Geoff Dunlop

I work as an artist curator, minus the hyphen. I attempt to balance both roles: making images, objects and installations that are directed at the individual viewer, and shaping exhibitions and events that are created in the company of others. I include my personal artwork in most of my curated exhibitions, whether there is one other artist or forty. And I see the construction of exhibitions and events as closely akin to making a complex, multidimensional artwork through collaboration and consent.

The themes of my curated exhibitions include LOVE & DEATH, UTOPIA-DYSTOPIA, TIME AFTER TIME and LIVE, which juxtaposed work relating to the title both as a verb and as an adjective. The use of dualities and even contradictions has emerged as a continuing thematic device in my role as a curator. I realise that this connects to the way I look at the world, as a series of oppositions and paradoxes.

A unifying idea that runs through most of my output, whether as a curator or as an artist, can be expressed in the simple twoword phrase natural justice. This is not in its strict sense as a legal term but in the coming together of two vital concepts: humankind’s relationship with the natural order (and disorder), which operates at all levels of existence, and justice, representing the order (and disorder) that defines the way we live with our fellow beings. I am compelled by the idea that these distinct categories can and should work together, as a philosophical, ethical and political unity.

As an artist, I work most frequently with a high definition camera as a starting point. But the images I draw out of the world around me are usually not descriptive but more like abstract paintings in appearance. They also feel closer to drawings and paintings in their making, when I compare this activity with my more conventional use of the camera, as a picture-taker. The images I make in an art context are often intended to evoke invisible processes in the natural order of things and to generate an emotional response in the viewer, even a feeling of connection.

My intention is also to reach beyond the image, towards the making of an effective and affecting object. This leads me to explore both the material and the immaterial, scale and the assembly of objects in space. As well printing on art paper, I print onto aluminium, acetate and fabric, especially translucent linen and cotton. When circumstances allow, I like to let the prints hang freely, unmounted and unframed, so they can respond reflexively to movements in the air. And I use translucency to animate the prints further, as they alter their appearance in reaction to changes in the ambient light. This is intended, in part, to refer to processes not so much unseen as ignored through familiarity, processes which we ignore at our peril.

Some of my most successful recent artworks have been achieved by configuring a set of large hanging prints so that the viewer can walk amongst them. This allows the viewer to appreciate the changes in the appearance of the prints, when they are seen from different perspectives, and when they are affected by the shifts of light and air. Although these large prints are at the centre of my practice, my recent exhibitions have also included video projections, sound installations, handmade books and texts.

For several years now I have found it easier, as an artist, to concentrate on the natural side of the two-word phrase, often creating abstracted imagery depicting the FLOW of growth, transformation, decay and regrowth. But this year I at last found a, for me, convincing way of addressing the processes of human behaviour. At an installation exhibition in the only recently vacated Shepton Mallet Prison I worked through to an effective and affecting way of combining sound, text and translucent prints to explore the horrors of captivity as a theme. It is a theme I intend to return to. In fact, I am working on the preparation of an ambitious exhibition for the future, called CAPTIVE. My key collaborator on this project is John McCarthy, a co-author with me of many films for international broadcast. John spent five years as a hostage during the Lebanese civil war – a terrifying experience I came close to myself, when I was a filmmaker with a profound interest in the recurring tragedies of the Middle East.




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