Cool hunter predictions: Dane Lovett - Art Collector

Issue 59, January - March 2012

This profile appeared in the Cool hunter predictions feature, part of the annual special issue 50 Things Collectors Need to Know 2012.

While Dane Lovett’s still life paintings are some of the coolest contemporary artworks around, their subject matter gives them an almost old-fashioned familiarity.

In a world of slick digital culture, Lovett’s depictions of outdated technology and other aspects of domestic culture evoke an arresting sense of the personal, but with a twist. By decontextualising the accumulation of popular culture from the everyday domestic spaces where it normally resides, Lovett allows the viewer to connect to the universal contained within the private history of these objects. There is something in Lovett’s stack of video cassettes labelled with texta sitting in empty space, for example, that suggests the possibility of the commonality of personal experience.

The die-hard music fan has an acute eye for the look and design of obsolete equipment such as CDs, synthesisers and LPs which once carried our favourite sounds into our homes. He originally painted these objects from low-res images online, but now spends more time collecting objects to arrange the tableaux that constitute his subject matter. He photographs these still lifes from various angles until he finds the right composition and then paints from that photographic image. His keen observational eye for his subject matter is rendered even sharper in the final image by his use of a retro palette and a deft touch.

Lovett has always had an interest in painting, which he found suited his preoccupation with music technology and other domestic things. In his hands the cold, generic nature of reproducible objects become singular and unreproducible. The mark of the artist helps to convey the weight of personal meaning that such objects embody.

It’s also common for him to combine the domestic objects he’s interested in with plants, often cuttings in containers. But these aren’t posed as natural elements to contrast the cultural ones. The artist considers these in the same domestic category as the other aspects of his pictures – they are taken from the street, put in glasses or jars, and left around the house; they become part of the furniture. Perhaps this nod to nature is more of a wink at the more conservative tradition of still life (flowers in a vase or flowers in a synthesiser).

Lovett achieved recognition straight out of art school, winning a mentorship with the Museum of Contemporary Art’s director Elizabeth Ann Macgregor in the Qantas Spirit of Youth Awards. Other awards have followed, including the Clayton Utz Travelling Scholarship, the prestigious Royal Bank of Scotland’s Emerging Artist Award and an Australia Council residency in Tokyo. Appropriately for the music enthusiast, Lovett also won an ARIA Music Award for best cover art for Eskimo Joe’s bestselling album Black Fingernails, Red Wine.
It would be easy to view Lovett’s work as simply decorative, part of a hipster tradition of embracing an analog world. But Lovett’s work is neither just dumbly romantic nor cynically ironic – his relationship to his subject matter has a type of critical nostalgia to it that suggests a genuine devotee.

Carrie Miller

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