May 27, 2020 - Kelly Carper
David Dornan’s solo exhibition, Studio Visit, features a new body of work that shows the periphery of the painting process from the artist’s perspective. The subject of Dornan’s latest paintings are the paintings themselves: a still life in progress is surrounded by overturned bottles, strewn brushes, messy aprons and other detritus from its hectic creation, while another piece in the show may depict that same still life subject as a clean and complete painting. These varied perspectives provide an interesting illusion for the viewer while offering a glimpse into the evolution of a painting, from its chaotic creation in the artist’s studio to its composed presentation in the gallery.
“With this group of works, I’m trying to make the audience aware that the day-to-day is much more interesting than the ideal,” says Dornan, whose work is often symbolic of larger narratives or metaphors. “It’s an interesting pursuit for me because most people see paintings in galleries or museums where it’s framed and clean, rather than in the artist’s studio where it’s this crazy utopia. That’s where I live – I don’t spend a lot of time in galleries looking at art – I spend my time mucking around in paint.
Periphery II is a 45” x 50” piece that depicts this recurring theme of a “painting within a painting.” A large canvas featuring a painted banana split hangs on the studio wall, while the still life subject sits before it: a melting banana split topped with ice cream, chocolate syrup and maraschino cherries. Next to the dripping dessert is a glass bowl of cherries, while nearby are the artist’s tools – a palette knife and an ice cream scoop. Parallel paintings in the show that echo this piece include a completed banana split still life, and a close up view of maraschino cherries piled into a translucent dish. “The most beautiful color I think I’ve ever seen is Hershey’s syrup as its poured over the top of French vanilla ice cream,” says Dornan. “As it travels over the top of the ice cream it gives off this luminesce that is just amazing, so I thought – I should paint that.”
Dornan’s infatuation with the simple pleasures of every day life extends to seemingly ordinary objects such as honey bear bottles, Tabasco jars and Popeye spinach cans – which also appear in this exhibition. Apart from their interesting shapes, Dornan is drawn to paint these objects because they offer a point of connection for the viewer with their familiarity. “I hope that when viewers see these ordinary things, they can interject themselves into the painting and connect it to their life and their experiences,” says Dornan.
In this way, Dornan’s paintings often take on symbolic narratives as the artist associates his subjects with personal meaning. Appliance World is a painting that reminds Dornan of his mother; it depicts a Sunbeam Mixmaster like the one she had, along with a 1940s-50s appliance catalog. “This one involves a little bit of editorializing and idealism,” says Dornan. “It’s a bit tongue in cheek but it’s also part of my world. In a way I connect it with my mom, so others might too.”