the RMIT Project
26 September – 14 October 2005
Curated by David Thomas
Christoph Dahlhausen [Germany]
CHRISTOPH DAHLHAUSEN AND JOHN NIXON: THE RMIT PROJECT
BEGINNINGS/MEETINGS/AUTOBAHNS AND ART
The origins of this project started in Cologne in October 2003, when I was introduced to Christoph Dahlhausen by my dealer Conny Dietzschold. Our discussions have continued since, from Würzburg to Basel, from Bonn to Melbourne on autobahns, via email, in print form, through exhibitions and in person…amid the world.
I was delighted to invite him to participate in the AIR program at RMIT. Peter Westwood and Louiseann Zahra not only encouraged this, but helped extend the idea by suggesting an exhibition where his work could be seen in relation to that of an Australian artist.
John Nixon was a natural choice.
Both artists have exhibited together in Europe but never in Australia.
In 2003–4 they had major solo exhibitions; John Nixon at ACCA in Melbourne, Christoph Dahlhausen at the Kunstmuseum Bonn.
These important exhibitions not only attracted new audiences to their work, but highlighted a growing interest in new contemporary art informed by concrete and non-objective art practices.
EXTENSIONS AND RELATIONSHIPS DIFFERENCES AND SIMILARITIES
Rather than a collaboration, I viewed “The RMIT Project” as an opportunity for these two internationally respected artists to reveal their work and practice together in the site of the Project Space, to place their works in relationship to each other within a gallery, within the academy, with all the freedom and constrictions that this entails.
Given their vast experience and my respect for their work my role as curator was simple. Let them work and trust them to evolve new possibilities that permitted the similarities and differences of process, content and materiality to become apparent. Through this diversities of readings can be extended: two silver monochromes can signify very different things.
Dahlhausen and Nixon have succeeded in producing an exhibition of rare clarity. One that is hopeful, positive, direct and not cynical. Their work reveals clear and informed understandings of the conditions and contingencies of its manufacture.
REFLECTIONS ON THE MATTER OF LIGHT (VERTICALS)
Christoph Dahlhausen uses glass, over and under which fields of hard edge colour are created through the application of materials photographic paper, mounting film (foils), mirroring and techniques including sandblasting, layering and juxtapositioning. These create artworks where formal geometric interventions, rhythms, intervals, opacities and transparencies are placed in the world. The nature of glass reflects, enabling light as “lux and lumen,” to coexist amid the movements and images in the real world. Materiality and the representation are manifest as equal realities in the work.
Dahlhausen uses the site of the glass wall / windows of Project Space as support, as a transparent field on which to work. In relationship to this, banded, blasted, mirrored works are attached several centimetres out from and along the wall enabling front /back inside and out, reflections and planes to interweave creating a liminal zone between pictorial and actual space in time.
In Dahlhausen’s work there is an attentiveness to detail, a considered and refined recognition of the artwork as a manifestation of phenomena, language, matter and ideas transmitted through a sensibility in space, time and context.
REFLECTIONS ON COLOUR/MATTERS (HORIZONTALS)
From John Nixon’s repertoire of exhibition practices he has chosen to use the horizontal plane of tables on which to sit his paintings on. The leaning vertical plane of the paintings sits on the horizontal support revealing front, back, the methods of support in this case 4 litre paint tins. From certain viewing positions we see the everyday material reality of the object, from other positions we see painting as a pictorialised surface. Their apparent roughness can be read as a signifier of a natural directness of application, thus emphasising the reality of painting in the world as process and as object. Nixon’s pragmatic and direct approach to doing and being are manifest. Coupled with this work is a large wall based painting in silver.
Nixon’s attention to detail is apparent, edges are left rough and reveal the paints accidental flow. This is no accident; these qualities of matter and flow are constructed amid a considered organised structural system. They signify diverse readings, including a love of painting, of making painting.
His work is the residue of the time of doing, their directness reveals a sensibility, of decision making and an uncanny ability to make the wonder of the ordinary not only visible, but seem extraordinary in its matter–of-factness.
LOOKING ON THE BRIGHT SIDE OF LIFE amid AN EVER EXPANDING UNIVERSE (to paraphrase Monty Python)
The project has grown beyond the site of Project Space. Dahlhausen and Nixon have together produced three editioned screen prints each, printed by Rebecca Mayo, as an important part of the RMIT Project. The 6 works are displayed together in Spare Room. Christoph Dahlhausen’s ideas and works and the project are amplified and extended into time and space through a series of temporary interventions into the surrounds of RMIT.
The physical works are only one of the many important outcomes of the project. Its real import is upon its audience via the issues that the project asks us to consider.
We could see these works of Christoph Dahlhausen and John Nixon as style, we could see them as phenomena, we CAN experience them as sensation and idea, as all of these things. They exist in our present and they help us to recognise our own seeing and constructing of ideas.
The project has enabled students, staff and the broader community of Melbourne to experience the artworks of two important artists, to meet and hear them talk, and to work with them. It has contributed to expanding a community of ideas and connections.
I thank the artists for their commitment and generosity of spirit, the many staff and students of RMIT School of Art for their help, and the many supporters of this project.
Dr David Thomas September 2005
Silkscreen Prints by Christoph Dahlhausen and John Nixon, 2005, edition of 15.
This exhibition project has been made possible by the generous support and enthusiasm of Dr Jeff Pura and Mrs Tammy Pura, Managing Directors of Tammura Colours Pty Ltd, Melbourne.
Through the development of new paint products Jeff and Tammy Pura have been at the forefront of recent changes in painting in Australia and overseas, and in sponsoring this exhibition remain acutely interested and supportive of issues related to contemporary painting.
In agreeing to undertake this project Christoph Dalhausen and John Nixon have enhanced a milieu within the School of Art, RMIT premised on international links and global collaborations. Their substantial contribution to the School is gratefully acknowledged.
Christoph Dahlhausen’s role in the School of Art Artist in Residence Program (AIRP) has been marked by a generous receptivity and enthusiasm towards the School, students and academic staff.
Dr David Thomas’ curatorial role in this project and his strong support of Project Space and Spare Room, the School of Art Gallery and the AIR Program is gratefully acknowledged.
The support and enthusiasm of Professor Elizabeth Grierson, Head of the School of Art, RMIT is gratefully acknowledged in fostering this international residency and exhibition project.
John Nixon is represented by Anna Schwartz Gallery (Melbourne, Australia)
Christoph Dahlhausen is represented by Conny Dietzschold Gallery (Sydney, Australia)