Even if you have never stepped foot onto a plane, never breached the borders of your home country or never felt the warm embrace of sand, the cold clutches of snow or a sea-breeze to chill your face - we don't need to have experienced it to know it. London, Rome, Paris, New York and Tokyo are parts of the world that everyone's been to - even if they haven't.
Okay, maybe we've not actually been there, but we know what these places feel like. From postcards to paintings, from novels to film - we know much more than just the monuments. In a global world of fast-moving media and in-depth access to art and news - we travel the world faster than a lie. Arriving in Rome is stepping into a film. The same happens in Paris and in almost every other major city. It's great to be there, but s persistent sense of deja-vu clouds everything.
New York, maybe more than any other, is a place of mythology. It's spirit, broken into boroughs and buildings, film scenes and friend's stories, all illustrate what kind of environment we can expect. Nothing beats going there, but it's only by consuming the related media that we have really been there. Just visiting isn't enough.There's always more perspectives.
It's a city that's given us so much. From the smokey jazz bars of Kerouac's 1950s and 1960s late-night wanderings, to the emergence of glam and punk in the 70s at CBGB's up to the Beastie Boys bestial beats and Travis Bickle's search for redemption/vengeance in Taxi Driver. The depictions in art are immersive and highlight the power of New York as a an idea as much as a city. Probably moreso than any other it holds a dual-identity. It's complex - but when the sun goes down, something else comes out.
Chaos and the disorganized is a fertile ground for life. From this intangible place we see hedonism and debauchery rise, yet also great feats of creativity manifest from such circumstances. It's only when the options are limited that people can make something happen. After all, neccessity is the mother of invention.
So here we are, in the dazzling lights and smoke of New York's nighttime. Cigarettes illuminate points of light like little fireflies dancing in conversation. Grates spew out heavy clouds of smoke and windows reflect the lights of passing cars as they do battle with the buzzing neon glow of cinemas, strip clubs and pizza joints. It is a majestic zoo of human animals. It's also one of the most incredible sights in the built world. It's these sights, in a myriad of ways, that Jane Dickson collects in her recent book Jane Dickson in Times Square.
Her voice has been consistent throughout the years, where the city has nurtured eras of punk to hip-hop and weathered episodes of AIDS, gun-violence and political unrest. In an apartment, living with her two children, she captured the life that unfolded around her on any surface she had available - from photographs to charcoal drawigns on scraps and brillo pads. Her art was her way out and our way in.
Her work is first and foremost that of a person, namelessly drifting through the vibrant streets and documenting the cities beating heart. It's also a female voice, one she embodied deeply within her own form and feeling. Her paintings, drawings and sketches explore "the constructed world, and its psychological freight, the social structuring of desire and its disruption by the uncanny." In this way, she is a shadowy apparition observing, feeling, knowing, yet crucially, always aiming to understand and convey.
Times Square has been her muse. It's where she worked for over 30 years. Her drawings, utilising unorthodox surfaces, give life to the city that already features it abounds. Her neon pastel palette immerses us deep into the night-world. We too become a flâneur - removed yet also seduced by the palpable vibrant chaos that dances all around. New York is a city that we've all been to, yet through her eyes, we are given a fresh perspective and one that perhaps can never truly be understood or believed until it has been seen. Her work then, is almost like an invitation, signed - Jane Dickson R.S.V.P.
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