Text published in the catalogue:
Mónica Dixon. Vivir en lo extraño
As Quintas: A Caridá, 2022.
MONICA DIXON. LIVING IN THE STRANGE
Not too much light is necessary, a weak light makes it possible to live in the strange, a faithful little light.
Samuel Beckett, “Malone Dies” (1951)1
The image is an enigma. A mystery the images of Monica Dixon (New Jersey, 1971), paintings where prevails that dwelling of hers in rooms populated by questions, as who offers the passage to the power of an emptiness, an initial absence, the sample of a mysterious intimacy that would have been illuminated by a different light, not arrived from this us. “Stripping the pictorial space”, she will tell me, as a place always at the beginning, while we remain adhered by loneliness to the tremor of those nameless places in the world, as one who without mediation contemplates tempting to inhabit that space, now a place without occupants, raised walls between the augural and temperate voice of the night.
Dixon says, like that Dickens’ character: “Night is generally my time for walking”2. She represents interiors inflamed by that light of strangeness: “what I really wanted to see: the painted space itself, the vibration of light in the atmosphere, the essential solitude of the scene (…) it is we, the individuals, who shape the places we inhabit; it is the body itself that activates the space and not the existence of the space itself”3. As a derivation of the imagination4, this complex exercise of making the world disappear becomes, however, a mysterious proposal of access to the image that then seems to become exile and kingdom, since Dixon paints the space with precision and names the shadows, extends places where a silent interiority vibrates, as if populated by a lunar void, dark passages5, representing scenes that seem to be shown in dissymmetry, some over the following ones, these over the previous ones, as in a process of continuous unveiling. Scenes disturbing for their air of questions, this work conscientiously erected in uncertainty, because her paintings are not the revelation of a full presence but, rather, traces of vanished presences, as if we were contemplating the house from which its hero was absent, corridors in suspense where everything ceased, as it happens in the great canvas “[Im]possible escape” (2019), or its severe replica “Possible escape” (2020): in both of them everything stopped, there the speech without speech, the absent voice moves inhabitant.
In space we find the planes that were painted as labyrinths of mirrors of lost souls, those obsidian mirrors of Pompeii that, instead of images, returned shadows: they reflect the shadow – said a puzzled Pliny the Elder – instead of the image of the objects6. But the images activate the space, Dixon explains, referring to her paintings, these rather a promise of images capable of showing, frequently, her desire for a center of light, surpassing the signs they seem to contain, a space that is shown as a listener of a rare sonority.
There is a history of the art of empty spaces, which Fra Angelico or Piero della Francesca already tempted, temples in the solitude of their veins painted by Saenredam, metaphysical interiors by De Chirico, ‘incantata chambers’ by Carlo Carrà. I thought of Dixon, yes, remembering the spaces multiplied in Masaccio’s bluish grays, that “Trinity” of pinkish glow seen on a dark day in Santa Maria Novella. Or the interior spaces and vanishing lights painted by Pieter de Hooch. Detained Spaces7, the artist will also say, where she represents absence as an aching geometry, perhaps manifesting the promise of an advent, for Dixon’s representations praise concentration and recollection in the wandering wilderness of the world’s speech. They are paintings, I now think, which we might call “Existenzbilder”, paintings of existence, like those of Giovanni Bellini as seen by Jacob Burckhardt.
In her serenity, Dixon attends to the waiting for the dawn to rise, representing these spaces that are, rather, intervals between the painting and the story, for she gives us back true paintings of the threshold, always on the threshold of the gaze, her canvases caressing a to come, as in her duplo “Cold morning light” (2020) or the recent “When light comes in” (2022), as if in them we were seeing the light that will continue: outside the dawn is about to break. Inhabiting perhaps the resounding voice of Wittgenstein telling us: let us move away from the world, let us challenge its vain word, because nothing can be said about the world if not, rather, about its limits, we can only explain the world “if we could get out of the world, that is, if it ceased to be the whole world for us”8.
Silence. These numinous spaces claim their power, for it has been Dixon’s aim to concentrate on the essential, a quest shared with certain painters, I am thinking of Robert Ryman’s statement on the miraculous character of painting: like an epiphany something emerges that was not there before, an unspoken song that is similar and yet always different.9
Our artist exercises the attempt to create a place, like someone who has led the movement from existence to rest. A pictorial space where she traces the attempt to meet the one who contemplates and this one, displaced, remains in another place, far from the subjective representation of people, objects or concrete places, as an emptying. The absence is also liberated as a power and, from there, to be moved towards a precious silence distilled in those spaces with an infigurable air. Like an archaeologist of lost spaces, she seems to represent promises of meaning under an oblique light, like a state of deprivation capable of communicating that which is incommunicable, the glow of what was absent, the celebration of the unspeakable, like that quiet music conducive to wisdom in the stillness and silence of the night that love vivifies10, spiritual song then. Will painting be able to extend its kingdom?
See. Listen. Dixon guards an illusion, an alliance of paintings where darkness and clarity, adverse regions, meet.
Like a nocturnal privilege full of its power of interrogation, with its frosted beauty.
NOTES TO TEXT
1 BECKETT, Samuel. Malone dies (1951). Barcelona: Lumen, 1969, p.13.
2 Charles Dickens, at the beginning of “The Old Curiosity Shop”. Quoted by CALVINO, Italo. Six proposals for the next millennium. Madrid: Siruela, 2010.
3 DE LA TORRE, Alfonso. Derivatives of the imagination. Other visions of geometry. Caracas-Madrid: Odalys Gallery, 2021, pp. 29-30. Explained in the following note.
4 I am quoting the title of the exhibition mentioned above, which included Dixon’s works “Red, black & green” and “Soirée”, both from 2020.
5 I am alluding to the title of a work by Monica Dixon, “Dark Passage” (2020).
6 Pliny the Elder, Natural History-Book XXXVI, entry LXVII. : “Another genus is obsidian glass, something similar to the stone that was discovered in Ethiopia by Obsidius. This stone is very dark, sometimes translucent, but forming a mirror for the wall, it makes the shadow instead of the image of the objects”.
7 Title of her 2021 exhibition at Caicoya Art Gallery, Oviedo.
8 RUSELL, Bertrand. Introduction to the Tractatus lógico-philosophicus. Madrid: Alianza Editorial, 2003, p. 164.
9 Robert Ryman quoted by: FRÉMON, Jean. Samuel Beckett. The world and the pants. Epilogue (1989). Barcelona: Elba, 2017, pp. 88-89.
10 San Juan de la Cruz, Spiritual Canticle. Barcelona: Lumen, 2021 (the edition consulted). Canticle 14, p. 183.