Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Killing you would be too easy Mr Dyke

Artist residencies used to be little more than a stipend, a cold water apartment and, “All the best” from the sponsor. We remember Jeffrey Harris, back in the seventies, freezing his sorry butt off in a garage in Dunedin as Hodgkins Fellow (not that it stopped him making those extraordinary icon paintings) with water seeping through the eaves. In the last couple of decades we have seen the flowering of a thousand residencies. You sometimes wonder if there will be enough artists to go round as the idea most often only suits people (usually young and single) who can pack up and leave home for months at a time.

Artist residency of the decade must go to the one set up by the SIS (Secret Intelligence Service to the rest of us) in the UK. Painter James Hart Dyke was awarded the MI6 Residency with access to their crew of clandestine staff. You can see the results of Dyke’s work here. At times he struggles to depict a world of shadows with anything more than…er…. shadows, and all too frequently in despair he flicks off a what-the-hell-can-I-do-now work. The red herring (described in the catalogue as ‘an indirect observation’ – it’s a fish, so yes, that description sounds about right) is a primo example of a metaphor too far.

Hard to think of our own Security Intelligence Service coming up with a residency scheme like this, but secrets being what they are, it’s not impossible that they already have.

Image: Mr Dyke at work outside MI6 HQ.