Dik Müller takes his inspiration from alternative states of consciousness to create paintings and mixed-media works that reconstitute an aspect of “visual experience” we perhaps seldom notice, but all in fact experience.
In art historical terms, the artist’s emphasis on color – deftly laid down pigments with lush and sophisticated interaction of hues – call to mind the work of the German Expressionist Wassily Kandinsky as well the Abstract Expressionist Adolph Gottlieb. Yet Dik’s inclusion of sculptural and relief elements in his paintings reveals that this artist has taken the lessons of these old-master modernists to a new and original level.
Indeed, this interplay between the two- and three-dimensional in Dik’s recent work is central to his subject matter: the abstract imagery associated with altered states of consciousness, especially those that “appear” in the various stages of sleep. The artist is not interested in picturing a personal dreamscape, but rather the universally experienced color-rich, amorphous, and shape-shifting forms and image-fragments that appear as we begin to doze off or just before we wake. Dik’s imagery is thus generated from the neurological hardwiring of our optical system and our brain. Upon waking he often finds himself making visual notes as to what he has “seen.” These “sketches” become the source materials for the finished work. Significantly, that work is not an illustration of his mind’s eye, but re-presents that imagery in dynamic form.
To achieve this effect, Dik’s mixed-media works occupy a middle-ground between painting and sculpture. He employs the two-dimensional support of a canvas, which is then hung on a wall. This encourages us to stand directly in front his work. In this way his paintings appear something like a window onto another world, a long-stranding trope in the history of western art. But the sculptural and relief-like qualities of Dik’s paintings shatter this illusion. They reach out toward the viewer, and encourage him or her to explore the painting from different angles, and in so doing, the imagery of painting shifts. These shifts parallel the ways in which color, shapes, and image fragments “seen” in alternative states of consciousness likewise change of their own accord.
The works themselves are the product of an unusual artistic training. For decades Dik worked as a commercial artist, which taught him to be unafraid of realizing his objectives regardless of the media. “There were times in my life when I was a one-man design firm. Keep in mind that this was a pre-digital era, a time when we designers did everything by hand – design, layout, build, the works. That training has given me the confidence to use media in unconventional ways.” Perhaps more surprising is that Dik’s commercial work also conditioned him to be sensitive to viewers of his art. “Having worked for others most of my life,” says Dik, “I am always aware that I am making work not just for myself, but for others. Indeed, I want the viewer to have an engaged and even intense visual experience.”