Dan Attoe’s newest paintings are set against the northwestern Pacific landscape. It is a place where winding streams run into surfing beaches. The sand skinny dips into dark water that is laced with rolling white foam. The foamy tidal beaches are framed by rocky cliffs, and all those rocks, and that moving water, is surrounded by antediluvian forest. The trees in Washington State can make you feel very small because they are preposterously tall. Some varieties grow to be over 200 feet, pushing outside of the boundaries of a normal tree into something that feels supernatural, or maybe übernatürlich. The forest has the fairy tale effect of making you feel very small in comparison. The beaches, rocky cliffs, streams, and over-sized forests in Attoe’s paintings create spaces that are reminiscent of David Lynch’s television masterpiece Twin Peaks; both literally, because of geographical overlap, and psychologically, because the natural world, by bubbling with life, moving water, and impossible trees, begins to take on symbolic resonance. If you were an explorer on a quest for an enchanted forest, Northern Oregon and southern Washington State are very strong candidates for any enterprising search parties you are leading. When you go you may run into Dan climbing rocks or taking pictures of the moon through his telescope. Dan grew up in the woods, his father was a forest ranger. He is at home there. These paintings seem to take place at dusk, when the sun is just over the horizon. Like that quiet time of evening, there is something quieter in this new group of paintings. The miniature figures in Dan’s paintings seem to be dealing with mistakes of love, faulty desires, friendship, and being part of the natural world with its drumbeat of sun and tides.
You can see Dan Attoe’s new paintings in his show Landscapes with Water at Peres Projects on Karl-Marx-Allee 82 in Berlin. The show is up from March 1st to April 19th 2014. The photos in this interview are courtesy of Peres Projects.