"Detained Spaces", Monica Dixon

By Santiago Martínez - December 17, 2020

There is in Monica Dixon's painting a will to describe reality with precision, in her the light and the space -stage where everything happens- are protagonists. Without abandoning her paintings of solitary houses immersed in wide horizons, evocative of the American landscape, her land of origin; she now takes us to an interior world tinged with strong light contrasts and in which some note of color timidly bursts in. He has always adapted the light to a very personal plastic language, capturing its clarity and external sharpness or, as it happens now, triggering deep sensations and thoughts through the dialogue with the shadows. His painting struggles between a world built on geometric rationalism and a loss of definition that takes us to the limit of abstraction. Thus we warned in Somewhere...Nowhere of 2017, his previous exhibition in the gallery Guillermina Caicoya; some of the works exhibited there announced this drift towards landscapes of interior, Exit, Scape or Nowhere contain in their titles direct allusions to the stripping of identity, zones of transit, aseptic and depersonalized, linked to the thought of the anthropologist Marc Augé and the nonplaces. It was these works that attracted the attention of the critic Rubén Suárez: "beautiful paintings, and with an aura, these interior architectures magically orchestrated by light and shadow"; auguring a later development, as has happened.
We now notice a deepening in those interiors that, alien to the human presence -only tangible in the constructive fact, in their walls and openings- are generators of spaces for light. This is an introspective and magnetic work, remotely linked to the timeless stillness of the metaphysical assumptions of Giorgio Morandi and, even more so, of Giorgio De Chirico, that dreamer of new scenarios and other realities. In the current proposal of our artist, we find an architecture understood more as a resource than as a theme, as a pretext to investigate aspects of creation of a reflexive and conceptual nature, also emotional. Her way of conceiving light is forceful and truthful, it comes from a punctual observation in some undetermined environment, with effects filtered from doors, windows and cracks, or recreated and dissected in the studio, simulating or favoring new light findings, analyzing its ductility or its rotund physicality. This is what we notice in works such as Out there II or Empty walls, with a perfect planimetry in which the perspective assumes a key role in the configuration of the pictorial surfaces and the clarity accentuates volumes, planes and edges, enhancing a naked geometry of minimalist character.
In Detained spaces the works trigger emotions, the spatial and light effects awaken an endless number of sensations provoked from the pulsation of their shadows, those tangible and necessary presences that link with an oriental tradition that worships them, as in Junichirô Tanizaki's El elogio de la sombra: "I believe that beauty is not a substance in itself, but only a drawing of shadows, a play of chiaroscuro produced by the juxtaposition of different substances" and, certainly, it is in this richness of shades caused by the shadows where we find another of the plastic contributions of his painting, from absolute darkness to full light, from opacity to transparency, enhanced, contained or attenuated, the shadows occupy a privileged place, without them, the harmony would lose its meaning and its beautiful influence on color would be extinguished. In this line, it is interesting to note the irruption of some chromatic registers between red and green in A Quiet Thing, Red & Green or Room 3 that, affected by light, show subtle shades that seem to fade in the soft mist that surrounds them. The planes of color, and the very conception of the space/box where these harmonies are triggered, provoke formal and chromatic flows similar to musical compositions that depend on tones, their location and their spacing; it is in this area that Josef Albers' plastic findings and his experiences with The Interaction of Color are found and that the artist himself put into practice in his pictorial work to show how the slight tonal variations modify the perception of forms. As in James Turrell's suggestive immaterial installations where the incorporation of light and atmospheric effects makes us lose our "spatial references", taking us to the limit of sensory perception of emptiness.
As in these artists, in Monica Dixon's painting the void is decisive; the light struggles to occupy its space before the containment of the limits, in works such as Beware of darkness, Geometrical Presence or Dark passage, after some disturbing and dark close-ups, dilated zones of concentration of energy arise. It is in this passage from darkness to light where the access to some of the mysteries contained in his paintings is found, the border where the rational and the emotional converge; it is in the limit where the point is found where one thing becomes another and, to place ourselves before these works is an invitation to cross the threshold and inhabit them. When the philosopher Martin Heidegger indicates in his text Construir, Habitar, Pensar, how the capacity of the human being to create spaces is not only related to the need for shelter, but also to an inner search, a self-knowledge that allows us to discern the questions about existence, the philosopher refers to the mental dimension of inhabiting, space has the capacity to influence our thinking and our being, because "we are the space we inhabit". In this way, emptiness has gone from being a category alien to human beings, to being intrinsically linked to us; to our conscience and sensibility.
Each work is a new challenge for the artist and its materialization is a process of introspection and germination that is the result of the tranquility of the studio. It is there where the intellectual and emotional are united in the configuration of her painting, she finds in jazz music, which always accompanies her, a faithful collaborator and Miles Davis participates silently (In a silent way) in this propitiatory environment that generates beauty and in which life takes on meaning. Little red ball, or Little red ball 2, summarizes the essence of Monica Dixon's thought and work, the concentration of light on the sphere, has a great symbolic charge, capable of joining rational arguments about its physical presence, with others of an anthropological nature, even mystical ones. Only from the plastic creation do these places exist where material and mental experiences merge, where objective observation is allied with free imagination and where painting is conceived, as in the work of musicians and poets, overlooking reality in order to access the essence of things, the interior landscapes of Espacios detenidos are the confirmation of how "poetically man lives" (Title of a conference given by Martin Heidegger extracted from a poetic fragment of Hölderlin).

Text for the exhibition, "Detained Spaces", Monica Dixon - Guillermina Caicoya Art Gallery