Dan Withey is a lot like his paintings; unpretentious and full of energy with a self-deprecating humour that is sure to make you smile. It is not surprising then that he describes the process of creating them as the way in which he makes sense of the world. ‘My mind is always going a hundred miles an hour. Ideas bounce around and I’m always thinking about more than one thing at a time. Painting is my way of making sense of it all,’ says Withey.
This approach means he is never short of inspiration. Drawing on his everyday life, Withey’s work combines metaphors, symbols and hybrid characters in playful compositions that explore a range of contemporary issues, including those relating to popular culture, consumerism and the environment.
Dan’s psyche is the subject of his current work, his largest canvas to date measuring three metres wide by two metres high. Entitled Reality, it is a reflection of the external world as he sees it in his mind. In his signature graphic style, the work is a collage of eccentric characters, clean lines and bold colours. Central to the composition is a large pink hand reaching down from the top of the canvas. Representative of big corporations stopping at nothing for a profit, it is under attack, pierced with arrows but to no effect.
Withey’s propensity to paint is evident in his output. Since completing a Bachelor of Visual Communication specialising in illustration at the University of South Australia in 2007 he has had over 25 solo exhibitions. In 2016 alone, he exhibited at Scott Livesey Galleries in Melbourne, Hill Smith Gallery in Adelaide and Penny Contemporary in Tasmania. He also completed large-scale murals at Fish Head and Mexican Society, was highly commended as a finalist in the Adelaide Parklands Prize, and had work collected by Artbank. He is now working towards a major solo exhibition to be presented during SALA 2017 at Hill Smith Gallery.
As much as Withey invites reflection of some of the more concerning issues of contemporary life, he also endeavours to make work that brings joy. His comic characters appeal for their absurdity, the confusion of colour and form both optimistic and energetic. ‘I’d describe my works as…madness, considered madness’, says Withey with a laugh.
First published in The Adelaide Review Issue 443.
View Dan Withey’s full profile on Well Made.
Image: Realm of the Bird Man, 2016, acrylic on canvas, 1220mm x 1820mm. Photographer Lee Knowles, Wake, 2014, acrylic and spray paint on canvas, 1830mm x 1215mm. Photographer Grant Hancock; Inflight, 2016, acrylic on board, 800mm x 400mm. Photographer Lee Knowles.