Max Dingle Artist
Phaedra - Artist Statement
Jean Racine’s 1676 play Phédre based on Greek myth tells, via psychological insights and poetry, the story of the Athenian queen who falls in love with her stepson. Her obsessive, autoerotic suffering goes, via deep seams of emotional truth, into the dark recesses of the
heart and the psyche of people attempting to deny a natural life-force such as sexuality or emotional release, and it all ends in suicide, death and tragedy.
Wassily Kandinsky, in his 1910 treatise Concerning the Spiritual in Art, proposed that the shapes and colours in abstract art could give “observers capable of feeling them, emotions subtle beyond words” and these would have an improving effect on “suicide, murder,
violence, low and unworthy thoughts, hate, hostility, egotism, envy” and other evils.
Greek myths influenced the early thinking of the American abstract expressionists including Adolph Gottlieb, Barnett Newman & Mark Rothko*. Gottlieb in paintings such as the 1948 Threads of Theseus and the Labyrinth series of the 1950’s presents the emotional and
psychological experience of World War II evoking the archaic symbol of the labyrinth as a passage from one world to the next or a descent into the underworld. In his writings Rothko noted his sense of a spiritual and emotional kinship with earlier art and myth and that myths
are eternal symbols upon which we must fall back to express basic psychological ideas.
In producing these abstract paintings and sculptures I had the various versions of the Phaedra myth, from the Euripides play Hippolytus through Racine’s play Phédre to Robert Graves book of Greek myths, at the back of my mind. At the same time giving a slight, but cautious,
nod in the direction of Kandinsky, particularly his abstract paintings from the 1920’s, and in using psychological insights to inform images expressed in paint and steel.
All of the above provided a mindset or a framework, in an effort to give the works enough in common to hang together in an exhibition. However each work was produced as a, and hopefully will, standalone without any need to reference other works, Greek mythology or
historical art practice.
At a fundamental level my art is ultimately influenced by a number of other factors, these include the art of others that I have been exposed to, especially the artists whose works are on the walls of my house, the art I live with every day. By the landscape and environment I live in, the bush and garden at my south coast home.
* Stephen Polcari Abstract Expressionism and the Modern Experience Cambridge
For another view on the Phaedra series and the painting "Hippolytus" in particular, see: Sam Osborne's Visual Arts School assignment "Portraits in Art"