C L O S E R L O O K
Turning the Tide
Recycled items make artful
By John T. Spike
Published in the International Art Magazine ‘Art & Antiques’ Summer Edition p. xx.
Artists can be compared to bees, American philosopher Buckminster Fuller has pointed out. A bee gathers nectar to make honey; yet what it’s really doing, one might say, is pollinating flowers. So artists often find that their actions have unexpected consequences.
John Dahlsen is a contemporary Australian artist whose wide-ranging interests lead him in many directions—from abstract painting to digital photography to sculptures in public squares. In his leisure time, Dahlsen enjoys strolling along the splendid sandy beaches near his home in Byron Bay. Unfortunately, even the virgin coasts of Australia are besmirched by picnic litter and soda cans washed up by the tide and on occasion, Dahlsen will pick these items up, as many of us would.
One day about a decade ago it struck him just how much brightly colored junk was lying about in plain sight. The shore and dunes were sparkling with pieces of red, blue, black, white and clear plastic. In a gesture that initially seemed futile, Dahlsen started filling sacks with refuse and bringing them home to sort. Most of the bottle tops, children’s combs, bubble pipes, hair clips and innumerable other broken and sundry bits of plastic turned out to be dyed in the same few colors. Soon his rubbish bins w e r e o v e r – flowing with colorful assemblages of objects that were indistinguishable except
for their shapes. Unified in this way, the beach debris seemed less ugly.
This made Dahlsen wonder if he could somehow make his pickings seem almost beautiful. Unlikely as it sounds, the answer turned out to be yes. Even back then, the idea of composing with “found objects” was neither radical nor new. Forerunners like Kurt Schwitters in the 1920s and Robert Rauschenberg in the ’60s used ticket stubs and auto parts for much the same reason that the Old Masters painted gold watches and sputtering candles: as signs of the ephemerality of life and our worldly possessions.
Dahlsen, by comparison, is an optimist. To begin with, he’s already made a positive statement by clearing off the unsightly stuff that is lethal to fish and fowl. (Australia’s wildlife conservancies adore Dahlsen’s work, which was hardly his intention, but so be it.) He wanted to impart a kind of Minimalist stability to his jumbles of deep true colors. One early assemblage of coffee lids, cooler fragments and bottle tops shared the ethereal white-on-white aura of a Robert Ryman abstraction or a William Bailey still life—only much more energetically. Piling up black combs, disposable razors and pieces of rope yielded a Louise Nevelson-like sculpture with attitude.
Beachcombers are always on the move, of course, and “Blue Rope (Triptych),” a new work, shows that Dahlsen has started to take the risk of mixing his colors. One would never suspect there could be anything “romantic” about a stratified miscellany of nylon ropes, plastic garbage bags and fish nets, but it is hard to avoid the impression that its undulations evoke a deep blue ocean and the tangled ropes are a little like stormtossed clouds. But it would be absurd to read anything into such a mishmash. Or would it? Besides, unlike Rauschenberg in pursuit of a decisive detail, Dahlsen likes to group his finds in categories and ask himself what it means that our age works in plastic, as opposed to stone, bronze or iron. Dahlsen, in other words, has become an artful archaeologist. •
John T. Spike is the director of the Florence
International Biennial of Contemporary Art.
“Official artist of the new millennium” for the environmental organizations Clean up Australia and Clean up the World.
In 2000 he won the prestigious ” Wynne Prize” for sculpture and landscape painting at the Art Gallery of New South Wales and has since been a finalist in both 2003 and again this year in 2004. In 2000, he was appointed “Official artist of the new millennium” for the environmental organizations Clean up Australia and Clean up the World. “John Dahlsen embodies the spirit of all Australians who love our coastline. His contemporary work is the very core of what makes Clean up an important community event in our nation. His concepts are abstract and imaginative and he has turned the flotsam and jetsam washed up on our beaches into highly collectable art.” – Ian Kiernan, AO, Chairman and Founder CUA & CUW.
Signature of Sydney 2006 Art Prize
In December 2006 Byron Bay artist, John Dahlsen was awarded the runner up prize of $20,000.00 in Australia’s newest, and now the richest art award, The Signature of Sydney Art Prize.
In an article titled “Artwork Has Soul”, Lismore Regional Gallery Director, Steven Alderton wrote:
“John Dahlsen’s “Thongs” artwork is about people community and soul.
The work could be seen as people portraying the many people from all walks of life that have landed on the East coast of Australia and found their way to Sydney, mixing together to form one great big heap just like Sydney.
The beauty of this work is you can see the soul of Sydneysiders. Many people living on the coast define themselves with the beach lifestyle. It is their passion.
The havianas, or thongs, have become part of the laidback look of much of Sydney.
Dahlsen’s artworks have long been made from detritius found on the beach. By presenting the discarded objects in a formalist composition he acknowledges the endless waste in producing multiple items, that go to support our everyday existance.”
Northern Star Newspaper – December 16th 2006
Article from: The Courier – Mail May 30, 2007
By Mike O’Connor “When art meets trash”
HE appears to be everything that Big Brother is not – earnest, intelligent, well-mannered and concerned about the wellbeing of those with whom he shares the planet.
I decline the herbal tea and opt for Bushells. There’s not a Monte Carlo or Iced Vo-Vo in sight, so I take a handful of raw peanuts from the plate on the table.
It’s late in the day, and from the deck of this Byron Bay retreat I watch a herd of cows plodding homewards across a far paddock.
There is, however, a nexus between John Dahlsen and Big Brother, for it is his artwork that hangs on the walls of the Big Brother house, a symbol of the latest series’ attempt – in between under-blanket gropes and midnight bonks – to embrace the message of environmental consciousness.
We walk around to his incredibly tidy studio, past a totem-pole-like artwork made of several hundred thongs, and he explains his involvement with BB.
“The executive producer approached me and gave me this pitch, and when I was presented with the sort of audience figures they could reach, I felt there was the potential to take advantage of them and use them to make a difference,” he says.
“They contacted me because I was known as an environmental artist and they said the house was going to have a green theme.
“I thought that if my art could make an imprint on even a small part of that viewing public and show them to view the environment in a different way and get the environmental message, then it was worth it.”
Dahlsen exudes that aura of health that comes from exercise and a careful diet. He and his wife Rago walk the several kilometres from their property to the Byron Bay lighthouse every morning, and my bet would be that they don’t stop for a blueberry muffin on the way home.
“My hope was to lend a degree of sophistication to the debate in the house that wasn’t there previously,” he says. “I’m biased, but I hope the artworks add something, another level.”
I wonder privately whether most of the BB inmates can even spell “environment”, but admire Dahlsen’s optimism.
“I feel the planet is in very fragile shape. I believe it could go either way, and I felt that by joining with Big Brother I could do my bit to help,” he explains.
His motives were initially misconstrued by some of his associates, who accused him of selling out to the forces of commercialism, but he claims to have won them back.
“It doesn’t take too much intelligence to see what my intentions were. Some people saw my artworks on the program and judged me because they weren’t aware of the green theme,” he says.
As the light fades we leave his studio and he walks me through Cape Heritage, a four- bedroom luxury home which he and Rago rent to tourists by the week.
“I enjoy it,” he says of his dual artist-landlord role. “It’s a big property, and there’s plenty of privacy for the house guests and for us. We live in very separate accommodation, but it’s fun for guests who may want to view my work.”
Dahlsen was a traditional painter living in Western Australia when he took up the environmental banner.
“I’ve worked with ‘found’ and recycled objects for about 10 years now, and I’ve done everything from large public artworks to private commissions and paintings,” he says.
Back in his studio, he shows me part of his portfolio.
“It’s a broad spectrum,” he says.
I’d rather pluck out my eyelashes than step into a modern art gallery, but find myself impressed by Dahlsen’s works executed with “found” objects such as plastic bags and chunks of plastic detritus.
More recently, however, his concerns about the future of the planet have moved him to change focus.
“l’ve actually gone back to painting more traditional landscapes and seascapes of Byron Bay and its surrounds,” he says.
“It’s an area which is incredibly precious to me. The more I read about global warming, I get glimpses of untold changes which could happen anytime – tomorrow.
“It concerns me to the point where I want to start recording some of the beauty of this area, because I don’t know what’s going to happen in the near future, plus painting these is giving me a huge amount of joy.
“I was reading this morning that the melting of the icecaps is happening at least three times faster than what is being reported. That sort of thing can only bring about cataclysmic changes.
“I’ve never been a doomsayer. The positive side is that it can bring about quantum shifts in the consciousness of people on this planet – and probably will, and help to take us into the next age, whatever that is going to be,” he says, shrugging.
Dahlsen has collected his “found” material all along the northern NSW coastline, a latter-day beachcomber.
“I’ve even been to South Stradbroke Island, where I was artist in residence at Couran Cove at one stage,” he says.
“I walked up and down the 17km of beach there, and over a couple of weeks collected 70 or 80 jumbo garbage bags full of things that had washed up on the shore.”
As I leave I pause by the thong totem.
“I won the Wynne Prize with that,” he says.
“That’s a lot of thongs,” I say. “Did you pinch them?”
“No,” he says, horrified. “I found them on the beach!”
“Just joking,” I say, smiling, while eyeing off a red one which looked suspiciously like one-half of a pair I lost in the beer garden of the Point Lookout Hotel in 1983.
Witness of beauty in the every day
“The power of Dahlsen’s work lies in the artist’s abilities to witness the beauty in the every day and the mundane. However, it is his history as a painter that gives him the ability to see the objects he collects in their purest form, that is the shape and color.” Brett Adlington, Curator, Exhibitions and Collections. Gold Coast City Art Gallery.
Reviewed by John T Spike at the 2003 Florence Biennial
“With this art work, I wish I had a chair and could look at it for a long time, because I am certain that in his selection of what elements to put on the different levels there is a meaning, because I never saw work like this before…So this is the kind of work that is very meditative, I would love to sit in front of it for a long time. Sometimes with work that is meditative you have the feeling that the painting or sculpture would change at different times of the day, but I don’t have that feeling about this work… Because curiously this work seems to have its own internal light. The artist himself has put light into these abstract landscapes… The feeling I have looking at this artists work, I have a feeling of archaelogy… I see all the layers of the world, all the different people…”
(Transcript of extemporaneous remarks made in public by John T Spike, reviewing John Dahlsen’s artwork at the 2003 Florence Biennial).
John T Spike is an internationally recognized art critic and author and director of the 2003 Florence Biennialle of Contemporary Art.
Indepth Arts News:
“John Dahlsen: Renewed”
2004-02-04 until 2004-03-02
New York, NY, USA United States of America
From February 3 to March 2, 2004 Gallery @49 presents the first solo show in New York by one of Australia’s leading environmental artists, JOHN DAHLSEN. Curated by Stefania Carrozzini of D’Ars International, the exhibition includes a selection of over 20 assemblages and sculptures created exclusively from non-art elements such as found objects and junk. John Dahlsen is part of a new generation of contemporary artists who have with wit and imagination incorporated recycled materials into their artwork, aesthetically addressing current environmental issues.
The title of the show, “Renewed” gives away what the viewer comes to see – the transformation of thousands of pieces of trash into abstract wall assemblages, sculptures, suspended installations and photographs.
Drawing on a vocabulary of forms and colors provided by such humble materials as plastics, Styrofoam, nylon rope, thongs, rubber and plastic bags, Dahlsen creates newness and value from what were once worthless ordinary things.
Based in Byron Bay, Australia, John Dahlsen collects much of his raw material from the Eastern seaboard near his home. Although he started out as a figurative painter, he began working in the found object medium in 1997 when he accidentally stumbled upon a vast amount of plastic ocean debris. The colors, patterns and shapes of these objects had an immediate effect. As he recalls, “I had never seen such hues and forms before. Since then, I have scoured Australian beaches for found objects which I bring back to my studio to sift, sort, and color-code. As I work with them in my studio I become even more fascinated by the way they have been modified and weathered by the ocean and nature’s elements. My challenge as an artist is to take these objects, which might on first meeting have no apparent dialogue, and to work with them until they speak and tell their story.”
Dahlsen’s assemblages are as much about their materials as anything else and each transformed object is a carrier of memory, containing a vestige of its “first life”. This layered richness and narrative aspects of old objects offer not only a record of time, but a visual and tactile link to it. The result is often a visual pun over an unexpected connection or transformation and a thong or old plastic bag acquires a metaphorical or ironical quality and becomes emblematic of human history and experience.
There is indeed a heroic value in the sense of rescue that accompanies John Dahlsen’s work of recycled art. Implicitly or explicitly, all his assemblages are about environmentalism, and talk about the new exciting adventure of using the wealth of solid waste produced by our ‘throw-away’ societies into the world of art.
John Dahlsen studied art in Melbourne at the Victorian College of the Arts. For the past twenty-five years he had extensively exhibited throughout Australia and internationally, his work being awarded numerous prizes, such as the prestigious “Wynne Prize” at the Art Gallery of New South Wales and more recently at the 2003 Florence Biennial. Regarded as Australia’s leading environmental artist, Dahlsen has lectured at many Australian universities and has been an invited speaker at architectural and environmental symposiums both in Australia and abroad. In 2000 he has been appointed “Official Artist of the New Millennium” for the environmental organizations “Clean up Australia” and “Clean up the World”. John Dahlsen’s work is represented in major public and corporate collections across Australia, Europe and Japan.
John Dahlsen is a Premiere Portfolio Artist at absolutearts.com. View more of his works at: www.absolutearts.com/portfolios/j/johndahlsen/. Related Links: Indepth Arts Resources for the State of New York
Other Important Exhibitions in New York
‘Dahlsen’s assemblages are as much about their materials as anything else and each transformed object is a carrier of memory, containing a vestige of its “first life”. This layered richness and narrative aspects of old objects offer not only a record of time, but a visual and tactile link to it.’
Coca Rotaru Director, Gallery 49, New York City.
The Opening Of The New Victorian College of the Arts Art Gallery
(Speech Exerpts) Wednesday 15 August 2001
The Hon Peter McGauran, MP
Almost a century and a half after the VCA’s foundation school sent forth its first batch of graduates to make their way in the world of Australian art, the Victorian College of the Arts at last has a fully-functioning professional gallery.
Today is a major milestone in the history of the VCA School of Art…
The VCA has always attracted gifted students, and its Art School has been no exception.
How many art schools can boast among their earliest alumni artists of the stature of Arthur Stretton and Frederick McCubbin?
How many schools have lured, generation after generation, the nation’s Fred Williamses, Sidney Nolans and Clifton Pughs?
Artists who, at the peak of their mature powers, have reshaped the Australian art scene and found distinctively Australian ways of rendering the human condition.
VCA graduates dominating the Australian artistic scene as we embark on a new century include Howard Arkley and Susan Norrie.
Among the more recent of the art school’s graduates, Rick Amor was appointed by the Australian War Memorial as the country’s first official war artist in 30 years.
John Dahlsen was the 2000 winner of Australia’s oldest art award, the Wynne Landscape Prize.
And Lewis Miller took out the sporting section of the 2000 Archibald Prize. The accolades go on.
The VCA is a unique place… Over the years the VCA School of Art has attracted the unswerving support of individuals like Daniel Besen, whose private collection has tonight been accorded the honour of being the first exhibition to hang in the new gallery…
It is hard to think of a happier and more auspicious way to inaugurate this wonderful facility than to have the works of past students hanging on the walls…
ABSOLUT commission goes national
Friday 19 November, 2004
One of the stars of Sydney’s 2004 Sculpture by the Sea exhibition is embarking upon a national tour in 2005.
ABSOLUT commissioned internationally renowned ‘environmental’ artist, John Dahlsen, to create a unique work which is designed as a celebration of Australian beach culture.
The ubiquitous rubber thong (or flip flop as they are known abroad) becomes the building block of this massive assemblage piece which rises 4.2 metres in height.
As with all ABSOLUT commissioned artworks, the iconic ABSOLUT bottle shape (now almost as renowned as the vodka within) takes centre stage, with hundreds of ‘found’ rubber thongs being used to make up the giant form.
ABSOLUT Dahlsen is the first commissioned artwork of an Australian artist by ABSOLUT, and joins an impressive collection which began with Andy Warhol in 1982 and now includes many of the world’s most brilliant artists including Keith Haring, Damian Hirst, and Francesco Clemente to name a few.
ABSOLUT Dahlsen first appeared as part of Sculpture by the Sea in 2004. The work is now embarking upon a national touring schedule, starting at St Kilda Beach, Melbourne, in January 2005 through to April 2005, after which it will then move to Brisbane, with plans for Perth and Adelaide after that.
ABSOLUT Dahlsen will tour a select number of locations nationally throughout 2005 commencing with St Kilda, Melbourne.
State of the Arts magazine online 19th Nov 2004
A World of Work
The Independent. Marshall, MN. December, 2004
BY Carl Nelson MARSHALL
How far might one travel to view an original creation by a renowned artist? The newest exhibit at the William Whipple Gallery at Southwest Minnesota State University just closed the distance if Salvador Dali’s work is on your list of art to see.
The newest collection titled “Recent Acquisitions” boasts a mix of Dali, and even a silk screen by Austrian architect, painter, and poet Freidensreich Hundertwasser. Pop artist Richard Lindner is represented along with oils by Richard Roberts and Ronnie Cutler.
In all, the works of 38 artists — known locally and worldwide — are in the gallery. Many reaches of the world are represented from Italy and Singapore to Vietnam and Vienna as well as a host from New York, Texas and Minnesota.
“We have Salvador Dali, Richard Lindner and Freidensreich Hundertwasser — they are in the art history books and now we own these …they are here for us,” said William Whipple gallery director Ed Evans.
“It’s an unusual opportunity that enriches life for us in this area,” he added.
Evans has been busy cataloging the newest additions to the Whipple collection. He’s spent time both day and night working on the exhibit, even though it means neglecting his own paintings, he said.
“ (The gallery collection) is very new and vital …we’re at the ground floor and the beginning of something,” he added.
After all, it is through Evans’ own artistry that he’s been able to secure these works…..
Perhaps one of the more “cutting-edge” in design is John Dahlsen’s “Buoy’s and Netting.” It’s environmental art created from common objects and “most items he found washed up on the beaches,” said Evans.
An Australian, Dahlsen often finds buoys and bobbers drifting along shores.
He arranged these pieces under a section of netting.
“ I think he’s an exciting artist,” Evans said. “He takes mundane things that can become beautiful when nature acts upon them.” Bleached and weathered bobbers are just some of the items he “recycles” in artistic arrangements.
From Australia to that of Italy, a Bologna medical doctor, and artist is also represented in the gallery. Francesco Martani depicts a black-edged pink bowl in acrylic on porous paper. Abstract paint strokes add to the background.
“He likes to combine representational objects with abstract expressionism …its somewhat like abstract expressionists in the 1950s,” Evans said. “He combines what would normally be seen as two works.”
With art from some of the farthest reaches of the world, local examples by Southwest alumni and associates are also displayed. Visitors will note the work of painters such as Jerry Bachman and Barbara Bachner and Bonnie Van Moorlehem in the exhibit, master potters Gene and Lucy Tolkheim and even master printmakers like Ross Zirle. Copyright © 2001-2004 by Southwest Minnesota State University
A Member of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System (MnSCU)
Contact for gallery:firstname.lastname@example.org
1501 State Street
Marshall, MN 56258
The Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art NY
Australian artist – John Dahlsen, curates and exhibits in ‘Recycled Revisited’- Artistic Responses to the Earth Charter
The Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art NY
On exhibition from Friday 1st July to Sunday September 18th 2005
STATE UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK
Australian artist, John Dahlsen has been invited to both curate and participate as an exhibiting artist in an exhibition titled : ‘Recycled Revisited’ – Artistic Responses to the Earth Charter, at the The Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art in New York State. He joins Dr. Alice Wexler in curating the show, which is an acknowledgement to the principals of the Earth Charter. Member artists of The Arts Society of Kingston (ASK), a membership organization based in Kingston, New York, are represented in this exhibition. This represents a first for Dahlsen, to be invited to curate an exhibition as well as participate in it simultaneously.
The twelve artists selected by Mr Dahlsen and Dr. Wexler in this exhibition, weave together environmental, social, and political concerns, to which all must be attended for a sustainable future. By employing a variety of media that range from plastic bags, shoes, rocks, and bones, to more traditional materials, they challenge the concept of the artist as removed from society in favour of the artist as responsive and responsible to society. Through issue-oriented, challenging works, the artists inspire an appreciation for the fragility of the social and natural environments and a sense of global interdependence.
The Exhibition and The Earth Charter:
The exhibition is based on the Earth Charter, a declaration of the fundamental principles for building a just society with a special emphasis of the world’s environmental challenges. The document’s vision recognizes that environmental protection, human rights, equitable human development, and peace are interdependent and indivisible.
In 1987 the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development issued a call for creation of a new charter that would set forth fundamental principles for sustainable development. The drafting of an Earth Charter was part of the unfinished business of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. In 1994 Maurice Strong, the secretary general of the Earth Summit and chairman of the Earth Council, and Mikhail Gorbachev, president of Green Cross International, launched a new Earth Charter initiative with support from the Dutch government. An Earth Charter Commission was formed in 1997 to oversee the project and an Earth Charter Secretariat was established at the Earth Council in Costa Rica.
“The Earth Charter is a declaration of fundamental principles for building a just, sustainable, and peaceful global society in the 21st century. It seeks to inspire in all peoples a new sense of global interdependence and shared responsibility for the well-being of the human family and the larger living world. It is an expression of hope and a call to help create a global partnership at a critical juncture in history.”
The principles of the Earth Charter reflect extensive international consultations conducted over a period of many years. These principles are also based upon contemporary science, international law, and the insights of philosophy and religion. Successive drafts of the Earth Charter were circulated around the world for comments and debate by non-governmental organizations, community groups, professional societies, and international experts in many fields.
Based in Byron Bay Australia, John has over the years, scoured the beaches on the Eastern Seaboard of Australia for washed up “ ocean litter…a worldwide phenomena affecting beaches on a global level.” His work develops underlying environmental messages inherent in the use of this kind of medium and includes artworks as diverse as assemblages, sculptures, installations, prints and paintings.
Takashi Abe and Dennis Connors represent the cycle of life and death in contemporary society. Barbara Bachner transforms objects, fixing them in time and memory. Rimer Cardillo’s images of birds are symbolic of the destruction of life as a result of human intervention. Anthony Krauss reviews the implications of Western cultural values and suggests possibilities for their re-organization. Iain Machell’s “Site Photos” are documentations of landscape interventions with text from warfare graphics, security manuals, and military advertising that disrupt our enjoyment of nature. Meadow’s series, “The Wood Spirits,” represent the ability of natural materials to evoke memories of forgotten cultures.
Franc Palaia’s “consumer relics” hover between folk art and savvy media constructions. He gives them a second and more important life with the purpose of conveying references to environmental, political, and cultural concerns. Shelley Parriott’s work is a metaphor for bundles of memory and spirit, and our tenuous material existence. Elisa Pritzker’s “Pyramids of Naxos” is a work made while she was a US representative for the 2004 Olympic Games in Greece. “Garbage to you, Money to Them” is a project documented on the streets of Harlem. Cynthia Winika represents complexity, flux, and chaos with traces of exploding fireworks and plant-life contained in beeswax.
“The Earth Charter opens a new phase not only in the ecological movement, but also in the world’s public life.” Mikail Gorbachev, Earth Charter Comission Co-chair
In September 2005, John will be artist in residence at Jefferson City in Missouri USA, where he will be making a public artwork, made from recycled plastic bags for their sculpture walk. Following the completion of this residency, Dahlsen will be off to New York to deliver a lecture at the Dorsky Museum in the closing days of his exhibition there.
Jefferson City News Tribune
Posted: Sunday, Jul 31, 2005 – 06:29:50 am CDT
Bank collecting plastic bags for artist’s visit
An Olympic artist will be in Jefferson City as part of the Art Inside the Park Sept. 15-18 at Memorial Park.
Australian John Dahlsen represented his country in 2004 at the Athens Olympics “Artiade” exhibition, where artists around the world competed for the same titles as the athletes.
Dahlsen will create a recycled artwork at the event organized by Atelier CMS, Inc.
Until the end of August, plastic bags of all colors and sizes for use in Dahlsen’s installation will be collected at UMB Bank, 300 Dix Rd., or at the Jefferson City Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department office.
Dahlsen already has been pre-selected to again compete in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
His work consists mainly of environmental art, including recycled projects, installation and public art. His international award-winning abstract and found art projects may be designed with objects he has collected off the beaches of Australia and other locations, from driftwood to nylon rope to plastic bags.
Visit www.atelier-cms.com, for more information.
‘John Dahlsen embodies the spirit of all Australians who love our coastline. His contemporary work is the very core of what makes Clean up an important community event in our nation. His concepts are abstract and imaginative and he has turned the flotsam and jetsam washed up on our beaches into highly collectable art.’
– Ian Kiernan, AO, Chairman and Founder Clean Up Australia & Clean Up The World.
John Dahlsen’s barefoot story of how he turned ‘found rubbish’ on Byron Bay’s beaches into meaningful, collectable art is a fun and inspiring tale. His art provides a valid commentary on our wasteful, throwaway society and his lively speaking presentation challenges people to think about how they can make a difference to our environment.’
– Kim McKay, AO, environmental campaigner & author; Co-founder Clean Up Australia & Clean Up the World
‘At the Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration the audience listened with rapt attention to John Dahlsen’s lecture while they viewed slides of his artworks. John’s words and images drew them into his world and inspired each person to care deeply about this world we share. The strong symbolism and natural beauty of the works themselves captured the spirits of all in attendance; his statements are profound. All were impressed with John’s depth of knowledge of current environmental issues. John Dahlsen’s insightful work is an inspiration to all who care about our world, and all who learn to care, as they view his art and hear his words. We were thrilled to have met and learned so much from this distinguished artist.’
-Suzanne Starr Art Educator and North Stonington Education Board Member Connecticut USA
‘Your work has had a profound effect on me since I discovered it for the first time at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, when I was wandering round with my 3 year old son, 3 years ago. The totems stopped me in my tracks, and I was drawn to look closer to find out what they were made of… when I discovered that they were made from plastic bottles washed up on the beaches I felt the impact of your art in my mind and in my heart. Not only were they beautiful, they had a strong message to awaken the consciousness of the “asleep” – to see what is happening environmentally on the earth created by humanity’s ignorance. This filled me with inspiration, and changed the direction my work was taking. It was then that I realised I could make art that would be able to shift consciousness to a deeper place.’
Alison Laird Kapiti Coast NZ
‘The power of Dahlsen’s work lies in the artist’s abilities to witness the beauty in the every day and the mundane. However, it is his history as a painter that gives him the ability to see the objects he collects in their purest form, that is the shape and color.’
– Brett Adlington, Curator, Exhibitions and Collections. Gold Coast City Art Gallery QLD
‘Years of abstract /figurative painting… inspired by living organic forms often monochromatic, smoothed transition to his present exhibition of works. … His flotsam collection acquired at the same time as his driftwood evolved into a further dramatic phase. … ‘Contemporary Landscapes’ his mammoth task – afforded him a freedom to demonstrate aesthetic possibilities which radiate vitality and joie de vivre, uncommon to most artists deeply conscious of environmental issues’.
– Review of ‘Contemporary Landscapes’ exhibition by the respected critic/artist and trustee of the Queensland Art Gallery, Catharina Hampson.
‘The successful artistic expression of an abstruse concept such as universality is difficult to achieve, but ultimately rewards both artist and viewer. It is what lies beyond the boundaries of abstraction and figuration that intrigues John Dahlsen and he has developed a unique visual language to articulate this. Dahlsen has only arrived at this crucial stage in his work after a course of exploration, both in a personal and artistic sense….’
– Sandra Murray: Director – Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery, University of Western Australia
‘John has been working on a very successful new body of work that extends from his previous enviro sculptures into paintings. They are of the places he has collected detritus for his sculptures. The subject matter also happens to be Byron Bay, a place of infinite beauty and great affection. ‘
Steven Alderton, – Director of the Lismore Regional Art Gallery NSW Australia.
‘Few could have predicted that Australian artist John Dahlsen would have transitioned from representational painting to abstract painting and finally, for the last decade, to found object work — not even the artist himself. Yet today, the mixed-media/assemblage sculpturist is one of the most recognized and awarded environmental artists in the world.’
– Kim Hall, Florida artist- Editor New York Art Calendar Magazine
‘Dahlsen, is an optimist. To begin with, he’s already made a positive statement by clearing off the unsightly stuff that is lethal to fish and fowl. (Australia’s wildlife conservancies adore Dahlsen’s work, which was hardly his intention, but so be it.) Piling up black combs, disposable razors and pieces of rope yielded a Louise Nevelson-like sculpture with attitude.’
John T. Spike – Director of the Florence International Biennial of Contemporary Art.