A Visual Conversation: The Paintings of Dana Dion

Before the Dusk, 2013, 152 x 198 cm/5 x 6.5 ft., acrylic on canvas

Before the Dusk, 2013, 152 x 198 cm/5 x 6.5 ft., acrylic on canvas

For me painting is meditative. This is how I go into another world. I am awake, I am alert, yet completely absorbed in the act of painting…not thinking of anything else. —Dana Dion

Dana Dion’s paintings reflect an intense exploration of the world and her subsequent quest for inner expression of that experience. The bold physicality of her painterly surfaces is balanced with a sense of tender vulnerability and an obvious love for the process of painting.

Luscious and evocative, the works explore the vast reaches of a rich inner landscape through a language that she has developed over the years. “I aim to locate a place where I belong. To connect, care, and have a place that is mine.” She continues to discover that locus within herself.

Dion’s peripatetic life has introduced her to many landscapes. Born in Tel Aviv in 1960, she traveled back and forth between Kenya and Israel during her childhood years. In this foreign environment, she felt at home. This shifted in 1974 when her family left Israel to move to Canada after the Arab-Israeli War. At 14, she felt slightly out of place at this tender age, but found an early voice for her work by painting large-scale murals on the walls of her school.

She returned to Israel at 18. Dion subsequently explored modeling and acting, and her name was entered as a potential candidate for Miss Israel. She won the title and, in 1979, traveled to London to compete for Miss World. After the competition, she spent a year living and working in Los Angeles.

She returned to Vancouver in 1980 where she ran highly successful fitness businesses for 12 years. In 1995, she, her husband, and three children moved to London for a three-year stint. During that time, she studied painting, eager to learn techniques and embrace her natural inclination for visual expression.

In 2000, Dion and her family settled in Sydney, and she found herself at home in the sensibility of Australia’s varied landscape. Since 2005, she has dedicated herself full-time to painting, applying the discipline of a lifetime. She notes in her artist’s statement:

Art for me is the excitement of creation in a relatively unstructured way. Painting and drawing frees me to express, think, push boundaries, learn, explore… I can let go and there is no need to conform. It is my creation… not what is expected of me from others.

Her abstracted landscapes are influenced by her lifetime connections to the geographies of Israel and Australia. “I love the Australian bush, sea, vegetation, sounds and smells,” she notes. She and her husband often camp in various spots for periods of time there. While out in the landscape, she photographs and sketches.

But Dion is a studio painter, and she spends most of her time painting from memory and feeling. In the privacy of her studio, she creates a dialogue between herself and work that is ongoing, active, and always fresh.

I take experiences out in nature back to my studio and paint large. I use a lot of paint. I make a mess. I am very physical when I work, moving energetically. I allow the movement to initiate rhythms. I capture the energy by painting quickly. Intuition and boldness drive the work. Accidents along the way make for spontaneity and improvisation.

In this dialogue between the planned and the unplanned, Dion finds a balance. Her works are often tethered by an underlying grid and horizontal structure referencing landscape. A lexicon of shapes and her distinct language reoccur, regardless of the environment from which she draws her inspiration. “The landscapes do not depict a specific place, but rather a recording of the many places I have lived without borders or boundaries,” she explains.

Southern Bright, 2012, 122 x 135 cm/48 x 53 in, acrylic on canvas

Southern Bright, 2012, 122 x 135 cm/48 x 53 in, acrylic on canvas

Southern Bright (2012, 122 x 135 cm/48 x 53 in, acrylic on canvas) explores the openness and light of the landscape while playing with shifts between foreground and background. This piece shows Dion’s ongoing exploration of the physicality of paint and gesture. As she abstracts from the landscape, she lets go of notions of stricture and regiment, allowing herself to embrace her distinctive temperament.

I create works that excite me. I can’t do authentic work if I am also thinking about the audience, because the work is too self-conscious. I can dream and feel while I am alone, allowing my emotions to surface without directing or controlling them.

Storm Pending (2012, 122 x 137 cm/48 x 54 in, acrylic on canvas) again merges abstraction and reference to the landscape. The horizon line and tree shapes suggest a place and time, but the assertive action of the painting trumps any narrative concerns. Much is obviously edited out in the studio as she moves freely into abstraction.

Dana Dion, Storm Pending, 2012, 122 x 137 cm/48 x 54 in, acrylic on canvas

Dana Dion, Storm Pending, 2012, 122 x 137 cm/48 x 54 in, acrylic on canvas

Poetic and moody in feeling, Before the Dusk (2013, 152 x 198 cm/5 x 6.5 ft, acrylic on canvas) dissolves the landscape reference, bordering on non-objectivity. Loose and gestural, this piece exhibits an ongoing development of confidence in her materials and language.

Before the Dusk, 2013, 152 x 198 cm/5 x 6.5 ft., acrylic on canvas

Before the Dusk, 2013, 152 x 198 cm/5 x 6.5 ft., acrylic on canvas

Dion’s worldview is one of connection, not separation. When looking at her life and work, the traces of longing for a deeper connection are evident. For her, this link to a sense of place that cannot ever be uprooted is essential. Intimate and beyond words, these paintings echo not only a sense of place, but a sense of peace.

Katherine Duncan Aimone, fine arts writer, www.artswrite.com
For more information about Dana Dion: www.danadion.com

On December 5th, 2013, posted in: Painters, Painting by