Cherry Smyth, Art Review, Issue 20
You're skeltering down a fire escape, chewing Bazooka Joes, listening to Glen Gould on your iPod, teetering at times on high heels, half macho, half meek, reading a Penguin Classic and answering your mobile phone, and it all works, this intellectual and physical multitasking, a mayhem that only makes sense temporarily while you're inside it, before you lose it, trip, choke, go back and say what? This is the sense Dan Perfect's paintings give you, with their layered, giddy abstraction that seems to balance on the edge of caffeinated calamity. Here is Abstract Expressionism reined in, compressed, printed over, lasered and digitised, painting that exudes a noisy lyricism, an effervescent musicality that wipes the insouciance off the current graffitti-meets-graphic-designer cool. These are urban micro-fictions, all distant but interlinked, tangential narratives hopping between different time frames like a video-game.
There's something decidedly English about Perfect's dour-weather browns and greens, and then eclectic in their visual references, from Karen Appel to Charles Rennie Mackintosh. God knows how Perfect holds it all together, but he does, making the old formulae of applied craziness or controlled chaos seem irrelevant. The paintings swing between a studied mask-face or patch of spray-paint smoothness and improvised stretches of palette-knifed thick, pure colour. There are some snakes and ladders to play with - bridges, walkways, tower blocks and crooked skulls that belong to Perfect's own comic shorthand. Then he draws you into quieter swathes of raw canvas and delicate patterning that would look right on 1950's curtains. This is an adult, with the energy of a kid, having fun with 'the drunkenness of things being various'. The blotches, blots and blocks of what's beneath create a mind map that seems to try to ask, 'How can we manage to speak to one another in the midst of this mess/mass?'
But the artist clearly believes we can, and his vitality and purity of purpose are infectious. His gorgeous accrual of alphabets and sketches of joy in paint sings. It feels like fragmented dynamism of frenzied Internet-surfing that answers your questions - and more - and leaves you with a satisfied saturation. Village (all works 2007) is the most 'peopled', animated by characters one imagines might be called Bubble and Squeak, and it strives for a nursery innocence that seems unsure of itself. Better the darker pieces - the microscopic cells and biological pipework suggested in Sandman, or when he lets the proliferation of marks do the emoting for you, as in Uproar and Aleph, which signal the misshapen, haphazard architecture of Hackney and the sudden colour burst from a window box in a grisly, exhausted estate.