MAstars 2010: Steven Dickie, MFA

MAstars 2010: Steven Dickie, MFA Steven Dickie, The Hunt for the Unavoidable Future, 2009. Radio receivers, piano, mdf, cellulose paint, mesh. 234cm x 107cm x 81cm

Julia Alvarez selects Steven Dickie from Slade School of Fine Art for MAstars

The Slade School of Art had a particularly strong MFA show this year. As always, the Slade students pay attention to detail and produce beautifully crafted works. Particularly strong this year, in my opinion, were the media and audio pieces.

The following artists had obviously worked hard and produced some excellent pieces: Tessa Power, who presented a film about a dog/man singing duo among others; Joe Clark, who showed a steel-and-aluminium floating installation; and Aaron Murphy, who displayed silver prints on aluminium alongside an audio piece, both of which recalled lonely natural scenes.

The artist I have selected for MAstars is Steven Dickie who showed a variety of works, ranging from installation to print.

His sculpture 'The Hunt for the Unavoidable Future' (2009) stood in one of the Slade's wonderful high-ceilinged rooms with steely grey floors. The piece itself mimicked an organ, tiered in different shades of gunmetal grey. Along the sides of the tiers were radio aerials, spiking out at different angles. On the reverse of the piece was a keyboard, again with a mixture of keys in different shades of grey and white. Looking under the keyboard revealed a myriad of radios, connected to the keyboard by a chaotic assembly of wires. When playing the piece, each key threw out a different radio-station channel, which could be anything from Classic FM to Rinse FM, allowing participants to create their own composition of jarring musical styles.

Dickie's drawings used graph paper, which has become a popular medium for drawing. In this case, the artist uses the graph paper to illustrate boundaries within systems. Dickie references the World Wide Web, social networking and other media that represent freedom but have their own virtual prohibitions. These works are alluring, using text and graphic drawing, with the viewer becoming the surveyor of the trapped pieces.

Dickie says that his work 'centres around society's relationship with technology'. Ideologically he appears to take a positive view of its potential, but when one gets beyond the appealing nature of his sculptures and drawings, a deeper frustration sets in. As we try to play the keyboard, we are unable to play our own composition. Viewing his drawings we find restrictions, telling us that 'your selection is invalid'. Gradually we discover that our freedom of expression is being curtailed and controlled.

Selected by Julia Alvarez
Published July, 2010

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