McKenzie Fine Art
511 West 25th Street
New York NY 10001
212 989 5467
February 17 to March 19, 2005
Jim Dingilian’s marker drawings and altered found photographs at Mackenzie Fine Art are intriguing in their process and choice of materials, so much so that it can require a conscious decision to linger for a while before individual works and allow their subtle plays on memory and narrative to come to the fore. The effort is well worth it. The unexpected surfaces gradually in Dingilian’s work, and when it does the experience can be lovely and quietly moving.
Of the two bodies of work, the drawings are the more easily overlooked: small, seemingly ephemeral works on paper that could be mistaken for offhand studies or doodles. However, when seen up close these pieces reveal an evocative and in some instances elaborate abstraction, the forms suggestive of traditional western and Chinese landscapes, cityscapes and crystal and leaf shapes. On further study one notices figures and groups of figures emerging faintly through the compositions, in something like Victorian ghost photographs that purported to show the spirits of the dead lurking in the background of ordinary domestic settings. In a sense the figures in
Dingilian’s drawings are themselves ghosts, the ghosts of the original photographs. The lines in these pieces are what remain of the photographic surface when the snapshots are dipped in bleach. Dingilian applies a resistive coating, which preserves the lines; he contributes nothing otherwise to the finished work. Some interrelationship of erasure and selection is always at work in a drawing. The ghost-figures, however, introduce an uncanny otherness in the compositions. This otherness is all the more evocative and intriguing because it is so resilient and, to some degree, independent of artistic control.
The process also says something about a paradoxical desire for the unexpected, one that a good many visitors to the gallery no doubt share. It is as if one were to go looking for an experience of déjà vu, and find it. Dingilian’s drawings on grade school desk tops differ so in mood and approach from the found photographs that they could be taken as the work of another artist; one might wonder why the two bodies of work were shown together. Nonetheless, certain parallels are apparent. Whereas the photographs involve erasure, the drawings involve the trace and the residual mark: scratches and wood grain on the desk surface picked up by blue marker. The drawings all but eliminate photographic images, the desk top images evoke them. The photographs explore memory, the desk top drawings suggest emotional atmosphere or the setting for narrative. They depict a peripheral dreariness in urban and suburban landscape: truck stops and fields, the edges of strip malls. One sees them through the blue filter of the medium, as if one were looking underwater or, as the gallery statement suggests, through an old cyanotype print. The effect is of a chilled or distanced nostalgia, or creepiness or beauty. Since the blue marker is not fixed to the surface, measures must be taken to hold the image in place, an interesting metaphor in itself of the lengths one can go to keep the ephemeral. One looks forward to seeing what other materials and forms Dingilian will choose for this impulse.