"These works utilized the Minimalist icon of the equilateral square and explored a favourite theme of both Kierkegaard and the Late Modernists, the principle of variances exposed by repetition. The squares were created by utilizing industrial grades of graphite tinted - somehow and mysteriously - with ground chalk. In spite of the surface references to formalist philosophy and thinking, these works had their origins in some of Dempster's earlier forays into nature and art; earlier works which meticulously, almost photo-realistically describe the quality of light refracted through moving water."Peter Barton, from "Sensational Evidence and Sensual Reflections" in
"Dan Dempster has served up an industrial strength dose of beauty at the Bermuda Society of Arts Gallery in Hamilton. For Dempster has managed to marry his previous training with the eye of a true artist to create a cool, grey complexity that deserves a good, long look to appreciate the work's intricacy.
Dempster has transformed the space at City Hall into a minimalist shrine for his stunning graphite and canvas squares. His mission statement says he wanted to capture the movement of water and light over the rock shallows around Bermuda. The 48-inch by 48-inch canvasses are intended to translate his previous drawings into larger scale and using a different medium. And it works perfectly - the graphite shimmers on the canvas in light relief recreating perfectly the intricate interface of water. light and rock.
It's hardly surprising his job in Canada before returning to Bermuda was as a special effects man - for the effects he has produced are a marvel which say more about the calm induced by Bermuda's coast than a thousand representationalist reproductions of John Smith's Bay. The 20 untitled canvases line the stripped down and shuttered gallery space, carefully designed to concentrate the mind. The sense of depth created by walking across the front of one of his works deceives the eye so that I felt I could plunge my hands into the water.
Staring into the works and moving around them gives a three-dimensional effect which is dfferent every time. The grey paintings freeze the elaborate designs of water movement into the patterns of ice on windows or the shape of ancient fossils. Numbers 14 and 19 in the series are particularly impressive, with touches of pink and blue betraying the artist's knowledge of the physical properties of light refrectaion - but moving it firmly out of the realms of science into pure art. Number 16 creates a beautiful complicated border of water broken by light and stone, drawing the eye into smoother waters at the centre, inducing a tremedous feeling of peace."Raymond Hainey. The Royal Gazette Hamilton, Bermuda. November 18, 1996.
"Influenced by his island's coast, Bermudian Dan Dempster presents studies of light and movement in shallow water with his colored-pencil drawings, abstract graphite works on canvas, and steel sculpture. Dempster's colored pencil sketches are delicately rendered in soft tones, with images that emerge dreamlike from the paper on which they are drawn. Barleycove focuses on a tiny patch of beach, sculpted by and awash with water. Rock, sand and waves all emerge from imperceptably changing shades of gray and brown.
The canvases in Dempster's masterful Ithuriel series, named for a passage in Milton's Paradise Lost, suggest the glitter of light across water, lichens on a rock, crumpled tissue, or creased, gossamer-thin fabric. Each abstract image is intricately worked using delicate gray graphite, achieving an illusion of texture that is dispelled only upon viewing the canvas nearly from the side."Catherine Dorsey. PortFolio Weekly, Virginia Beach, Virginia. 20 May, 1997.
"The drawings, paintings and sculptures that result may make you look at this neglected miracle of light, color, and movement as if you hed never seen it before... Waterline reproduces a shallow rivulet of tidal water with a startling degree of realism. It's almost as if you were standing barefoot near the shoreline, watching the water and light undulate in patterns across the sand under your toes... Dempster is the artist as seer, in fact... finding mystery in the commonplace - then stepping out of the way as his audience looks on in wonder. In his drawings he accomplishes that aim through the persuasive argument of spectacularly keen-eyed detail.
His series of 20 "Ithuriel" paintings - several of which are on exhibit here - emulates the movement of shallow water and light through the use of industrial-grade graphite tinted with chalk. The chaotic patterns that flutter scross each canvas recall the arrangement of ice crystals on a window pane or the dappling of light across wave-tossed water. Yet within all that apparent randomness lies the presence of some irresistable governing order."Mark St. John Erickson, Review "Water dazzles in sea scenes of area artist" Daily Press, Newport News, Virginia. 25 May, 1997 ppI1, 13, photos.