About the Artist
Dan Drage was born in Colorado, USA and has lived abroad since 2006, including ten years in Vietnam. He is based in St Andrews, where he was the first artist-in-residence for the Institute for Theology, Imagination and the Arts (ITIA) at St Mary’s, University of St Andrews.
Dan is currently a PhD candidate at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art And Design (DJCAD) in Dundee. You can read about his research here.
Since DJCAD employs creative practice as a research methodology, Dan’s PhD candidacy has resulted in a moving exhibition of sculpture at St Andrews’ Botanic Gardens, 2nd June 2023 until 2nd February 2024. Dan gave a guided walk through the Gardens on his exhibition’s opening day, when he spoke about research as the practice of ‘searching and re-searching, searching again.’ Through this re-searching, his sculptures evolved in response to this setting, he said, something that is completely successful in the way the resulting forms are at one with their environment in the Botanic Gardens. From Whitman to Heidegger, the sources of his inspiration and theoretical underpinning are impressively wide-ranging.
Looking back to when I first met Dan, I can see how the seeds of this major exhibition were sown in his early work, some of which I was privileged to show in my gallery. It’s interesting to read again the artist’s notes (below) about this earlier work to see a sensitivity to nature and a relationship with St Andrew’s Botanic Gardens in his art practice that has come to full fruition here in 2023-24.
I hope you’ll find time to visit the Botanic Gardens in St Andrews before February ’24, whether you live nearby or during your visit to Fife. Strolling through the Gardens, coming across the installations, is time well spent – certainly for me it was a memorable experience, evocative of many thoughts and emotions, and even of a sense of the sacred. I’d like to return to see the effects of the passing seasons on the works – change again, both in the works themselves and in the viewer.
I extend my Gallery’s many congratulations to Dan on this very significant achievement.
Have a read of Dan’s statement about his Juniper Berries series, exhibited in the Junor Gallery in a group exhibition, ‘Peerie: an exhibition of small works,’ 8 Dec 2018 to 16 Feb 2019:
“A stroll along a nearby stretch of the Fife Coastal Path initially inspired this Juniper Berries series. Usually drawn to forms, this day I was filled with a desire to capture certain colours, especially the vibrant yellow gorse. This study of colours, of gently separating out one particular characteristic, I came to see as a process akin to distillation. The idea of ‘distilling’ colours naturally led me to consider various botanicals used in gin, chief among them being—of course—the juniper berry.
Further study into Juniperus Communis revealed the average gestation period for a berry to be three years, with a single juniper bush containing berries of various ages. The kind and knowledgeable staff at St Andrew’s Botanic Gardens provided me with samples after observing my intense and drawn-out fascination with this particular bush. Back in my studio I closely observed the variations, mixing colours to match. Of course with a waning glass of gin nearby I could smell (and taste) the berries as I mixed (the watercolours here are, in fact, mixed with a little gin).
The Juniper Berries series represents a new strand in my ongoing conversation with the given materials at hand. Earlier watercolours have been highly realistic representational works, while my 3D assemblage pieces, though abstract, have focused on form and shadow. I see the current series relating more to sculpture than painting: the layering of one material (pastel or paint) onto another (paper). However, removing nearly all connection with form, I have endeavoured to highlight colour. As with previous works, pattern continues to assert its power in my aesthetic decisions, but it is colour that carries these pieces.
That something as simple as a common juniper berry could shine forth such complexity of colour—or indeed of taste—reminds us that the stuff of life is more than it appears, is in a way sacramental, calling us beyond what we think we know. ” – Dan Drage