Eerily uncanny and evocative, the work of Welsh artist Dan Rees stopped me in my tracks soon after I entered the cavernous steel box of the Miami Beach Convention Center for the 2017 version of Art | Basel Miami Beach. Represented by Galeria Murias Centeno in Porto, Mr. Rees’s sculptures and paintings could easily be mistaken for innocent musings and child-like awe.
This would not be an egregious mistake. In fact, it is precisely this innocent grace and technical effortlessness that make the show so impactful. The word “impact” is what comes to mind when considering the techniques employed in the sculptures, each of which is titled “Sediments of the Mind”, free-standing monuments layered with pigmented clay that was rammed and jammed in hand-made molds. The molds themselves were lined with silk so as to get a two-dimensional trace of the process. These silks were then stretched and displayed as earthy-ethereal paintings.
This relationship between painting and sculpture is rooted in Mr. Rhees’s process, itself inspired by the ancient building methods known as “rammed earth” of his native Wales. The works are stratified and displayed as monuments on top of pedestals as if they were props or scientific implements used to illustrate the multi-tiered earth of an imaginary or science fictional planet.
The silk “paintings” are elegant, wistful and oh-so sublime in their proportional use of imprints and stray marks. The philosophical and geological link between harvesting the Earth and building materials from such harvests is but one engaging and seductive path I was able to make in my musings as I regarded and contemplated the work of the Welshman.
It is a feast for the eyes and a uniquely sensual conceptual feast in a time when so much art is stuck in the banal wasteland of identity power plays. Dan Rees is an artist whose production becomes a form of archaeological restoration with just that right touch of artifice in the strangely silly and yet appealing palette of colors with which he injects his works.