Sebastian Dacey



Exactly how the present assaults our way of thinking about images can perhaps best be judged in terms of the Debordian notion of the spectacle. From this perspective it is difficult to grant critical reason sufficient distance from its own object, since it is likewise caught in the present. Expectations and demands shape the present in a wide nomenclature, and on all levels, even on surrogate levels, which by definition avoid deliberate reflection. Even in art it is difficult to introduce content that transcends the spectacle. The subject depends too much on its synthetic activities, preserving an unquestioned conception of what art is, instead of moving the antiquated and intermittent forward, and at some point – maybe for a mere moment – suspending the present.

In his images, Sebastian Dacey dismantles the essence of painting step by step. At the same time painting itself remains. In his works from before 2016, images can already be found that use figurative approaches, as well as some in which painting reflects on itself and playfully slips into abstraction. Broadly speaking, from 2016 onwards, two different streams of work have emerged which deal with this dismantling more fundamentally.

Although he considers images in a binary way, it does not follow that he implements a strict analytical idea, such as technical dismantling. It is more like a dream in which the elements drift apart and reappear in confusing constructions that might best be described in terms of the paradoxical phrase ‘disconnected homogeneity’. Throughout this process painting itself does not grind to a halt. Like erratic blocks, these sequences drive each other apart and refuse a linear relationship.

On the one hand works emerge that are figurative, painted with oil on paper. The representational is its event. In relation to painting, the paper acts like a foreign body; it is only the foundation onto which paint is applied, in areas that the painted parts claim as their own. It is not the first time that Dacey has made works on paper, but in earlier pieces the surface had a clear compositional function. The white of the paper now remains almost foreign and interchangeable. It expresses only itself, in a concrete manner, without possessing any meaning beyond itself - a surface more or less randomly chosen, on which painting happens. Consequently, the paper is not even a background but rather the site of painting.

On the other hand, Dacey produces works that concentrate on the surfaces of painting. Like skins that have been hung out to dry, works are layered and attached to bamboo sticks, bending slightly under the weight, and form a sort of edge at the top. Except for the top layer, the surfaces are not visible; sometimes the painted sides face the viewer, sometimes the unpainted. The top layer confirms that these works do not deal with the representational. Here the pieces of fabric are roughly painted; flatly, colourfully, drowned in oil, without representation, detached from any mimicry, highlighting their own status as painted surfaces.

The pieces of fabric made of duvetyne and linen appear detached, mere backgrounds, removed from possible pictures, stripped of any figuration or narration. Yet they are not abstract works. The pieces of fabric are combined into assemblages and in their clarity form their own narratives. The picture surfaces are thus not in a context such as the museum where works are hung according to specific criteria on walls next to or above each other, tailored towards the interests of the public. Rather, they are distanced from a state which comes into being after the production of a picture where it is subjected to representative regulations. Dacey does not frame his canvases, instead they are cut out and ripped at the edges, even cracks and holes can be found on their surfaces. The assemblages speak of a state far beyond the end of painting. Like relics they are combined with each other, left over from the idea of a picture which is no longer visible. Similar to fetishes, characteristics and forces are ascribed to them that they do not process by virtue of nature. They are clusters from a world which stands on the edge of being forgotten.

All of this functions differently in his works on paper. They focus on the representative – framing is irrelevant, as is the surface. The only thing that matters here is the narrative event which arbitrarily relates to its site. This calls to mind cave painting; a ritual that only considered the process of production necessary. Interest in what has been produced disappears as soon as the ritual is over. Occasionally it was simply painted over and provided a space for the next ritual to take place. Moreover, the cave is dark between rituals. In cave painting, the idea of the image does not lie in its visibility, except when related to archaeological study. As such, it refers to a state much earlier than the beginning of painting.

With his splitting up of painting it becomes clear that Dacey moves concentrically around an omission. A technical analysis of the parts that define painting is unimportant to him, rather he explores the spaces from which the understanding and (self-) image of painting stem, and into which they could disappear. The claim that defines contemporary painting represents a void which Dacey tries to approach in different ways.

In Psychoanalysis of Fire, Gaston Bachelard stated that, ‘Only that which has already been dreamt can be investigated.’ This suggests that what has been dreamt refuses investigation. What has been dreamt is a vague memory that functions like a surrogate gesture and a purely imagined indication of something else, as if curiosity consisted of something that cannot be grasped; even the curiosity for curiosity will always circle around a dark point. The manifested keeps a dubious relationship with its archetype or model, and through a process of increasing awareness is like a detached segment that refers to a void.

It is not Dacey’s intention to illuminate this hidden area; instead he deals with its inscriptions. What is inscribed into painting refers to a prior state, a dream, a cave and the dissemination of what follows. It is a layering of the remnants of what might have lost its meaning.

To assume the transcendence of something natural, or a re-essentialising of art, would contradict everything. 'What the fuck is nature? Nature is the sun and everything it shines its light on oh and, those weird looking fish that have no eyes ‘cause they live in total darkness at the bottom of the sea, so growing eyes would be a complete waste of time (evolutionarily speaking), well they´re nature too', writes Sebastian Dacey. His approach does not strive for anything graspable, particularly not anything intellectually graspable, for this would create too much of an image. Neither is it a speculative framework that sets a beginning and an end point. Rather – like in painting – it is the assumption of the possibility of discontinuity…

Press on Art Viewer



born in London

lives and works in Berlin and in other places


Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Munich (Nikolaus Lang, Günther Förg)


Wimbledon College of Art, London


Masterclass with Günther Förg


Villa Romana, Florence


Bayerischer Kunstförderpreis 2018 (Bavarian Art Prize, Fine Arts)

Selected Shows


Noailles – Jahn und Jahn, Munich

Your Mask (Part III: Don’t Forget Your Mask) – Jahn und Jahn, Munich


Bayerische Kunstförderpreise Bildende Kunst 2018 (Bavarian Art Prizes, Fine Arts 2018, Sebastian Dacey, Claudia Barcheri, Sophia Süßmilch and Benjamin Zuber) – BBK Munich


Fast Car, Sebastian Dacey, Susanne Wagner and Tim Benett – Artothek, Munich 40+10+1 – Jahn und Jahn, Munich


Sebastian Dacey – Galerie Jahn Baaderstrasse, Munich

Grupetto – Kunstarkaden, Munich


Jacky Strenz, Frankfurt a. M.

The night face up (with Peter Bonde) – Kunsthalle / PLU41, Berlin

Transition – Fiebach–Minninger, Cologne

Palazzo Collapso – Hofgartenstraße 6A, Munich


Too many friends – Galerie Jahn Baaderstrasse, Munich

O.N.P.A.P.E.R. – Galerie Fred Jahn, Munich

Winter – Galerie Barbara Oberem, Bremen

Taylor Wessing – Munich



German Kleinformat – Lateral Art Space, Cluj

Städtische Galerie Cordonhaus, Cham


Jacky Strenz Galerie, Frankfurt a.M.

Jahresgaben 2012 – Kunstverein München, Munich

All things Bright and Broken – Galerie Jahn Baaderstrasse, Munich

Life´s Little Tragedies – Kunstverein Heilbronn, Heilbronn

Deutsche Bundesbank, Frankfurt a. M.


What do you call people who pretend to be horses – Sabine Knust Galerie, Munich

Hello, Good Morning, Thank you And Good Bye – Kunstverein Oldenburg, Oldenburg

Es ist schon alles gesagt, nur noch nicht von allen – Galerie Jahn Baaderstrasse, Munich


Alloro, Villa Romana grant winner – Haus am Waldsee, Berlin

Galerie Ben Kaufmann, Berlin

A thing is a thing in a whole which is not Temporary Gallery – Cologne

Accrochage – Galerie Mikael Andersen, Copenhagen

Komm wir gehen – Galerie Jahn Baaderstrasse, Munich


Jacky Strenz Galerie, Frankfurt a. M.

Forgotten Bar Project, Berlin

Groupshow – Galerie Jahn Baaderstrasse, Munich

Tät, Berlin

Samsa (with Fabian Fobbe), Berlin

Weltraum, Munich


Meisterwerke des 21. Jahrhunderts – Galerie Ben Kaufmann, Berlin

Galeria Casado Santapau, Madrid

Picnic in Paradise – Galerie Mikael Andersen

Groupshow – eine Reaktion Jacky Strenz Galerie, Frankfurt a. M.

Favoriten – Kunstbau im Lenbachhaus, Munich

Most – Bridge La Fabriqua, Prague

Galerie Ben Kaufmann, Berlin

La Boum III – Warsaw

All hands on deck! – Galerie Ben Kaufmann, Berlin

Psychologie des Zwischenfalls – Galerie Ben Kaufmann, Berlin

La Boum I – Galerie Ben Kaufmann, Berlin

La Boum II – Sies + Höke Galerie, Düsseldorf