In my work I explore what are often traditionally seen as dichotomies: The relationships between religion and art; religion and science; art and science. I find these divisions fascinating and fertile ground for my creativity. I am also interested in how art, science and religion use metaphor and models to convey ideas and meanings. I seek to produce pieces where the meaning is open to interpretation by the viewer. I am interested in how the work is read: does it reference science, religion, neither or both and is this dependent on how the work is presented/titled?
I aim to produce pieces that engage the viewer visually and invites them to invest time in exploring the work and its possible meanings. My works comprise simple forms painted by hand using repeating elements. This repetition is a key aspect to my practice both in the production of the piece and its aesthetics: the act of painting the individual elements becomes an almost ritualistic and religious experience akin to a mantra. Repetition is also a cornerstone of scientific practice; ensuring results are reproducible and statistically significant. In art, repeated elements have been used to produce almost mystical and transcendent experiences in the viewer. This is apparent in the works of my major artistic influences including Abstract Expressionist painters such as Mark Rothko, Agnes Martin and Barnett Newman and Minimalist sculptors like Carl Andre. Artists whose work also explores the themes of science and religion also influence my practice, most notably Anselm Kiefer and Antony Gormley.
Prior to training as an artist my previous career was as a scientist, specifically a medical microbiologist. This informs my interest in exploring the nature of reality and in particular the fundamental factors that influence the way the universe has evolved. This is coupled with my wider interest in philosophy, theology and cosmology. Part of this is the notion of the Anthropic Principle which, in various forms, suggests that if the universe was any different from how it is, humanity would not exist to observe it. A significant element of this is a series of specific constants that govern the way the universe operates. If the values of the constants were even slightly different then the universe would be radically changed or may not even exist at all.
As a painter the nature of paint is something that is very important to me. I am increasingly experimenting with producing my own paints using basic chemicals such as graphite, metal and stone powders and simple compounds. I see this as part of the process of the alchemy that is making art. For the support I work with glass which is an important aspect of my practice despite it being technically challenging. It is an ancient material, transformed from sand, and has strong associations with science and religion, particularly through laboratory glassware, mirrors and windows. For me, the use of these materials gives my work a connectedness with elemental nature of the universe.
Dave Dent — May 2016