In August this year Marie Shannon sent out an invite to some folks to write a memoir about Julian Dashper, the final text would be sent to Matthew Deleget of Minus Space, NY, and included in an exhibition honouring the first year of Julian's passing.
Marie and Matt have kindly agreed to let me add my text to our blog, I hope it might bring some memories of your own about our friend to the fore ...
When a person spends as little time in your life yet maintains as great an impact as Julian Dashper, you would be wise to consider what it is about that person that might be applied to one's own life.
I am Nathan Pohio, an artist, and I work as an Exhibition Designer at The Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna O Waiwhetū. I first met Julian Dashper at a local bar, we talked about a lot of ‘work stuff' and then settled into more relaxed conversation. Julian explained to me his tailored suit, a country & western styled single breasted two-piece which he was obviously fond of; a gift from his brother-in-law he wore it like a family heirloom complete with cowboy boots and a bit of a swagger.
We hit it off immediately talking about country & western music, cowboy movies and cult films. Julian without hesitation went on to discuss his health with such utter positivism it was clear that he was not one to allow the fates of life deny him anything. It is from here that my admiration for this incredibly generous person grew and my little big journey with Julian began.
Over the following months there was short sharp turnaround of emails about his upcoming exhibition at Christchurch Art Gallery. Julian was preparing what would become To The Unknown New Zealander an exhibition at first meant to be a small show focused on a few works; however the exhibition quickly became an ever-increasing body of work, 37 in total, installed throughout the gallery. Like a cheeky virus his work crept, expanded and multiplied itself from initial conversations with Director Jenny Harper, Visitor Experience Manager Blair Jackson and Curator Peter Vangioni into a project that would leave few spaces and corners of the gallery unaccounted for by Julian.
Julian never really stopped to ask if it was OK to add more work, he was simply driving this thing fast forward and seeing how far he could push it, he talked so much about each of the works whilst still adding more it became be impossible to deny him, he kept us all far too busy for that. It was great fun to see an artist of Julian's calibre and nature work his way from one space to another adding works like a polite tornado uplifting everything and placing it somewhere else. This of course drove our registration and exhibition teams to capacity and our graphic designer right around the bend as there would be no labels. A fold-out map was needed for a visitor to locate all the works throughout the gallery, Julian liked to shift the works about still, until the ‘works map' went from including ‘a few works' to thirty seven that could move at any moment and so printing it before the opening started to look ...optional.
Julian worked tirelessly with the entire gallery staff and his stamina at this remains impressive still. It is not easy work for an artist exhibiting in a large institution, there is a lot of background work that goes on and Julian demonstrated how to make the load appear approachable, or even easy if you let it be, or at least he made it appear so.
On the first morning of installing his show Julian wanted to address Rita Angus and her work Cass, the premise for To The Unknown New Zealander. In an earlier life Julian was denied the opportunity to install his work, Warrior Rita Angus 1992 in front of Cass. So here he was returning to attended to some unfinished business with an old friend.
As many will know Julian does not undertake the actual physical work of his practice, so under the watchful eye of our Registration and Conservation staff it was my task to see Cass removed from the wall, climb up a ladder and ‘take the biggest bolt you can find and send it into the wall as if Goofy was hanging the art'. So with great pleasure I abandoned the standard museum practice of lining everything up on a centreline and drove this ridiculous bolt into the wall at some odd angle for Untitled (English White Chain) to suspend from, and ‘re-hang' Cass upon the chain. This was Julian placing the work within a larger project of re-hanging ‘destination paintings' from collections around the world, it also set the tone for the quietly consistent storm that was Julian Dashper at work.
Marie Shannon: The Aachen Faxes, Christchurch remix
Marie Shannon's sound work contemplates love, loss, and the longing for emotional connection across distance.
Julian Dashper: To the Unknown New Zealander
An exhibition by one of New Zealand's leading contemporary artists.
Julian Dashper made these sound recordings in 2002 in front of Jackson Pollock’s painting Blue Poles: Number 11, 1952, at the Australian National Gallery in Canberra. He was on his way home to New Zealand following an artist’s residency in Nebraska. He wanted to make a 23-minute recording—the maximum amount of time that you can fit on a 12” vinyl record—but his tape recorder kept stopping and starting. In the end, he had eight short audio recordings of people shuffling their feet and coughing in front of the famous painting.
Dashper was always interested in correspondences—the unexpected relationship between one thing and another. He was delighted, therefore, to learn that he made his recording fifty years almost to the day that Blue Poles was painted; and also that the number of recordings he made corresponded to the number of poles in the painting. “I had gone from what at first seemed to be an absolute disaster of an artwork”, he said, “to something that gave me a chill to even think about. Art is often strange and wonderful like that.”
Blue Circles #1–#8 comes from a long series of work in which Dashper conflated the appearance of modernist abstraction (circles and targets) with the ephemera of the popular music industry (vinyl records, and drum skins). “I am not a musician”, he said. “That’s what primarily interests me. It therefore feels very abstract to me. It feels very pure. I see music as a huge and grand metaphor for me to pluck fruit from and make jam.”
(Your Hotel Brain, May 2017 - May 2018)
The repurposed drumskin became a signature motif for Auckland-based Julian Dashper, whose conceptual art practice saw him develop an international exhibiting profile in the United States, Australia and Europe, before his untimely death in 2009.
Resonating with the American pop artist Jasper Johns’ 1950s target paintings, Dashper’s drumskin canvases were also made to honour a band of New Zealand’s pioneering modernists. In 1992 The Big Bang Theory saw him assembling full drumkits emblazoned with his heroes’ names: The Anguses, The Hoteres, The Colin McCahons, The Woollastons and The Drivers.