James Lee and Natasha Dijkhoff are both graduates of Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art. They both live and work in Dundee – James is the Gallery Manager at Meadow Mill Wasps Studios and Natasha is a printmaking technician at Dundee University. Both artists, it seems, share a love of shapes and texture, but they each have their own very distinct style. Natasha is influenced by the abstract – the power of words, spells and magic; James by minimalism, structure, geometry and space. The two different languages are both equally powerful, although at first glance the dichotomy between the two isn’t obvious. Once explained, the differences become clear.
The first thing you notice on entering the inconspicuous Tin Roof warehouse, apart from the evocative smell of turpentine, is a bright pink exercise ball. It is part of a larger work by James which carries a political message – that we are slaves to a capitalist system, driven by consumerism. The artist conveys this by the clever positioning of the Conservative Election Manifesto of 2010 alongside other objects such as an empty Coke bottle. A caption may be helpful to explain the artist’s thinking behind this piece; however it could be argued that in the spirit of independent thought, we should be free to make up our own minds about what we are seeing. In this piece the artist encourages us to think deeply about the political status quo, and to consider whether or not we wish to accept it without question.
James’s work is serene, unassuming and restrained. One piece, entitled Exoplanets in Unnamed System, consists of a series of nine circles of different colours which represent the planets. The circles of paper have a calming effect on the viewer. From a distance the individual circles form a satisfying whole; it is not until you look closely, that you can see the subtle textures. The work is fragile and could easily disintegrate under your fingers. Perhaps this is a message James wants to convey – how fragile and beautiful the world is, and how easily it can be destroyed.
Natasha’s work is bold and expressive. The exhibition title In No Cite There is Surrender is taken from a line in one of her poems, which she has embedded within a screen print. Both Natasha and James are creative writers as well as artists, and Natasha often uses sections of her writing, as well as individual words and letters, to make strong textual statements in her art. She uses black paint like graffiti to draw thick lines and shapes on different surfaces – acetate, tracing paper, mirrored card, brown paper, plastic sheeting.
Taken as a whole, this exhibition is a perfect blend of shapes, colours and textures. But look closely and you will see two distinct opposing forces. Natasha uses a wide and varied palette and her pieces contain highly expressive gestures. James’s pieces are muted or tonally neutral and contain no direct mark-making. Each one complements the other perfectly.