Julian Dashper & Friends blog series: Courtney Johnston


Director of The Dowse Art Museum, Courtney Johnston shares memories of artist Julian Dashper. She writes: 

I remember sitting at my desk at National Library on the morning I heard Julian had died, and crying into my keyboard.

I'd met Julian relatively late in his life — when he'd moved well on from being the enfant terrible of the New Zealand art world, and had become a kind of early-onset éminence grise: an artist who was in love with art, and artists, and art history, who shared that love promiscuously. The day after Julian died, I wrote about him on my blog. When City Gallery Wellington asked me to write for this series I went back to that post, and really, I can't think of anything better to say here:

The Encyclopedia of Julian Dashper (Friday, 31 July, 2009). 

We spent last night talking about Julian - him, his work, and the imitable way he narrated it. As well as doing great work, Julian did great artist. His floortalks were priceless, and when he was in the zone you could sit back and let the well-honed commentary wash over you for hours. In a post on the Te Papa blog yesterday, William McAloon scooped a number of my favourite Dashperisms, including the terrific "People say my paintings are deep in the way they say that fat people are heavy". But he missed this one, which I think sums up beautifully the delight Julian took in setting up then subverting easy assumptions about painting:

Someone asked me once at a party 'What sort of artist are you?', and I said, 'I’m a super realist painter' and they said, 'Well that sounds good, what do you paint?' and I said, 'Abstract art'.

Interview with Mark Kirby, Luxus, The Hague, 1997, reprinted in The Twist, Waikato Museum of Art and History, 1998.

Julian Dashper, Untitled (1991). 

Exhibition Julian Dashper & Friends is on at City Gallery Wellington until 25 April. Free entry.