Julian Dashper: Blue Circles is the Auckland artist’s first solo public-gallery show in the capital, and comes just over a year after his residency at the Chianti Foundation in Marfa, Texas, on a Fulbright Scholarship. It contains just five works. They appear abstract and minimal, but are full of references and implications.
Dashper makes art about art. In 1973, the National Gallery of Australia, in Canberra, purchased an American modernist masterpiece, the jewel in its crown, Jackson Pollock’s Blue Poles: Number 11 (1952). It put provincial Australia on the world's art map. Almost thirty years later, Dashper stands in the Gallery in front of the painting and records the sounds of visitors experiencing it. In Blue Circles, his recordings are presented in different ways. In Blue Circles 8 (2002), twenty 12” clear lathe-cut records are hung in a line down one gallery wall, inviting us to read their grooves. In Blue Circles 1–8 (2002), eight records are presented in their covers in a vitrine. In Blue Circles (2002), the recording is piped through the Gallery’s sound system, mixing with the ambient sounds of actual visitors in Dashper's show.
Aesthetically, Pollock and Dashper’s works are chalk and cheese—they belong to different moments and mindsets. This seems to be Dashper's point. Pollock's Blue Poles is expressive abstraction, Dashper's Blue Circles are arcane conceptualism; the Pollock offers maximum affect, the Dashpers minimum.
For Untitled (Blue CV Upside Down) (2003), Dashper prints his artist's CV on twenty sheets of A4 blue paper and hangs them upside down on a Gallery wall, in place of the art. Usually presented as supplementary information in a show, here the CV takes centre stage. Dashper plays on the way artists' reputations can inform, even overshadow, the way their works are read.
Dashper's Untitled (The Warriors) (1998) is a Linko child's drum kit with a concentric-circles target on the head of the kick drum. The title suggests it's the drum kit for a band called The Warriors, but the name is more familiar as that of the Auckland Rugby League team Dashper supports (the only New Zealand team in the Australian NRL). The work suggests New Zealand's little-brother relationship to Australia. (The Warriors sponsored Dashper’s 1998 exhibition at Waikato Museum of Art and History.)
In the video, Untitled (Interviews) (2001–2), the artist gives four interviews, over explaining his work. We cannot possibly understand or absorb all the information. It's funny. In the time it takes him to explain, Dashper grows a beard. The video contrasts with the explanatory material usually seen in galleries, abbreviated for a three-second attention span. The artist himself describes it as ‘didactic diarrhoea’.
Capital Times reports than an art expert did not recommend watching the video. In Sunday Star Times, Josie McNaught writes that visitors who are after canvases that offer instant gratification will not find them in Julian Dashper: Blue Circles.