Ruby Dickson16.02.24 - 23.03.24
NıCOLETTı is delighted to present Maybe my fairy-tale has a different ending than I dreamed it would. But that’s OK., the first solo exhibition by London-based artist Ruby Dickson (1996, UK) at the gallery.
The exhibition relies on a simple premise: a series of human-sized paintings representing Kim Kardashian being captured by paparazzi.
Perhaps the most renowned and reviled celebrity of the 21st century, existing on the edge of actual and virtual realities in a way that nobody had done before, taking Kardashian as a topic for an exhibition can be a risky business. For Dickson, it is mainly about using images that are so familiar they reach the status of cultural signifiers, becoming the receptacle of our private desires, angst and ambitions. As an artist of both Irish and Jamaican descent, it is also about working with a model whose origin is often a subject of confusion online and in the media, with a constant play of distance and proximity with blackness.
Dickson addresses these questions by reflecting upon the construction of contemporary icons and spectacle, research initiated ahead of the artist’s presentation at Independent Art Fair, New York (2023), for which she began making paintings representing Pamela Anderson, Madonna, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kardashian and Bambi.
Less interested in the personal story of these icons than in the production, circulation and consumption of images they generate, Dickson works from photographs and still shots that conjure both the glamour and darker realities of fame, between seduction and objectification, confidence and vulnerability, often showing these characters as ‘preys’.
Titled after a quote by Kardashian that evokes the highs and lows of celebrity culture, between fantasy and exposure, aspiration and disillusion, Dickson’s exhibition at NıCOLETTı derives from paparazzi images of the celebrity downloaded on the internet, where she googled keywords to find the poses, colours, textures and patterns she was interested in painting. Resulting from a combination of intention and chance, the works synthesise the mass of snapshots featuring Kardashian wearing the same outfit into swiftly executed compositions that convey a tension between the temporality of paint and the instantaneity of the photographic flash.
Combining oil, spray and chalk on canvases split in two at the level of her model’s face (as if the artist was trying to keep distance with illusionistic representation and psychological investigation), Dickson’s paintings show Kardashian invariably parading on abstracted backgrounds, eschewing any forms of narration to emphasise the impression of fast consumption inherent to contemporary modes of construction of images and icons – a maximum of artifice for a minimum of content.
The only context is given by the painting’s titles, all directly drawn from the captions of the downloaded images – e.g. Kim Kardashian stopped by the Hot & Cool Cafe on Monday with Hillary and Chelsea Clinton, January 25, 2022 (2024); or Kim Kardashian sparkled in an over-the-top coat as she attended a dinner with the “SNL” cast (2024). Evoking both the appeal and vapidity of online spectacle, these titles exemplify the collisions of performance and voyeurism associated with celebrity culture – interestingly, debates have flourished about the ‘authenticity’ or ‘staging’ of these paparazzi images, some people being offended at the idea of looking at images that wouldn’t convey Kim’s ‘real’ life.
Dickson plays with these notions of authenticity of reality by presenting us with a slightly cartoonish, obviously fictitious Kardashian (who sometimes strangely resembles the painter herself). Here Kardashian, whose main commodity is her image, becomes a means to explore connections between surface and sensation, representation and image curation: a weapon of mass communication that embodies current modes of identity branding, the constant performativity we seem to operate under, as well as our permanent quest for validation.
Selected exhibitions include Independent Art Fair, New York, USA, with Harlesden High Street (2023); Minor Attraction, London (2023); Maybe The Real Art Is The Friends We Make Along The Way, The London Arts Board, London, UK (2023); Apt. 237, 3537, Paris, FR (2023); In The House Of Babylon, site-specific project for Metrolands Brent Biennial, Harlesden High Street and Notting Hill Carnival, London, UK (2022), Summer Show, Eve Liebe Gallery, London, UK (2022); FRIDGE – Brave New World, Anderson Contemporary, London, UK (2022); Imagining Otherwise, Harlesden High Street, London, UK (2022); and When Shit Hits the Fan, Again, Guts Gallery, London, UK (2021). Dickson graduated with a BA in Fine Art and Art History from Goldsmiths, University of London (2017).