After Vermeer, 2020

Oil on canvasses, 12" x 9"

Elise Dawson

Elise Dawson is a Canadian artist working across various mediums: photography, painting, performance, poetry, and video. They graduated from the School of Fine Art at the University of Manitoba, have been employed in the Winnipeg and Toronto film industries and art galleries in Winnipeg and Toronto, and have presented a solo exhibition at Flux Gallery. Currently, Dawson is a new media artist in residence at videopool in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

“In a hypomanic and obsessive bout, I began painting 12″ x 9” oil on canvas works after different photographs of Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring. My Rhythm After Vermeer series (fourteen paintings so far) continues an investigation that has been central to my practice from the outset: to what extent does art come from the artist, and to what extent does it arise from forces independent of the artist? The series examines the performativity and manipulation at play in the process of reproduction and the proliferation of images, and might question how the copy, however degraded or disfigured, can gain authority over the original. A symmetry emerges between the approximation performed by the digital image and the approximation performed by the painting. Why is Vermeer’s girl so widely reproduced — why is this image so beloved? I often think about the so-called death of painting and its resurrection or new visibilities — why do I care to continue the conversation? Working from the subject position of a non-binary and Mad person, I am caught between grief and self-aware humour. I am painting ‘failed’ copies of a popular depiction of so-called femininity. I am often wrestling with conflicting desires and abilities. I hate painting but I am seduced by it, by its histories and complicated materiality. Appropriating another artist’s work and legacy is an action that is part homage, part parody, and part investigation. My painted images repeat themselves forever in this GIF, offering more questions than neat answers.”