“There’s something about these places – nostalgic, faded, abandoned, but also there’s resilience and pride, people, families.”
Dead Reckoning is a new exhibition at The Auxiliary in Middlesbrough. Gordon Dalton’s landscape paintings combine memories of places he has lived, visited, or longingly imagined. They are an invention, full of contrasts and spontaneity. Liam Slevin, Creative Director at The Auxiliary, spoke to Gordon about the exhibition, and Gordon’s recent artist residency in Redcar.
You have just finished with Creative Factory, where you supported, championed and advocated for local artists. Now you’re back behind the canvas – A studio with Tees Valley Arts in Redcar has given birth to the challenge of #40daysandnights in the studio. What’s driving you? Has the time away from the canvas given you new energy? Has lockdown been kind to you?
I never stopped painting to be honest. I’m a bit of a night owl so I would paint on an evening. Three of the larger works were done during this time. Lockdown meant working at home but I painted every day in between homeschooling and the godforsaken Zoom.
The studio in Redcar has been brilliant for lots of reasons including being next door to Pacittos. I love seaside towns and Coney Island (the one in NYC and Porthcawl), Barry Island, and Redcar have cropped up in other works. I’d been thinking about making a painting relating to Redcar for ages so it’s nice to be on the seafront leading up to the exhibition. There’s something about these places – nostalgic, faded, abandoned, but also there’s resilience and pride, people, families.
Can you give us an idea of what influences you, where you get your subject matter?
I’m very much a studio painter but I’m gathering info all the time. Other than various landscapes, where I’ve lived, etc, the past few years I’ve got into angling a lot. Weirdly it’s not that different from painting. Lots of prep, looking and trying to capture something.
I’m always trying to filter everything through painting, be it films, say John Carpenter movies, books by Douglas Coupland or music. I finally get Bruce Springsteen and usually paint to Thrash Metal or melancholic bands like Low.
Art wise, I always fall back on old favourites like Paul Nash, Morandi, Vuillard and Bonnard if I’m stuck.
The seaside and East Cleveland landscape is my current obsession – abandoned buildings, broken theme parks….
Speaking of landscapes and abandonment, how do you feel about the recent announcement that the Redcar blast furnace is to be demolished?
It’s what I grew up with, that amazing horizon, that massive sky – the total awe of passing Wilton or seeing the furnace in the distance. That combined with the coast, the moors, it’s all the same to me. It’s our landscape. I’m totally in favour of preserving some of it, not as a museum or gallery, but just as a monument, a true Tees Valley Giant.
Your solo exhibition at The Auxiliary Project Space is entitled Dead Reckoning, where did the title come from?
Dead Reckoning is a nautical term for setting your course from your last known point. Dutch sailors used to throw their dead into the sea. I liked that for a solo show, it’s not a retrospective, just something to plot my future direction.
Dead Reckoning is also the name of a coveted vehicle in Romero’s Land of the Dead – a land where a ruling elite live in a gated community and don’t care about anything but money. Seemed apt. Dead Reckoning is used to find a new way, an escape, to find a new life.
The show was meant to be pre-lockdown but it’s taken on new meanings now.
And the titles of individual work?
They come from all over the place – songs, overheard snippets of conversation, shop signs, insults, toilet graffiti.
They’re there to set the mood, give you a key, or the opposite, to trip you up, make you think about what you’re looking at. I don’t think I could ever use untitled.
And an easy one to round it off. Why do you paint?
I do wonder sometimes. It’s like a compulsion really. You’re just trying to find that little bit of space, freedom, or joy. There’s a sweet spot that feels good, a one-on-one relationship with a painting. It has to be the bullseye.
Hopefully people enjoy them in some small way.
Gordon Dalton – Dead Reckoning
The Auxiliary, 31 Station Street, Middlesbrough, TS1 1SR
18th September – October 17th
Thursday – Saturday 12pm-4pm
For more information on Gordon Dalton’s Artwork, please visit:
Interview by Liam Slevin
Founder of The Auxiliary
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