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  • Writer's pictureHaydn Dickenson


For many years, I have been naggingly interested in the artistic idea of creation through destruction. In my painting EMERGENT INTIMACY, I explored the theme of a fleeting connection with another human being by employing a technique known as 'scratching back', in which I scraped at the dense impasto surface of a developing oil painting, in order to unearth secrets beneath; it was not by any means for the first time I had used this technique but, in this instance, the action seemed to be a very numinous one.

EMERGENT INTIMACY - Haydn Dickenson 2022

Fifteen years ago, when my artistic bent surged towards abstraction, I discovered the work of the phenomenal Japanese artist Shozo Shimamoto (1928-2013), in particular his oil painting HOLES, and the activities of the Gutai Group to which Shimamoto belonged.

HOLES - Shozo Shimamoto 1954

I made a pilgrimage this afternoon to view HOLES once again, at the Tate Modern Gallery in London. Shimamoto created this delicately majestic painting using layers of newspaper, applying white and grey oil paint to the surface and later piercing it to reveal layers, and a void, underneath. Those of you who are familiar with my work will know that I am preoccupied with 'what lies beneath or beyond', both in terms of physically scratching away the surface paint, and in creating portal-like shapes that draw the viewer deep into the picture, towards alternate realms. HOLES vibrates on a congruent frequency with my own, because of what the artist 'removed' in order to 'create', and because of the enticing grey tones that flow, lava-like, over the picture's surface.

In my painting below, GREY MATTER, the apparent (though illusive) neutrality of the surface is forcefully and substantially pared away to reveal turbulent colour which has been suffocated, suppressed and subverted.

GREY MATTER - Haydn Dickenson 2020

To this day I find working in grey to be metaphysically expressive, positive and celebratory, and I have little patience with those whose knee-jerk reactions to any of my predominantly monochrome pieces is that they are depressive.

SANS TITRE - Haydn Dickenson 2011

Shozo Shimamoto was a member of the Japanese Gutai Group, founded in 1954 by Yoshihara Jiro, to whom he was close. 'Gutai' means 'the physical embodiment of an idea', from 'Gu' meaning 'a way' and 'Tai' meaning 'a body'. The group espoused artistic and conceptual freedom, and their output was notable for its integration of everyday or household materials into artworks. From the Gutai group I inherited my love of collage within my paintings, using newspaper, music scores and other personally significant items or found objects as part of the physical composition.

FROM THE THIRD - Haydn Dickenson 2012


In ALWAYS START WITH SILENCE, I incorporated fragments of ancient piano music scores, annotated by an unknown teacher in bygone times, an ancient receipt for a book purchased by my father more than three-quarters of a century ago, and sprocket-hole impressions in plaster of 35 mm film used in my father's PhD thesis. My father's influence on my life was predominantly wicked and malign; the inclusion of such discovered and retained objects serves a cathartic purpose.

ALWAYS START WITH SILENCE - Haydn Dickenson 2021

Before leaving the subject of 'holes' for today, I would like to refer to another very different twentieth-century artist, the Argentine-Italian Lucio Fontana (1899-1968). Fontana founded a movement known as 'Spatialism' which involved either piercing or slashing the surface of monochrome paintings, often revealing a an imagination-piquing void behind the violently breached canvas. Behind the canvas often lay a black gauze which aimed to heighten the sense of mystery.

In the Tate Modern hangs Fontana's SPATIAL CONCEPT 'WAITING'. Elegantly mesmerising, this beautiful canvas commands the viewer's attention in a voice of dangerously murmured seduction.


Fontana reminds us once again how absorbing and enlightening it is to ponder on statements in painting finding kinship with those of the sculptor, who often creates by removing rather than by adding.

Copyright Haydn Dickenson 2023


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Aug 08, 2023

Interesting, informative, I learnt two new words & indirectly discovered the meaning of pasta! 😋

Haydn Dickenson
Haydn Dickenson
Aug 08, 2023
Replying to

Haha...Thank you - awesome comment all round!!!

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