For his second exhibition at T293 Dan Rees will display the results of his research made over the past few months. The project titled ‘They Don’t Make Them Like This Anymore’, focuses on the relationship between Conceptual Art and more traditional expressive techniques. The young Welsh artist maintains a detached approach towards painting and sculpture, in this case the style echoes that of Abstract Expressionism. Dan Rees’s research has stood out from other debuts in international panorama of arts thanks to his ability to blend private memories and the history with an ironic and humorous approach.
The following is an interview between T293 and Dan Rees, 16 – 26 November 2009.
Your plan for this show is to focus specifically on painting and sculpture – exploring more traditional styles and methods of creation. Where did this idea come from?
I want to disguise things a bit from what I have previously done and work in a manner that isn’t instantly recognisable as conceptual art. It will be nice if at first glance it looks and feels one way and only after time it becomes apparent the work is closer to a conceptual style or attitude.
The shape of your work is similar to a landscape delineated as an undefined combination of private memories and images of the art world. How does this relate to a compositional process?
That is an overriding uncertainty; how to make decisions when it feels arbitrary. The works in the show will openly display a sense of having been made up on the spot, the paintings, for instance, are responsible for their own composition in a sense. All the work will be made in the gallery a few days before the show, refining things in the studio beforehand would be missing the point, the interesting part for me is to be exhibiting the tests and the process of trying to relate to it or work it out.
What is your approach towards the new gallery space and how important is it for you to focus on a specific place or city?
Context is always important for me, perhaps in more of a practical sense, I am not so interested in consciously doing research as everything is interesting and everywhere could be exotic. For this show I will make paintings that are site specific, they won’t exist when the show finishes, it will echo the 16mm film installation I made for the last show with you.
Where did the title ’They Don’t Make Them like This Anymore’ come from?
‘Awesome, the Christian in Christian Dior,
Damn, they don’t make ’em like this anymore,
I ask, ’cause I’m not sure,
Do anybody make real shit anymore?’ (Kanye West)
The title is a kind of joke about me wanting to find a new style, at the same time looking back and wondering what would be lost. Specifically I was thinking about Conceptual Art and not wanting to be precious about maintaining any associated aesthetic.
Is it the case that you feel Conceptualism has become something limiting?
Working in a conceptual way should give you complete freedom to use any medium or approach, obviously following any particular period too closely creates a bit of a paradox. I always want to keep a certain distance and play around with styles, for example works like the table tennis videos or Black and White things in Black and White are very conventional in terms of the conceptual aesthetic, but hopefully the strategy is open and self-aware enough that they address the arbitrary nature of their form.
What is this project’s relation to the idea of reproduction as part of a series as well as the idea of a site-specific work?
It will be impossible to move the paintings or make the same one twice. I can just repeat the process, that’s what I like about the project, by their nature they are unique and relate directly to the place they are hung, which makes them special while the gesture remains overtly simple.