Current Issue #488

Dan Withey's weird and wonderful world

Dan Withey, Flowers and cup, acrylic on canvas, 30 by 28cm

Faced with bushfires and pandemics it’s becoming increasingly difficult to remain optimistic, but in his latest exhibition, Dan Withey attempts to do just that.

Aptly titled Stay Positive, with this exhibition Dan Withey continues to try to make sense of the world through his practice and offers audiences a glimpse into the weird and wonderful world of Withey.

Already settled on before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, the focus of the exhibition has become even more fitting. “It’s about trying to make sense of something that makes no sense,” Withey explains. “It’s hard to make sense of something that there is no making sense of – it’s nonsensical, it’s mad.”

Withey’s practice reflects the everyday and what’s happening around him, presented through a range of colours and eccentric characters. In Stay Positive he continues to explore a range of contemporary issues and parody our current situation in an increasingly confusing and terrifyingly negative world.

The exhibition includes work from Withey’s past and present in something of a retrospective. Looking across his oeuvre there is a clear transition from figurative works to more recent abstract works. In Withey’s earlier works he delves into the chaos of the world with paintings full of imagery and metaphors, while his more recent work is pared back.

For example, in the work Stay Positive, Withey depicts a vase of flowers with a yellow background. He says: “I see yellow as positive and flowers are temporary. The work is about the idea that it’s impossible to stay positive all the time but you just do the best you can.”

Dan Withey, Stay positive, acrylic on canvas, 122 by 122 cm

Another piece, Containing the Uncontainable, is about attempting to keep things contained without falling apart. “The work relates to what we have been going through and refers to the government trying to hold society together without it all imploding,” says Withey.

In response to the pandemic, Withey has made sure that there is something for everyone in the exhibition. Along with paintings of various sizes the exhibition will also feature works on paper and a sketchbook with drawings about being dyslexic.

“I haven’t talked about it much other than saying I am dyslexic,” reveals Withey. “The drawings are about experiences I had when I was growing up when people would tell me I had not been trying hard enough.”

Even under all the confusion and the artist’s desire to make sense of the world there is a playful and optimistic vibe to the work. Through his paintings Withey is depicting his environment but at the same time rejecting the everyday.

Dan Withey: Stay Positive
27 August to 24 September

Jane Llewellyn

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