Sandra Murray, in an essay (1991), said it more concisely than I could:
‘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’s review particularly resonated with me. It is indeed, the intrigue and exploration and of course the medium I use at the time which helps define me and my work.
I believe art to be my spirituality. Over the past 20 years I have tried to maintain a pure commitment to contemporary art practice; I have never looked for a safe place to rest. What happens with my art generally runs parallel to my life, meaning that I learn from my art and apply some of these insights to my life and vice versa. When I sense that I am becoming too comfortable in what I am doing I will consciously move on to something new. For example, challenges in my personal life keep me on my toes and help me to extend myself more as an artist. This is how my work is in a constant state of evolution.
I see this evolution largely an alchemical one. It is the process of nature’s elements redefining the man-made that creates the initial alchemy, taking the objects beyond the mundane. The second step is achieved through the transportation of these plastics to my studio and the process of sorting and assembling. A further and more vital alchemy takes place as I assemble them.
Through using intuition, and personal aesthetic judgments, the objects start to tell their story and become transformed into artworks. Most importantly, for me, the assembled objects bring to life my commitment as an artist to express social, spiritual and environmental concerns.
Comments are regularly made to me about people’s consciousness, while walking the beach, being awakened after seeing my found plastic object artworks. With this in mind, I trust leaving the final alchemy of the work to the viewer with the strong possibility they experience deep perceptual shifts as they interact with my art.
While my art practice changes, and evolves, my underlying commitment as an artist has never wavered. I have always been motivated by a professional duty to be aware of and express current social, spiritual and environmental concerns through my art practice.
I get on this razors edge line between fulfillment and frustration, knowing that I am able to only ever provide through my creativity a glimpse of the greatness that is life – a fragment of what is essentially the ineffable.
To conclude, the change in medium is perpetuated by something that happens inside me, and therefore has made itself known in my work. Perhaps the question should have been ‘Do life changes affect the medium you use?’ because as I grow,and change, hopefully, so too will my art.
Adlington, Brett. Essay: “Full Circle”, Gold Coast City Art Gallery catalogue, 2001.
Bromfield, David. Review: “Hidden Talents In Layered Depths”, The West Australian, October 26, 1991.
Hampson, Catharina: Review: “Contemporary Landscapes Review”, Fox Galleries Brisbane Catalogue. 1999
Murray, Sandra. Essay: “John Dahlsen – Painting and Drawing”, Lawrence Wilson Gallery University of Western Australia Catalogue, 1991.