Michael Dean (b. Newcastle upon Tyne, 1977) makes immersive sculptural installations which explore language, intimacy and the politics of being in the world. For the Great Exhibition of the North, Dean will produce a major new commission that responds to BALTIC’s vast Level 3 gallery. Using his own writing as a starting point, Dean gives language material form, creating moulds and casts of words and incorporating pages from his own personal texts and self-published books.
Referring to concrete as a 'democratic ceramic', Dean also uses other inexpensive and readily available materials such as MDF, shuttering ply, sand, steel and corrugated metal to make objects and environments which demonstrate and, in some instances, literally spell out the writing from which the work takes its origin.
Recent large-scale installations combine tactile paving slabs with heart-shaped protrusions which rise up from the floor into lampposts and other street-based structures, some of which take on human proportions, scaled to the heights of Dean’s family members. Dean’s sculptural elements also comprise of emoji-like tongues, kisses, fists, crossed fingers and two finger gestures, some of which are cast from the bodies of the artist and his children, appearing to both flower and decay.
Within these installations, Dean plays with the slipperiness of language, combining words and the sculptural possibilities of typography. Battered books and pages are strewn on the floor and dipped in brightly coloured inks, reducing them to petals or contorted muscles. Creating a physical linguistic space, familiar objects are customised with the artist's writings, parasitically permeating the graphic possibilities of coke cans, plastic bags, advertising stickers and scene tape.