The abstracted forms in Tony Dungan’s paintings hearken back to his Cubist forebears. Forms are fractured and partial, and we view them through shifting planes and changing perspectives. The viewer feels compelled, almost as in a jigsaw puzzle, to complete the image by putting the pieces together. He/she is challenged to join in an act of re-composition. But the image is, at best, imperfect and fleeting. We glimpse it momentarily, as if it were in motion. It seems to change before our eyes the longer we view it, a quality giving life and movement to the work as a whole. As the artist states, “I want you to discover something new every time you view the piece, and to have the painting grow and expand as you view it time and time again.”
In some of Tony’s paintings, we sense a dramatic context, as though a scene were unfolding before our eyes. The nature of the drama, however, is never clear from the forms themselves. The emotional tenor of the piece, whether it be fear, love, angst, etc., lays rather in the associations we bring to line, color and texture in the work. In this respect, we may feel Dungan’s paintings vaguely reminiscent of the figural works of Willem de Kooning. It is in his use of texture that the artist seems particularly innovative. Although we might gaze closely at a work and perhaps, when no one is looking, even run our fingers lightly over the surface, it is difficult to tell what the surface is made of. The facture of Tony’s paintings often seems a strange blend of pieces collaged upon or incisions into the surface, further obscuring the relationship of figure and ground in the work.
The effect is to endow the work with an overriding sense of enigma, as we read our own uncertainty into the dramatic context of the work.
Tony earned his Bachelor’s degree in Fine and Applied Arts from Rochester Institute of Technology. He has been drawing and painting for over 30 years and recalls an early fascination with color when he used to visit hardware stores with his dad: “He’d go in search of nails, screws, and hammers, but where would you find me? In front of the paint samples, completely mesmerized.”