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reviews dan PerfeCt
Dan Perfect
Chisenhale Gallery, london
16 January – 2 M arCh
Aleph, 2007,
oil and acrylic on linen,
183 x 257 cm. Photo:
the artist and anthony
Makinson, Prudence Cuming
associates ltd, london
You’re skeltering down a fire escape, chewing Bazooka Joes, listening to Glenn Gould on your iPod, teetering at times
on high heels, half macho, half meek, reading a Penguin Classic and answering your mobile phone, and it all works, this
intellectual and physical multitasking, a mayhem that only makes sense temporarily while you’re inside it, before you lose it,
trip, choke, go back and say what? This is the sense Dan Perfect’s paintings give you, with their layered, giddy abstraction
that seems to balance on the edge of caffeinated calamity. Here is Abstract Expressionism reined in, compressed, printed
over, lasered and digitised, painting that exudes a noisy lyricism, an effervescent musicality that wipes the insouciance off the
current graffiti-meets-graphic-designer cool. These are urban microfictions, all distinct but interlinked, tangential narratives
hopping between different time frames like a videogame.
There’s something decidedly English about Perfect’s dour-weather browns and greens, and then eclectic in their
visual references, from Karel Appel to Charles Rennie Mackintosh. God knows how Perfect holds it all together, but he does,
making the old formulae of applied craziness or controlled chaos seem irrelevant. The paintings swing between a studied
mask-face or patch of spray-paint smoothness and improvised stretches of palette-knifed thick, pure colour. There are some
snakes and ladders to play with – bridges, walkways, tower blocks and crooked skulls that belong to Perfect’s own comic
shorthand. Then he draws you into quieter swathes of raw canvas and delicate patterning that would look right on 1950s
curtains. This is an adult, with the energy of a kid, having fun with ‘the drunkenness of things being various’. The blotches,
blots and blocks of what’s beneath create a mind map that seems to try to ask, ‘How can we manage to speak to one another
in the midst of this mess/mass?’
But the artist clearly believes we can, and his vitality and purity of purpose are infectious. His gorgeous accrual of
alphabets and sketches of joy-in-paint sings. It feels like the fragmented dynamism of frenzied Internet-surfing that answers
your questions – and more – and leaves you with a satisfied saturation. Village (all works 2007) is the most ‘peopled’, animated
by characters one imagines might be called Bubble and Squeak, and it strives for a nursery innocence that seems unsure of
itself. Better the darker pieces – the microscopic cells and biological pipework suggested in Sandman, or when he lets the
proliferation of marks do the emoting for you, as in Uproar and Aleph, which signal the misshapen, haphazard architecture of
Hackney and the sudden colour burst from a window box in a grisly, exhausted estate. Cherry Smyth
artreview 152
march_REVIEWS.indd 152 5/2/08 13:46:28
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