Ken Flaherty’s Doomed Gallery in East London has a rapid turn-around of exhibitions of provocative new work. Thursday last week opened a show of “six new and emerging artists from across two of the UK’s most vibrant and cultural cities”, namely London and Leeds. One artist whose work really grabbed my attention was Dan Beesley. His mixed-media works hit me with a surge of wildly Dionysian energy.
Beesley’s work is situated outside of any obvious genres, but has pointers to Marcel Duchamp and Max Ernst. Duchamp’s ‘ready-mades’ were found objects that he put forward from 1915 onwards, culminating in his infamous urinal (Fountain, 1917), and were supposed to be an interrogation of the very idea of man-made art, which Duchamp regarded as “unnecessary”. It was, however, an intellectually bankrupt move by Duchamp since it told us nothing and went nowhere. Only when the found object is subject to intervention do we encounter the interesting process that we call ‘art’. Beesley displays chunks of furniture from his studio that have subtle and ambiguous interventions. In fact, the naturalistic chaos of the works makes it largely impossible to tell where the found object ends and the intervention begins. And in this respect he reminds me of Ernst, who would begin a picture with the naturalistic chaos of dripping paint, or frottage and grattage, and tease an image out of it. Beesley resists the temptation to follow Ernst and make order out of chaos, and leaves us to confront natural mess unfettered by reason.
Daubs of paint, drips of candle wax and a felled candle, a key imprisoned by some glue-like substance, stencilled geometric forms, … the irresistible beauty of natural disorder. It was the Romantic era that formally recognised that the ruins of a castle have a greater aesthetic appeal than an intact one: naturalistic chaos is neither pure chaos, like Jackson Pollock’s meaninglessly random drip paintings, but neither is it the deliberate product of a thinking mind. It is a work that dances on the edge of chaos but withstands the vertiginous pull of the abyss.
Beesley studied Fine Art at Leeds College of Art and Design. He is now based in Leeds and works across multiple disciplines. Several of his earlier works on paper can be seen on his Tumblr portfolio, danteonline.tumblr.com. These are interesting but not match the power and authenticity of new mixed-media pieces shown in the No Frills show at Doomed.
Doomed Gallery, 65 Ridley Rd, London E8 2NP.