Michael Dell | Even Now
5 – 24 Nov
A palpable stillness runs through the paintings by Michael Dell in his third solo exhibition with Föenander Gallery. Next to his subtle gradient paintings, Dell’s eerie landscapes are static and unoccupied. Subject and non-subject are rendered with the same meticulous treatment, where the formal distinction between representation and abstraction becomes irrelevant.
Dell pays consistent attention to the picture surface through his repeated process of addition and erasure. Fibre and fine irregularities in the linen substrate emerge and draw the eye. Such mark making is not a reduction of painterly gesture to achieve anonymity of the artist, rather, it is a process that cultivates an ambiguity towards the representational subject. Based on locations in the region of the artist’s home in Nelson, Dell’s placid pastoral landscapes bisected with roads feel familiar, though they could also be anywhere or nowhere at all. Behind the worked and muted surfaces the landscape becomes detached from narrative, like a faded memory, unanchored in time.
The exhibition’s title ‘Even Now’ suggests a continuation, without a beginning or an end. It may refer to the cyclical, regenerative state of nature, as separate from and indifferent to the stories we construct around it. Dell’s nature resists personification. He creates a passive and impartial space, where the search for meaning is flattened and challenged by the materiality of the picture surface and the pairing of the pictorial with the abstract. Uniting these works is a quiet tension between surface and subject. Dell’s paintings sit comfortably within this tension, at ease in a representational limbo.