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Wave Gardens
September 25 – October 30, 2021

Nino Mier Gallery is pleased to present Wave Gardens, our first exhibition with Canadian artist Andrew Dadson.  This exhibition is composed of works that bring a newfound, painterly formalism to his longstanding interest in the relationship between time, material, and the natural world.  Nine new paintings will be on view in Los Angeles from September 25 to October 30, 2021.

Questions concerning what constitutes ‘the natural’ in a world wherein social contracts are constantly shaping geology, ecology, and environment are central to Dadson’s practice.  In this suite of works, the artist works through such issues by turning to and reimagining the genre of landscape painting, employing titles named after the waves and beaches the artist draws inspiration from.  But whereas the plein air painters of the 19th century represented the content of a landscape through the medium of painting, Dadson collapses such an artistic divide.  More precisely, Dadson’s medium-specific, formalist approach to landscape aims not to re-present water and earth as one might see them in the flesh.  Rather, it aims to construct canvases that themselves serve as small topographies.  His surfaces become landscapes more so than they mime them. 

This body of work marks a watershed moment in Dadson’s career, as he focuses more intently on the materiality of paint.  In recent years, his practice has included sculpture, installation, and – most significantly – photography.  His large format digital photographs depicting swaths of land painted in monochrome have been exhibited widely and testify to his study of nature as it is shaped by human and societal touch, while his series of painted, domesticated plants that flourish under artificial light testify to the uncanny nature of the “tamed” natural world.  His recent paintings, however, represent the processes of natural, ecological creation as transfigured through paint. 

When viewed from afar, many of the paintings in Wave Gardens resemble the curved patterns that form on sand after waves break ashore.  Hypnotic, repetitive curves and earthen shadowing freeze the effects of the waning and waxing of the tides on sand. When viewed up close and at an angle, however, his impasto resembles not the smooth ripples of sand, but rather the geologic corrosion that might occur after centuries of elemental force, or the crests of hills and mountains that form as tectonic plates smash together beneath our feet. 

Dadson’s aesthetic interest in the effects of slow, geologic time is reflected in his process.  The paintings in Wave Gardens are a kind of palimpsest, built up over long periods.  The repetitive, time-worn gesture of the paint’s application creates a density of material and history, reflecting natural processes of hill, mountain, and valley formations on the Earth’s surface.  After conceiving of a base form – usually a series of waves or curves – the artist slathers paint on his canvases in tens of layers.  Because of the thickness of the oil and acrylic paint, each discrete layer can take weeks to dry.  Not only does each layer of paint correspond to a different period in the painting’s development, but the residue of material produced while painting is visible on the canvas, too.  The artist wipes off excess paint from the knife’s blade onto the canvas, creating what seem like small islands that spot the work’s surface.  In this way, the entire history of each painting can bubble up to the surface.  All features of Dadson’s process are rendered visible and no material is wasted; it is just formed and re-formed. 

The monochromatic or dichromatic surfaces of Dadson’s large Wave canvases and smaller Beach canvases rupture with frequency, revealing the panoply of hues beneath the surface.  His use of color gives great depth to his paintings, as it evokes the glinting, reflective, shimmering peaks that shift on the water’s surface when light sources are directed at it.  Dadson is most drawn towards representing the soft, shimmering tones produced by moonlight or the setting sun.  Functioning like an anchor, Silver Moon has a magnetizing effect, balancing the panoply of color and line in his Wave and Beach works with its minimal, monochromatic canvas that evokes the outline of a moon and its reflection below. 

But Dadson’s use of color is not merely beautiful and soothing to the eye, as a classical seascape might be; it also points to environmental toxicity.  Central to Dadson’s exhibition – and his practice at large – is the interrelatedness of human society and what we distinguish, oftentimes sentimentally, as nature.  The paintings in Wave Gardens are composed with a keen eye for the environmental sublime, an aesthetic that Emily Brady articulates as evincing a specific aesthetic-moral relationship between humans and the natural environment.  Surely, the bright pinks and muddied chartreuse tones in Drifting Wave are not quite gently beautiful or bucolic.  But they are natural: at the time of the exhibition’s opening, there are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris in the ocean.  Dadson’s paintings are attuned to this impurity of landscape, reminding viewers that so much of what falls into the classic categories of the beautiful and the sublime are forever touched by human growth and waste, accretion and detritus.

Andrew Dadson (b.1980) has had recent solo exhibitions at Daniel Faria Gallery, Toronto (2019), 313 Art Project, South Korea (2019), Gallery Unit 17, Vancouver (2019), Galleria Franco Noero, Turin (2017), Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver (2017), RaebervonStenglin, Zurich (2016), and David Kordansky Gallery (2015).   Dadson is currently nominated for the Artisti Frescobaldi Art Prize in Florence, Italy.