Handful of Dust: Dan Howard-Birt (TA MargATe)

Painting (verb and noun) is a strange thing in the world and painting is a strange thing within itself. The painting I like – that I aspire to – can’t help but fall apart from within; it can’t settle on a singular voice. I want to make paintings whose internal system fragments even as it searches for connectedness; whose essential hope colours its constant re-enacting of loss. 


Dan Howard-Birt, 2021

Handful of Dust is an exhibition of work by Dan Howard-Birt, which includes new paintings alongside an extensive library of Ex Libris watercolours – text paintings Dan began making 20 years ago as a student at RCA. Drawing from a multitude of pop cultural sources, each points to different narratives, characters and places. Ex Libris texts are also embedded within the stained panels of ‘Lovers and Other Spectres’, first shown at Trafalgar Avenue (London) in the group exhibition Pleasure Scene, before being broken down and returned to the studio to be over-painted and reassembled. 


Conceived as an interstitial space, between the studio and the gallery, Trafalgar Avenue is an environment in which work can be tested and pushed and where ideas can be explored. The reworking of ‘Lovers and Other Spectres’ pays tribute to this and gives some insight into Dan’s approach to painting as a process. The inaugural exhibition at TA MargATe brings Dan’s paintings to a new audience in a different context, one that is perhaps closer to the domestic space for which they are intended.  


The exhibition is also accompanied by a publication designed and produced by Folium, the first in an ongoing collaboration with Trafalgar Avenue, which includes essays by Dan Howard-Birt and Neil Annett and an interview with Michael Wilson, originally published in Quarrenden.