Dan Won, a recent Elam graduate, adopts a surrealist approach to painting, combining contradictory elements of reality in visually arresting, dream-like compositions. As the early 20th Century poet Pierre Reverdy wrote, this strategy creates paintings of ‘greater emotional power and poetic reality.’ Social critique and observations lurk as subtext. However, as Won attests, these works are to be interpreted by the viewer according to their own experiences.
Influenced by the likes of Salvador Dali and Rene Magritte, Won’s work can also show elements of photorealist precision. In Pedestrian the layers of bricks become hyper real with their subtly differing reds, and in Sinking the steel tap with its reflections has photographic clarity. In both paintings semblance to reality is broken by fractured limbs: clothed legs sprout from the ground in Pedestrian while an arm pours from the tap in Sinking. A darker undercurrent emerges where familiar urban and domestic scenes are interrupted by the unreal. In Virilis, power and patriarchy becomes ominous in the tight stairwell where a metal spike replaces the suited man’s head. This scene is repeated in the small painting on the back wall adding to the uncanny.
Speculating these works is not unlike watching a Hitchcock movie. Suspense, drama, and unease exist, but the viewer never feels unsafe and humour is often present. In Timeless Surveillance the clock on a town halls tower is now an eye staring at the city inhabitants below, simultaneously playful and a commentary on the surveillance of citizens by the authorities. In both Companion and Integration an oversized nut and bolt sit in an empty underground car park devoid of cars and people. The sexual pun at play cuts the threat inherent in a scene of otherwise cold isolation.
Untitled shows how Won’s painting have the power to envelop the viewer - patches of grass, some containing a lone tree, float in front of a backdrop of cloud and sky. The image tilts as if about to spill from the canvas onto the viewer resulting in an immersive experience where dreams, reality and imagination intermingle.