Selected Reviews

Bernard LaMarche, “Au royaume du petit format”, Le Devoir, July 31, 1999.

(…) Cependant, il y a là quelques découvertes à faire, notamment celle de Mark Dixon, de Fredericton dans l’espace de Blouin. Celui-là, avec ses entrelacs de peinture et ses effets hors foyer, explore avec autant de doigté des espaces mi-abstraits mi-figuratifs que la coqueluche de Toronto, David Urban, present lui aussi à l’exposition et qui s’en tire passablement moins bien. À en juger par les autres oeuvres du meme Dixon que nous avons vues (d’accord, ce ne sont que des reproductions, il faut donc se méfier), celui-ci semble être moins mordant dans les grands formats. …

English translation:
(…) However, there are some discoveries to make, in particular that of Dixon Mark, from Fredericton in the space Blouin. This one, with its interlacings of paint and its out of focus effects, explores with as much dexterity of semi-figurative, semi-abstract spaces than the darling of Toronto, David Urban also present at the exhibition and which draws less better. To judge some by other works of same Dixon which we saw (agreed, they are only reproductions, it is thus necessary to be wary), this one seems to be less biting in larger formats…

Ray Cronin, “Mark Dixon: New Paintings”, ArtsAtlantic, Summer/Fall 1999.

Mark Dixon is a Fredericton artist who has been consistently questionning the nature of his chosen medium through exhibitions in the region for the past few years. His most recent featured paintings that seem, at first glance, to merit the description of “abstract.” He resists that characterization, choosing to term his works as non-objective. Dixon isn’t trying to portray things in his paintings; rather, he is interested in evoking and manipulating space. Even more specifically, he is trying to evoke multiple and conflicting spaces within the illusory space of the picture plane.

These twenty-one paintings share certain stylistic similarities. Dixon draws the viewer in by using the traditional illustrative function of painting to hint at imagery. ln effect, His paintings seem to refer to something, though just what is undefined. He refers to this suggestive quality as “fictional forms in fictional spaces.” This, though, could serve as a description of any painting, whether Jackson Pollock’s Lavender Mist or Leonardo Da Vinci’s La Giaconda. Dixon is more precise when he describes what he’s after: “What interests me in my recent paintings is the conflict that is caused by the simultaneous existence of more than one form of visual language within the same space… What also interests me is the manipulation of the painting’s sense of space.”

Of course, it’s not the painting’s sense of space that is being manipulated, but the viewers’ perception of it. These works reflect an active intelligence; they are attractive objects and Dixon’s use of colour is stylish and not without a certain nostalgia. Yet the main attraction of such attractive paintings is the artist’s persistent and meticulous questioning of both his medium and the viewer’s perception of if. Dixon’s painting is strategic, containing a conscious conflict that seeks to create the opposite of a unified painting. He is counting on the viewer’s reading the painting as an illusion, as containing depth.

This act of reading is certainly habitual, it may even be physiological, and as Dixon and a host of other painters know, it’s also predictable. These untitled oils work best when their internal conflict between illusion and actuality is at its most tense. Dixon uses subtle shifts in focus and sudden shifts in style – volumetric vs. flat renditions, illusionistic space butted against thickly rendered lines that can’t be seen any other way than as paint on canvas. ln the best of these works, the viewer’s reliance on perceptual habits is exposed in the very act of looking at the paintings. Not content to merely express or portray, Dixon poses questions, challenging the viewer to look beyond habitual ways of seeing.