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No. 2.

The Alchemy of the Surface: The Paintings of Pip Dickens
by Roy Exley

Catalogue Essay Commissioned

Exhibition: ‘Toward the Light by Pip Dickens’

Solo Touring Exhibition | Bradford Museums & Galleries

ISBN 9780946657650

The first two paragraphs are below - download the complete essay as a PDF . (Essay approx. 2000 words). Alternatively you can purchase a catalogue containing this essay from Cartwright Hall Art Gallery, Bradford, Yorkshire.

telephone 01274 431212

email cartwright.hall@bradford.gov.uk

'The omnipresence of chance: the unpredictable, unavoidable and uncontrollable contingencies always around us and within us, offer variables of which we may be hardly if at all conscious but which nevertheless affect the outcome of everything we do.'
David Batchelor [1]

Painting, as an art form has certain things in common with the transformative science of alchemy, they share an esoteric aura, there are certain secrets, tricks and illusionary effects that they each accumulate through the sequential experiences of experimentation and discovery, they generate intrigue and wonder in equal measure in the viewer or the audience, they both invite us to question our jaded perception of the world. Alchemy has been denounced and disowned, painting has repeatedly been declared dead, however, they still both fascinate, as they empower and seduce our urge to imagine. The realms of possibility have always been more engaging and attractive than the archives of certainty, fact and fiction have always had a complicated relationship within which, nevertheless, divorce is unthinkable. The realm of the possible has always to be anchored in reality, but things only get exciting and unpredictable when possibility begins to drag that anchor, Dickens paintings, it must be said, both stretch possibilities and drag the anchors of expectation.

Detail from Between Wu and Yu, oil on canvas, 152.5 x 152.5 cm, 2010 copyright Pip Dickens

Pip Dickens is an inveterate flirter with the alchemy of paint. In her paintings the hegemony of surface is constantly usurped. If the alchemist was consumed by the desire to convert base metal into gold, then Dickens is consumed by the need to transform a flat two-dimensional surface into a platform from which the access into an ambiguous three-dimensional space can be achieved. Her paintings operate on several levels, however, not just those of dimensionality, but also those of meaning, reference and the aesthetic. The laminae of their complex ontology perform a slow choreography in Dickens'

paintings, we are offered various options as to how to perceive them, there is the abstract, there is the topographical and there is the narrative, each offering us an entry into either the reality of the illusion or the illusions of reality. As in Salome's 'Dance of the Seven Veils', as we accept the invitation to enter into her paintings, Dickens reveals to us layer after layer of meaning, leading to an ultimate essence, the perception of which will always be uniquely our own.

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