything on show. From the images of children dancing alongside strips of material that hang outside the main galleries like stills from the drama workshop montage in swinging sixties Brit-flick Georgy Girl, to the kaleidoscopic shadows of her own hands and legs in what turned out to be her final film, Meaning in Action (2013), there is little stillness anywhere in Dove's work.

Pastel-coloured shapes and patterns culled from the unconscious in a series of automatic paintings are gradually given form and definition enough to create a world in constant motion en route to an idyll. This is especially evident in Melodia (2002), a four and a half minute film in which Dove takes a watercolour landscape by her grandfather and breathes swirling life into its skies, seas and other wide-open spaces.

Disembodied numbers and letters occasionally form words as they hang at angles beside, beneath or above each other. There's a musicality at play too throughout the work that is complimented by Dove's use of sound in her films, whether it's environmental ambience, the primitive guttural rhythms of Muscles of Joy, the all-woman musical collective Dove was an integral part of on Welcome (2008), or, at its purest, her own breath.

All of which compliments a rhythmic pulse that seems to leap out of each image into little abstract dances, so Dove becomes as much a choreographer as a painter and film-maker. What is initially instinctive is crafted into something with substance and depth with a symmetry that suggests an inherent performativity which, had Dove lived beyond her forty-four years, might well have developed into actual flesh and blood steps.

In her seemingly simple fusion of fractured language, colour and movement, one is reminded at times of the similarly restless animations that would appear in children's TV show, Sesame Street. Where those had an educational intent, Dove's work seems to take pleasure in the crafting of such multi-faceted material for its own sake.

Such sheer delight can be traced right back to Fantasy Freedom (1999), a ninety-second stop-motion animation made for Dove's degree show while studying at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design in Dundee. Seen next to everything else, the film is akin to Dove taking baby steps before colouring in the bright and beautiful world that followed in everything she created afterwards.

Dundee Contemporary Arts until November 20th; Inverness Museum & Art Gallery, January 7th-February 25th 2017; Thurso Art Gallery & St Fergus Gallery, Wick, March 4th-April 15th 2017.
www.dca.org.uk

Scottish Art News, November 2016

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