Interview: Alan Cristea on Jim Dine
Few know the work of Jim Dine more throughly than Alan Cristea. On show at Alan's Mayfair gallery is Jim Dine: A History of Communism, in which the artist has created new prints from lithographic stones found in an old socialist art academy in the German Democratic Republic. We asked Alan a few questions about this powerful new show.
The new pieces in this show are created from lithographic stones found in a former socialist art academy in the German Democratic Republic. How did Jim Dine come about this material?
Sarah Dudley and Ulie Kuhle, lithographic printers in Berlin were offered around 100 litho stones from an old German Democratic Republic Art School that was to be demolished. The litho stones, which were discovered in an unused basement, bore images made by students of the former art school. As a cost saving measure Sarah and Ulie took them to be reused, as litho stones are very expensive to purchase. Not long after Jim arrived in Berlin and spotted the stones piled high around their shop. Excited by this find, he thought about using them himself, and enlisted the printers help in bringing the stones back to life.
This exhibition has been two and a half years in the making - with Dine working carefully with the original prints - what was he process in creating these pieces?
Sarah and Ulie, who Jim has known for over ten years, reactivated the stones, editioned them, and sent them to Jim at his home in Washington State, USA. Jim then drew and bit copper plates to go over them. His long-time printing associate, Julia d’Amario, assisted first by Aurelie Pages and then by Kathy Kuehn, coaxed the exact mood for which he was looking out of the plates.
What political ideas does Jim aim to touch on through these works? Where did the title A History of Communism come from?
Jim liked the idea of conjoining different periods of history and taking control of these pre-existing works but it is the act of creation, of recreation and of “making” that was far more important to him. He was much more intrigued by the original stones as found objects. Similarly there is no political narrative to be drawn from the title. It is the visual experience that is at the core of Jim’s work, not a desire to comment on a political situation.
How does Jim Dine feel about the finished pieces? It seems like a labour of love.
Jim has a love of making prints. He was fascinated to work with stones by completely unknown students from the DDR, framing their work with his own imagery. By layering the images with simple lines, marks or the symbols of tools he is so well known for, Jim subverts and reclaims the found image. This is where the true labour of love lies, in the act of printmaking itself.
Dine’s family roots are in Eastern Europe, he has Jewish heritage - do you think these pieces are personal?
Just as the works are not political, neither do they directly refer to Jim’s heritage. Dine is originally of Polish extraction but he has no direct links with the country. He has never suffered political oppression but he is certainly very conscious of such oppression in Europe, whether it be Stalinist or Nazi. Therefore, the works are personal in the sense that they are a representation of the visual language and techniques he has employed in his print making career over the past fifty years. As with all the prints he makes, for A History of Communism Dine and his printers were faced with the challenge of controlling the processes and techniques of printmaking. The layering of both imagery and printing techniques is at the heart of Jim’s work.
Jim Dine: A History of Communism at Alan Cristea Gallery until 7 October 2014.