Pub­lic works

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Visual Arts - Bronwyn Wat­son

Jim Dine, Colour­ful Venus 1 (1985). Col­lec­tion Na­tional Gallery of Vic­to­ria. Gift of the artist, 2016. On dis­play in Jim Dine: A Life in Print, NGV In­ter­na­tional, Mel­bourne, un­til Oc­to­ber 15. When Jim Dine bought a small plas­ter replica of Venus de Milo in a gift shop in the early 1980s, the first thing he did was break off its head. He also changed the plas­ter fig­urine by scratch­ing and carv­ing its sur­face. He was mak­ing his own dis­tinctly per­sonal ver­sion of the fa­mous arm­less, par­tially draped, an­cient Greek sculp­ture.

His head­less Venus de Milo has been one of his mo­tifs for more than 30 years. In­deed, his Venus has proven im­mensely in­spi­ra­tional, al­low­ing him to ex­per­i­ment and rein­vent the ar­che­typal sym­bol across var­i­ous me­dia. His mon­u­men­tal Venus sculp­tures are lo­cated, for in­stance, on New York’s Sev­enth Av­enue and in Spain’s Guggen­heim Bil­bao. But be­sides the sculp­tures, his Venus also has ap­peared in nu­mer­ous paint­ings, draw­ings and prints.

The Venus works re­flect Dine’s deep in­ter­est in an­tiq­uity, which started dur­ing his child­hood, but it wasn’t un­til the 80s that he be­gan to ex­plore his fas­ci­na­tion through his art.

Dine came to promi­nence in New York in the 60s when artists were try­ing to re­de­fine Amer­i­can art af­ter Jack­son Pol­lack and ab­stract ex­pres­sion­ism. He made his mark as one of the in­sti­ga­tors of “hap­pen­ings”, per­for­mance art­works that blended the­atre, mu­sic, po­etry and vis­ual art. He then be­came in­ter­ested in a neo­dadaist ap­proach along­side Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschen­berg.

Dine fre­quently has been de­scribed as a pop artist, but it is a la­bel he ve­he­mently re­jects. His art does not cel­e­brate con­sumer cul­ture, and it doesn’t share that same cool, de­tached aes­thetic of artists such as Andy Warhol. Rather, Dine is known for his un­con­ven­tional ap­proach to print­mak­ing, which can in­clude at­tack­ing the print­ing plate with power tools and hand-colour­ing the prints, with the re­sult that no two works are the same. He now lives in Paris and con­tin­ues to work and ex­hibit in­ter­na­tion­ally.

Some of Dine’s prints are on show at Mel­bourne’s Na­tional Gallery of Vic­to­ria in an ex­hi­bi­tion, Jim Dine: A Life in Print. The prints, span­ning 45 years, are part of an ex­tra­or­di­nary gift of 249 art­works the artist do­nated to the NGV last year.

There are a sev­eral Venus prints in the ex­hi­bi­tion and one of them is an early work, Colour­ful Venus, from 1985, which de­picts the fig­ure as a flat field di­vided into brightly coloured sec­tions. The gallery’s cu­ra­tor of prints, Pe­tra Kayser, says it is a strong graphic work and eas­ily recog­nis­able as the Venus de Milo, even with­out its head.

“He ba­si­cally breaks a rounded, three-di­men­sional form into a graphic im­age into flat sec­tions, and then colours them and cre­ates tex­tures and splashes,” she says. “It is all about giv­ing a hand­made, tac­tile qual­ity to some­thing that is printed by a ma­chine. Dine is re­ally all about tex­tures and mark mak­ing.”

Kayser says she likes Colour­ful Venus be­cause it is so vi­brant. “You can see the artist’s hand even though it is a print and there’s been this me­chan­i­cal process. The colours are se­lected to con­vey tex­ture and an emo­tional re­sponse … The sense of en­ergy is what I re­ally like about it.”

Colour pho­tolitho­graph, 89.4cm x 63.5cm

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