JOHL DWYER

Virtually Virtual, 04 - 29 April 2017
A Little Symphony

by Amy Stewart


That which is without quality cannot be measured, the invisible cannot be examined, the incorporeal cannot be be weighed, the limitless cannot be compared, the incomprehensible does not admit of more or less. Gregory of Nyssa, an early Christian writer, was talking about God when he wrote those words, but he could as well have been talking about colour. Limitless and evasive, evocative and affecting, colour, Louise Bourgeois writes, ����¯�¿�½������¢������¯������¿������½������¯������¿������½is stronger than language. It����¯�¿�½������¢������¯������¿������½������¯������¿������½s a subliminal communication.����¯�¿�½������¢������¯������¿������½������¯������¿������½ This is why, as Dwyer points out, attempts to corral colour and bend it to wordy and worldly definition were destined to fail. Just look at Pantone.
'It couldn't be more 'ye olde' the painter Carroll Dunham professes of his own practice, which he says involves him simply walking into a room and applying paint to canvas; But a world consisting of nothing but information and transmittable images is not going to honour our physical selves. As the world becomes more virtual, we humans remain physical beings, and artists, as they always have done, are doing the lion's share of parsing this new reality.

Sitting somewhere between the gestural marks made with a paint-soaked brush and works that exist purely in projection are the artworks of Johl Dwyer. Dwyer's works are in conversation with the traditional - with sculpture and painting - while at the same time insisting on a stripping back to first principles and an acknowledgement of the power of light.

His latest series, entitled Virtually Virtual, is an embodiment of the old writing adage - that the task is to express complicated ideas simply, not to use complicated language to describe simple ideas. Dwyer's clean, taut surfaces belie a complex theoretical web, including a Juddian rejection of minimalism and an inquiry into the existential meaning of colour.

It is one of art's jobs to box up the sublime and present it to the viewer for comment. Dwyer does this by corralling colour with wooden frames that approximate the language of paintings. The wood does the work of a plinth - it is a handsome physical parenthesis to frame the real subject - the amorphous, verbal alternate that is pure colour, or as Dwyer calls it, the 'inexplicable field'. When you are exploring infinite galaxies of colour in the way Dwyer is here, it is helpful to have a tether. The wood is a nod to the physical nature of the work but also a practical consideration, a palate cleanser, and an anchor.

Dwyer's new works are not merely surface interventions, and not just partnerships of materials that ground and tether. Each square, each box slicked with gloss, seeks not to deceive but to involve the viewer in a conversation about what this thing colour is conceptually, physically, and theoretically. Judd asserted that space is made by an artist or architect; it is not found and packaged. It is made by thought. "Here", Dwyer says to the viewer, "take this pink or green or bottomless blue and hold it in your mind."

Dwyer conducts this series like a little symphony, swirling colours together, silencing some, turning the intensity up on others. Each work occupies its own very physical, not virtual, space in the room, but each also hums its own note and creates an otherworldly resonance that reaches into the ether.
In more ways than one, then, we can see ourselves in them; our physical and metaphysical selves are acknowledged and reflected. We are faced with mind-collapsing questions: What is colour? What is virtual and what is real?
The answer, in part, is to keep it simple.
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