A Universal Truth: An Interview With Monica Dixon

A Universal Truth, Monica Dixon’s first solo exhibition in Asia, debuts at the prestigious Art Central Hong Kong from 13 to 16 March 2015.  Touted as the first world-class satellite art fair to Art Basel Hong Kong, Art Central Hong Kong is expected to be one of the large draws of Hong Kong Art Week.  The exhibition will take place in a custom built 100,000 sq ft tent on Central Harbourfront, and is poised to be one of the most highly recognisable fairs in Asia.

In A Universal Truth, Barnadas Huang leverages on Art Central Hong Kong’s stellar reputation to introduce Monica’s oeuvre to some of the most high-profile collectors in the region. 

Born in 1971 in New Jersey, USA, Dixon received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Rutgers University in 1997.  Now based in Asturias, Spain, her paintings have been described in El Mundo, one of the major Spanish newspapers, as “oscillating between fleeting skies, destabilising shadows and great luminosity” and, in La Nueva España, “meticulous and [with] an almost Franciscan concentration”.
Her canvases of solitary houses on anonymous landscapes are painted with painstaking detail.  Drawing inspiration from landscapes that evoke the works of Andrew Wyeth and Edward Hopper, Dixon’s mysterious houses sit calmly on vast plains and at the brink of interstate highways.  As a counterpoint, her interiors present desolate staircases and hallways devoid of the details and context that differentiates a house from a home.

In this interview with Monica, we sit down with her to speak about her past, present and future in the ever evolving art industry.

When did you start painting, and what led you to start painting your exterior and interior pieces?
When I was 13, I signed up for my first art class in a small academy inthe city in which I then lived.
As with life, there different stages in painting, and I have livedthrough many of them.  I started, likemost artists, with still-life to learn how to understand and study the natural, including human figure. But I was not interested in only representing that which I could see with my own eyes.
Over the years I got more interested in minimalism and empty spaces: Just architecture and light, so the pureness stands in contrast to the darkness.  I like the sense of bright light coming from the outside and its effects on the inside.  That is how I started painting my interiors.
As for the metaphysical landscapes (with a lost house in the middle of nowhere), this theme is something I’ve worked on for many years as a need to find myself again.  In painting these landscapes, I feel like I am going back to my roots by identifying and re-creating physically places that only exist in my mind.  They may be a manifestation of the longing for the land in which I was born.

What is your thought process every time before you start a painting?
I usually start with some sketches of an image I have visualised.  When I work on my landscapes, I start with a general idea and I don’t exactly know how it will end.  In a sense, the work constructs itself as I stroke the canvas with colour.  When I create, I just go with the flow, introducing essences of myself and my life in the painting as I go along.
For my interiors, I sometimes take photographs of places that are appealing to me and then start from there. Other times, I imagine the scene in my head, clarifying my thoughts with sketches and studying the position of the light and how it affects the interior.  This is quite challenging, and is something I enjoy.

What would you say has been your biggest influence as a painter?
When I was little, I used to watch my mother paint with watercolours.  She did that only sometimes but it left an impact on me. Her father (i.e., my grandfather, whom I never met) used to paint too, although not professionally.  Many of his paintings hung on our walls, so I think both of them influenced my interest in art in an indelible manner.

You have been very well-received in Asia.  Why do you think they identify so closely with you and your paintings? I try not to think about it so much, and I can’t profess to know why, but it is true.  Perhaps people around the world identify with my paintings because the language I use in my art is universal.  Maybe it awakens common feelings in people – feelings we all go through and understand in our soul as fellow human beings. 

Where do you see yourself in the next 10 years professionally and personally?
I am very excited about my first solo exhibition in Asia. Showing simultaneously at Art Central Hong Kong and Singapore – not many artists receive an opportunity like this in their lives!  However, one thing I try not to do is think about the future.  Also, 10 years seems so far away; I prefer taking things day by day. The art world is very moody; it is fickle and changeable, so it might not be wise to think that far ahead into the future.