Review: Nick Dahlstrom’s con(TEXTURED) at The Carrack

In his first solo exhibition, Durham artist Nick Dahlstrom explores the importance of context through oil paintings of raw meat.

In (con)TEXTURED, his first solo exhibition, Durham artist Nick Dahlstrom decks The Carrack’s walls with oil paintings that are both gruesome and beautiful. In his depictions of raw meat and dried flowers, Dahlstrom explores the essence of texture and the importance of context.

Paintings of Meat?

It sounds strange, but meat as a subject is not as unusual as you might think. Dahlstrom cites Francis Bacon as an influence, an artist who portrayed meat as a subject and symbol in several of his works, including the haunting Figure with Meat.

Victoria Reynolds also comes to mind. Her paintings of meat straddle the line between gore and beauty. They’re also displayed in elaborate baroque frames. Plus, the meat is highly stylized- check out Fat of the Lamb for a prime example. Dahlstrom takes a more restrained, contemporary approach than Reynolds. He positions raw chicken, beef, and bacon simply, in negative space.

The Devil’s in the Details

Examined at close range, the array of textures in Dahlstrom’s paintings are astonishing. Great globs of paint coexist with chunks of opalescent tissue. Skeins of fat are as delicate as gossamer.

Painted in bright colors, Dahlstrom’s flowers retain the gore of the meat- the frilly tubes of an orchid look anatomical. If the bacon, beef, and chicken are reminiscent of the human body’s insides, the flowers look quite a bit like sexual organs.

It’s easy to wallow in the textured details of Dahlstrom’s work… which is probably the artist’s intention.

(con)Textured in Context

Back to the title of the exhibition: (con)TEXTURED. The definition of the word “contexture” is “a mass of individual parts woven together.” With the title in mind, the viewer must consider that every individual texture in these paintings is part of a greater whole- in the painting, and in the exhibition.

Notably, a statement is missing from the display itself, but you can find it on The Carrack’s website:

“The photograph has become synonymous with truth. Freed from context, the mind is forced to fill in the blanks likely forming falsehoods in place of realities. In the age of the artificial image “are we reading too much into it?””

Dahlstrom, by not putting the statement in the space itself, frees the art from context. Without context, the viewer can prioritize whatever they want. (con)TEXTURED is all about the importance of context. And in our current political climate and the carousel of today’s news cycle, when anyone can prioritize any detail to form the bigger picture they want to see, context is more relevant than ever.

Pertinent, beautiful, intriguing, grisly- don’t miss (con)TEXTURED. You can judge the meaning of the exhibition for yourself at The Carrack until December 23. The gallery is open Thursday to Sunday from 11AM to 5PM.

Nick Dahlstrom will be giving an artist’s talk on December 21 at 7PM during The Carrack’s Third Friday reception.

You can find more information about (con)TEXTURED here.

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