James Dodd  2014 SABOTAGE, Contemporary Art Centre of South Australia

From Logan Macdonald’s ‘Against the Grain’

For SABOTAGE, we see the artist invest a refreshed set of nuances upon his continued explorations of creative actions found in public space. With a chop shop mindset and DIY pragmatism, Dodd has created a series of works that allows him to both intervene in and survey the contemporary plateau of Australian suburbia. His paintings hark to nostalgic remembrance of explorers from the past, adorned with the hazy colours of the sunset of tropical lands. But by undermining historical vignettes and notions of Australian colonialism and social identity, Dodd reveals present dystopias, ruptured nationalism, distorted romanticism and incorrect political correctness. In SABOTAGE, Dodd offers his audience new perspectives on familiar ground, whether it is the suburban backyards he explores or the humble readymade form of the utilitarian bicycle.

From Samantha Littley’s ‘Outside In’

Words can deceive, as the title of James Dodd’s latest show at CACSA attests. ‘Sabotage’ implies the artist is hell bent on destruction – the saboteur infiltrates, disrupts, destroys. Certainly Dodd’s history as a street artist engaged in ‘clandestine public creativity’ brands him a vandal in the eyes of the establishment.1 But while he embraces the role of the hacker, occupying a place that hovers somewhere between graffiti artist and enfant terrible, his instinct is egalitarian. Alive to the possibilities of graffiti as a form of social networking, and driven by a delight in the mark-making of others, he rides a liminal wave that straddles public spaces and galleries alike. His art brings the world outside the gallery in and vice versa, and is the stuff of life.

The bike/painting projects Dodd has engineered in 2014 extend on this thinking in significant ways. Consider, for example, his take on Indonesian jukungs, seagoing canoes traditionally used by fishermen but now frequently operated as dive craft. On a trip to Bali earlier this year, Dodd became fascinated by these ornately decorated vessels, which employ dual outrigger booms with a distinctive ‘gullwing’ shape. True to form, he has created a visual riposte to the boat with a ‘floating’ bike painted up like a Balinese sunset, and suspended from a wooden frame that recalls a jukung’s booms. In the exhibition the structure is placed ‘in a kind of staged relationship’ with a related canvas that sees Dodd ‘using paintings as gallery/formal art world props or extensions of … objects which live most ideally outside of a gallery.’13 Another bike painted in ‘punk black’ and accessorised with amplifiers and oversized speakers sits in conversation with a ‘black scratched-surface painting’.14 The installation harks back to Dodd’s bus shelters from 2009, and speaks of masculinity within Australian car culture where the size of the sound system counts.15 These personalised bikes embody his yen for mis/adventure, and his commitment to pushing the periphery. Who knows where James Dodd’s journey beyond the pale will take him next. Wherever it might be, he’s on a mission to find out.