The voice of the quiet (from objects to space)

        When one is aware about the deep meaning -in “The Meninas” or other great masterpieces- of the space that is represented -Tintoretto’s “Lavatory”, Goya’s “Junta de Filipinas”- one can grow impatient regarding the figures that occupy it. Characters and objects annoy us. They distract us from what we would really want to see: the space painted in its self, the vibration of light in the atmosphere, the essential solitude in the scene. Obviously Velazquez or Tintoretto could not fall into such a disrespect, but other artists after them did expel the royal family and its companions, or Jesus and his apostles (or they substituted them for other –contingents- settlers). Goya, on his behalf, in the threshold of modernity, made really clear what he was interested in representing in most of his canvases: not Fernando VII, remote in the vanishing-point, nor all of his indispensable councillors. He wanted to paint the volume of a huge air container flooded with light, as if  that fake emptyness would be the supreme manifestation of paint it self.
         Monica Dixon, in the context of her work, has dared to do so. As it proves in this retrospective, the intense maturity of her painting in the last decade not only subsist on a growing sway over technicque but, overall, in the way she has used this to clear out the pictorial space of everything that she has perceived as anecdotal and contingent. This does not mean in any way that the human figures, the footwear, the clothing or the household goods and chattels that she painted a few years ago with devotion for the everyday objects, worthy of realistic still life and pop art, should be seen as mere learning exercises or that they are now disgregarded in the name of some kind of ordinary conception of the pictorial progress.
Quite the reverse: to contemplate those paintings in retrospective and relate them with the ones that Dixon now signs, allows us to notice the deep coherence of her painting, her loyalty towards the same poetical. If she no longer paints those objects -sonorous, sensuous, cuddled quite amorously by its use and abuse- that occupied her paintings six or seven years ago, and if the figures -solitary and engrossed, often in the light itself- rarely occupy  them now it’s because the inquiry about the essence of reality has proved, in the eyes of the creator, that those motifs were turning out to be less necessary to paint what really seems to interest her; what gives the impression that with a unique obstinacy and each time better tools, she has been eager to paint all of this time: reality, understood  as persistence. In other words, the melancholyc permanence of things as opposite to our transitory glance. And, in consequence, the loneliness of things as well as our own and fugitive desolation. Even though she has a few formal features in common (and devotions: Hopper, Warhol) with the works of the so called Spanish “metaphysics”, Monica Dixon’s metaphysic is originally less selfconscious, ironic and full of references. It just consists in the registry of an elemental overwhelm before the beauty of realism that, misteriously, tends to outlast us. That is going to outlast us. And therefore, in a way, it already excludes us.
       What has changed a long these years are the motifs in wich Dixon searches that mistery and beauty. In the beggining, footwear, clothing, furniture, interior architectural structures filled almost completely the pictorial space with a soundness that proclamed the opposite of a baroque vanitas. The objects have spoken a “here we are and here we will remain”: As common objects and as objects already painted. Even the uninhabited interiors, wich were already open towards a more spaceful painting, were full of goods and chattels and textures wich granted a firm carnality to light. But the space has been gaining space; the protagonism of that light that frequently bursts  in front of us, widening, invading the painting; and the objects and the skin of things ended up slowly leaving the scene. Just as if  she would have come to the conclusion that what is really lasting, the realism that will prevail before our evanescency, is not the one of the individual things, nor the particular shape of interior spaces, but the space in itself and the light that reveals it. Or more so, the space painted in the way of a light that defines itself in its contact with the minimum of shapes and the minimum of the necessary objects to modulate it.
         In some periods of that inquiry, Dixon has also played with an inevitable idea: The possibility of reality being a construction. Here we register her original puzzles in wich she deconstructs and reconstructs a same perspective or image that has previously been decomposed in concentric sections. But, in spite of the interest in those experiments-wich could be called “shattered spaces”, using the title of one of her works- two motifs prevail these days, where the painter respectfully returns to the construction, par excellence, of western painting – perspective – and concentrates in a firmly classical technicque to represent the hardest thing to represent: the space, not like a mere construction or emptyness, but like a presence. She does this showing us in pararell, with a brush stroke of extreme purity, the interiors of overflowed light -and against the light, the shadow, that tends to overflow the painting, to gather on the viewers side- and also describing us the place where light comes from: the exterior. What’s outside? Essentially the same: more space, more air, more light, but overflowing towards the infinite. The lonely architectures that appear squashed under a bright atmosphere without a stain of clouds in the Hopperian landscapes of the North American country side, emphasize how precarious these human constructions are under the ever lasting majestic space and sky.
         And, overall, neither the interiors nor the landscapes are totally lonely places. Obviously, what dwells in them is what Goya wanted to paint in his “Junta de Filipinas”: the plenitude, the paints own reality. And also, incidentally, our glance, even if it’s just an entranced glance passing through.  

J.C. Gea

Text for "The voice of the quiet (from objects to space)", the exhibition catalog in Casa Duro Art Center, March-April- 2011