Max Dingle: Fetish


Sculptures and Collage by Max Dingle

Fetish / n.  Commonly an inanimate object regarded with awe, being the embodiment of a potent spirit or having magical potency.

Fetish is my way to celebrate the inception of these art forms made prominent via the Dada movement 100 years ago. An art movement that saw light of day in Zurich, in 1916, with the French poet Tristan Tzara thrusting a penknife into the pages of a dictionary to randomly find a name for the movement; an act that in itself displays the importance of chance in Dada art. As the movement died in 1924 Paris, Surréalisme rose from the ashes taking shape in a manifesto issued by poet Andre Breton. While artists have always exploited the latest technologies and used ‘found’ and appropriated materials and images in a range of creative activities and the tradition of the Wunderkammer (cabinet of curiosities) has been around since the sixteenth century, it was through movements such as Dada, Surréalisme, Cubism and Futurism, via artists such as Duchamp, Breton, Dali, Ernst, de Chirico, Magritte and Picasso, which led art into 20th century modernism.

As noted by Timothy Shipe from the Dada Archive:  Contemporary art as we know it could not have come into existence without Dada. Virtually every artistic principle and device which underlies the literature, music, theatre, and visual arts of our time was promoted, if not invented, by the Dadaists: the use of collage and assemblage; the use of random elements and chance in the act of creation; the tapping of the artistic resources of the indigenous cultures of Africa, America, and Oceania; the extension of the notion of abstract art to literature and film; the breaking of the boundaries separating the different art forms from one another and from "everyday life"; the notion of art as performance; the expropriation of elements of popular culture; the notion of interaction or confrontation with the audience--everything which defines what we loosely call the "avant-garde."

A great influence has been Joseph Cornell 1903 – 1972 who was the first artist to make appropriation and arrangements of found materials the exclusive focus of his artistic practice. His art sits at the intersection of collage, sculpture and painting and was the subject of a major exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in London in 2015.

While my mainstream art practice can be classified as abstraction, the works in Fetish, fit my own brief of being “inanimate objects, each being an embodiment of a potent spirit or having magical potency”, are by necessity, driven by a narrative. Though I would venture that the narrative I used to make each work will not always be the same narrative that the individual viewer takes from each work.

The works are autobiographical in the general sense that all artists draw on life’s experiences and the un-conscious. To a casual viewer the main narratives may appear to be related to sex or food. A thoughtful viewing will reveal connections to art history, contemporary art and comment on food and lifestyle trends and in every work the influence of Dada, whether it be subversive, confronting, interactive, appropriation or elements of chance.

However overall I hope Fetish is an enjoyable foray into exploring what makes life interesting. I decided art should not always be serious and put on a “shaman” mask to create this exhibition of mixed-media sculpture and collage / photo montage.

Max Dingle                                                                                        May 2016