Dana Lok

My paintings and drawings are driven by my wonder at the miraculous interaction between surface and image, material and content, signs and the things they represent. I treat illusion and speech as performative activities that require the framework of a stage, not unlike tricks in a magic show. Some of my paintings give the viewer a peek at this stage production from the side, or a look before the show begins. In this world, position and vantage point can change the meaning of the show, or reveal its constructs and break its illusion.

Multiple points of view in time and space play out in the repetition and doubling of images throughout my work. Sometimes this repetition illustrates the passage of time. Continuum Deli [img. 1] imagines multiple moments of time as things with thickness, weight, and texture–frames of a film you could touch or eat. Often, as in Mask and Double Bunny [img.12 and 16], limiting repetition to a doubling allows the work to hover between multiple reads: two moments in time, two trees, or one pair of eyes. My ongoing Stereocard series [img. 9] appropriates the format of cards used in a stereoscope, a device that combines two slightly different pictures to create the illusion of one binocular, 3D image. This series uses the views of the right and left eyes as a jumping off point to explore all the possibilities of what doubles can do.

Sometimes, the repeated image presents multiple vantage points of the same subject, as in Assume (Say) and Assume (Take) [img. 13 and 14]. Assume (Say) offers a view of a distant forest grove, wraps it in quotation marks and tags it –she claims. This painting compares a picture in a frame to a statement with words. Usually only sentences can be true, false, or tell lies. This work asks, can a painting do this too? Assume (Take) picks up the same forest view, freezes and rotates it, and reveals it as a compact object you can touch, handle, possess, claim.

How to Gather Information [img. 5–8] also uses vantage point as a device to change the meaning of a scene, break it, or reveal it, this time through the viewer’s physical position in relation to the work. In this installation, two paintings hang on opposite sides of the room while a red screen hangs, askance, from the ceiling in the middle. The person who finds a viewpoint of either painting through the screen will see embedded text, filtered through the red.

Rows of seats, the proscenium, the curtain, the spotlight, the scrim and the backdrop recur throughout this work as its subject matter and architecture. The magician’s hand drags the paint in Spell. In my paintings and drawings, I aim to unpack the uncanny gap I encounter between fingertips and feeling, syntax and semantics, a painting’s surface and a picture’s depth. I waver between believing these things hang together by real magic, and thinking their unity is just a magic trick.