Straddling transitions: a painter wants to sing, a sculptor wants to write poetry

ED: Dean Cross has been involved with QL2 for many years, as a dancer, teacher and choreographer. Here he writes about his life as an artist, across multiple genres and media. Dean has an exhibition opening in Canberra, 25 February — more details below.

Dean (2nd from right) in QL2"s Quantum Leap , 2003

Dean (2nd from right) in QL2″s Quantum Leap , 2003

Once upon a time citizens had their place and fulfilled the needs of the community around them. The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker all had necessary skills passed from generation to generation, which were essential to the effective functioning of the village unit. Only very rarely did one stray from the path, and one did so at great risk to the social fabric. Fortunately however, that is not the world we live in today. Career is a fluid term, and none embraces this fluidity more so than artists.

In the early part of the 20th Century Duchamp told us anything can be art, and in the latter half, Warhol told us that anyone could be an artist. In the 21st Century, it is not uncommon for artists to embrace a multiplicity of fields, and flex their creative muscle wherever they see fit. This of course is not a new phenomenon either. The Dadaists, Surrealists the Futurists, in fact almost all of the Avant-Garde were consciously and consistently cross-pollinating forms and creating new hybridized art, much like we see today.

Dean choreographing at QL2, 2013

Dean choreographing at QL2, 2013

So why then are we still slightly confused when a painter wants to sing, a sculptor wants to write poetry or a choreographer wants to take photos? After all are they not all branches from the same tree?

Choreography is the dynamic sculpting of space, painting is the result of the movement of the brush, and a photo is the poetry of a moment in time, captured forever with the release of the shutter. All of these things linked by the malleable and ephemeral term, art.

My path to art began at Gorman House, where as a four year old I began studying the Kodály Method, a way of teaching music to young children developed in Hungary in the 1930s and 40s. A decade later I returned to Gorman House to join the ranks of Quantum Leap’s ‘Industrial Hardware’, and it was here that the transformative and intoxicating power of creativity was shown to me. A passion was ignited, and my thirst was insatiable. I wanted to be a part of every production, big and small, that time would allow. Was I an artist then? Not quite, but I had felt the power of a creative life, and the endless stream of inspiring role models provided to me by QL2 assured me that a life in art was (and is) absolutely achievable.

(Images: Dean Cross)

(Images: Dean Cross)


Now when asked what I do, I no longer refer to myself as a dancer or choreographer. I am now a Visual Artist. And yes, this was a difficult and confusing transition to make. Only because, however, our world still foolishly insists that we define ourselves by what we do for money. But that is a whole other conversation. Internally I am not much different. I have come to learn that I still think choreographically, as in I think about spatial relationships, the movement of the eye and finding form that is rich with content. I am still inspired by the same things; only now my output covers a far broader field across a vast array of media. I am no longer limited by my body, or the bodies of those I work with, but only reach limitations in my mind.

The moral of this story? The only thing that never changes is the inescapable truth that at some point everything will change, and it can be totally awesome when it does.

PhotoAccess presents FRINGE DWELLINGS by Dean Cross in the Huw Davies Gallery, Canberra
Exhibition dates: 25 February – 20 March 2016.
2pm Sunday 20 March 2016: Dean Cross artist talk.

“FRINGE DWELLINGS is an exhibition by multi-disciplinary Canberra-based artist Dean Cross. Interrogating Canberra’s rapid suburban development, FRINGE DWELLINGS considers the aesthetics of progress, and the ongoing dispossession of Indigenous Australia. It depicts some of Canberra’s newest ‘fringe dwellers’ with an inquisitive eye. The exhibition explores the aspirational dreams of some of Canberra’s newest fringe dwellers, focusing on the suburb of Bonner, founded in 2010. The artist positions Bonner as a powerful symbol of the Australian Dream, and the exclusion of Aboriginal people from that narrative. Through the modest medium of polaroid photography and installation, the artist reflects on the aesthetics and politics of the home. Dean is an emerging artist whose work spans a range of mediums including painting, print-making, performance, photography, video, three-dimensional objects and contemporary dance. His work is often politically and historically engaged, looking to re-contextualise Australia’s colonial past through examining his Indigenous ancestry, and deconstructing myths of Australian identity. ”