BIO pick web readyTom Dunn Bio

Tom Dunn (b. New York, 1979) received his BFA from the Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne, Australia in 2004 and his BFA (Honors) from Monash University, Melbourne, Australia in 2010.
Tom has done residencies and exhibited throughout Australia, Europe, Asia and the USA. Tom has been the recipient of Artstart, the Australia Council of the Arts and the Copyright Agency Limited, Creative Industries Career grants. Tom is based in Los Angeles and is a member of Durden and Ray.

Artist  Statement

Tom Dunn Artist Statement.
My art practice is twofold. I have an expressionistic painting and drawing practice employing a Dionysian embrace of chaos and the irrational. I also make sculpture and video work engaging narratives emerging from the entertainment industry. Both are informed by the grotesque, the narrative work specifically focuses on the role of grotesque in entertainment and the ways in which audiences both consume and participate in it.

Painting/Drawing Practice
The paintings and drawings form an ongoing series called Mesopotamia. The imagery is often characterized by grotesque attributes such as doubleness, hybridity and metamorphosis. I regard image making as a primordial desire, a form of conjuring, an exorcising of vision enabled through the ritual act of painting.
This ritualistic process can be seen as analogous to forms of magick, or alchemy. Pleasure is taken in the process which I believe is rooted in a desire for escapism.

Informed by the subconscious, the painting process is guided by what is ‘working’ and what is ‘not working’ according to each individual work’s own logic. Content thus becomes a shifting alchemy of possibilities, relationships are transient outcomes. The state of matter is in flux. The meanings are fluid and dynamic.

Narrative Work
Mikhail Bakhtin’s theories on the role of the grotesque in Medieval carnival, with it’s emphasis on participation and role play, is considered in relation to the way today’s audiences consume entertainment.
In making works that allude to narratives that exist in the public imagination, I play with the baggage that audiences bring to the subject from associated rumour, scandal and innuendo.
Bakhtin states, “The essential principle of grotesque realism is degradation, the lowering of all that is abstract, noble and ideal to the material level.” I view audience’s consumption of tabloid narrative as an attempt to satiate their need for the grotesque. I feel the industry caters to this desire in the audience who are no longer sanction to participate; when the carnival is over.
Reflective of my own nature as an audience, these works are replete with nefarious desire and Schadenfreude: the pleasure people take in other people’s misfortunes.
My narrative works either explore the points of convergence between film (fiction) and the secondary narrative of the people who make them (tabloid/ ‘reality’), in order to elucidate and expound on the ambiguity between the two, or I just refer to it in the form of a one-liner.
In the latter case, a physical object is created about something you ‘may have heard’.
These works can be viewed as a form of fan art. Though rather than just be about the subject, it is a homage to the gaze of an audience itself, and like a rumor, demonstrative of our desire to participate. These works are a non-passive expression of voyeurism. They are informed by the carnivalesque notion that it is a fundamental human right to participate in the never-ending human comedy.



New York, NY
Lives and works in Los Angeles, CA
Address: 327 ½ S Ave 20, Los Angeles, CA 90031
phone: 323 477 9521
email: tomdunnit@hotmail.com


Bachelor of Fine Art Honors, Monash University, Melbourne Australia
Bachelor of Fine Art (Painting), Victorian Collage of the Arts, Melbourne, Australia
Diploma of Visual Art (Painting), RMIT TAFE, Melbourne, Australia


Barbra Streisand Portrait Bender, Las Vegas: Fear and Loathing Returns to the Flamingo.
(screening and book launch) Human Resources Los Angeles, CA

Polanski’s Baby (screening), Loop Bar, Melbourne, Australia

Robert Downey Jr. Is Dead (performance/ site specific event), Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, Hollywood & Robert Downey Jr’s driveway, Malibu, CA

Devil’s Workshop, c3 Contemporary Art Space, Melbourne, Australia

Quentin Tarantino Thinking About Uma Thurman’s Feet, Tarantino’s Bar, Berlin, Germany

More is More, Spacement Gallery, Melbourne, Australia

Recent Paintings, 69 Smith Street Gallery, Melbourne, Australia

Recent Paintings, 24/7 Gallery, Melbourne, Australia


The Collectivists, The Brand Library & Art Center, Glendale, CA
Native:Tokyo, Gallery Lara Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan (exchange with Durden and Ray)
MAS Attack, Torrance Art Muesum, Torrance, CA
Slippery Stories, Durden and Ray, Los Angeles, CA (exchange with Strange Neighbour)
Shift and Fade (Curious and Curiouser), BLAM!, Los Angeles, CA
Native, Durden and Ray, Los Angeles, CA
Mondrian Died for Our Sins, BLAM!, New York, NY
Slippery Stories, Strange Neighbour, Melbourne, Australia (exchange with Durden and Ray)
Dada: Here & Now, San Francisco International Arts Festival, ATA, San Francisco, CA
UFOlogy, Outpost Projects, Yucca Vallery, CA
stARTup Art Fair, Highland Gardens Hotel, Hollywood, CA (representing Torrance Art Museum)
MAS Attack, Tempe Fine Art Complex 1101, Tempe, AZ

Miami Projects, Durden and Ray, Miami, FL
From the Barricades, Kreuzberg Pavillon, Berlin, Germany
Here!, Durden & Ray Projects, Los Angeles, CA
The Great Wrong Place, Notre Maar, New York, NY
Within the Cave, Durden & Ray Projects, Los Angeles, CA
MAS Attack 8, San Diego Art Institute, San Diego, CA
After Eden, MuzeuMM, Los Angeles, CA
Dragnet, Manhattan Beach Art Center, Los Angeles, CA

i:23, Yokohama Triennial, various locations as part of Homing Pigeon, Yokohama, Japan
Mas Attack, Santa Monica Studios, Los Angeles, CA, curated by ARTRA
MAS Attack, Torrance Art Museum, Los Angeles, CA, curated by ARTRA

MAS Attack, Torrance Art Museum, Torrance, CA, curated by ARTRA
Amazonia Sexy Beast, MABINI EXTN, Manila, Philippines
1335MABINI Artist Residents Open Studios + Screening: Polanski’s Baby and Robert Downey Jr. Is Dead, in conjunction with LOSTprojects and Planting Rice, Manila Philippines

LA Road Concerts, Mulholland D Dérive, Mulholland Drive, Los Angeles, USA
Platform LA Fair/ CO/LAB, RAID Projects, Los Angeles, CA
RAID Artist Residents Exhibition, RAID Projects, Los Angeles, CA
Utah Ties, Central Utah Art Center, Spring City, UT

Milk of Magnesia, Hope St Studios, Melbourne, Australia

Ich Commen Spaiter, 91mq Project Space, Berlin, Germany
Friday the Thirteenth ‘Life is Horrible’ Desperate Art Sale, Vacant House, Melbourne, Australia

Lives of Our Days, Resident Artist Exhibition, Northcote Studios, Melbourne, Australia

Iconoclast, Brunswick Street Gallery, Melbourne, Australia

The Keith and Elizabeth Murdoch Traveling Fellowship (finalist), Margaret Lawrence Gallery VCA, Melbourne, Australia
Lurking… There, There, Red Gallery, Melbourne, Australia

VCA Graduate Exhibition, School of Art, Victorian Collage of the Arts, Melbourne, Australia

Do You Come Here Often?, Red Gallery, Melbourne, Australia

RMIT Graduation Show, Project Space, Melbourne, Australia


Art Start Grant 2013, Australian Council of the Arts, Australia
1335MABINI Contemporary Art Space, Residency and mentorship program with David Griggs/
LOSTprojects, Manila Philippines
Copyright Agency Limited, Creative Industries Career Grant, Australia

RAID Projects, Los Angeles, CA
Central Utah Art Center, UT

Vermont Studio Center, VT
Starry Night Artist Retreat, NM

The Art of Hospitality, AIR Tou Scene, Stavanger, Norway
Spacement Gallery Studio Residency, Melbourne, Australia


Art and Cake, https://artandcakela.com/2016/11/17/slippery-stories-at-durden-and-ray/, Genie Davis, 2016

The Huffington Post, Within the Cave at Durden and Ray, Shana Nys Dambrot, 2015

France USA Media, Le Ben Franklin Post, Tom Dunn: 10 Jours avec Barbra Streisand, Julie Sicot, 2014

Fabrik Issue 26, Fresh Faces in Art: Eight Los Angeles Artists you Should Know, Max Presneill, 2014

The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Melbourne, Australia- Commissioned by Director Prof. Doug Hilton
James Fagan and Bernard Corser, Tolarno Hotel Collection, Melbourne, Australia
Tarantino’s, Berlin Germany- Commissioned by Rob Wachs
Private Collections in Australia, Europe, Asia and the USA

Catalogue Essay by Steve Cox

Tom Dunn is a narrative painter. He makes pictures that tell stories. He is also a fan of music and movies. Like most of us he is interested in the lives of the glamorous and the celebrated and in the legends that slowly accrete around them like barnacles. It is with the fullness of a fan’s heart that he has approached the work for this exhibition. He is as interested in the highs of a celebrated career as he is in the spectacular lows, which are the flipside of the glamour card: the hopeful starlet’s obligatory ordeal on the casting couch; the Dionysian debauchery of terminally adolescent rock stars; the fading star’s gargantuan appetite for booze and drugs; the big shot Las Vegas mobster whose luck finally trickled out; the director’s penchant for too-young charms.

Rumours, gossip and scandal follow the stars like paparazzi and, in the bleak spotlight of their darkest hour, they are revealed as being the same as the rest of us – weak, inept, fallible, clumsy, human. Like characters in a Greek tragedy, these falling stars act out their scripts of ego and excess, destined to suffer consequences every bit as lethal, bloody and tragic as those in the ancient dramas.

There is a strong element of schadenfreude present in this exhibition, which reflects the secret desire we all share that the high and mighty should topple. And the higher and mightier they are, the harder we wish them to crash. That would seem the very least they can do in exchange for our adulation – it is the dark side of the dream of fame.

Dunn has cast his net widely in his search for suitable subjects for this exhibition. But one source in particular has inspired him; two books written by former Hollywood child actor, occultist and avant-garde film maker, Kenneth Anger. The grotesquely mesmerising Hollywood Babylon (volumes one and two) contains a smorgasbord of salacious morsels and the painter has feasted on the casualties.

Shielded from mundane reality, the famous and the fabulous are isolated from the general public in luxurious seclusion. For a brief while, they may bask in the special glow that is conferred upon ‘the chosen’; but it is a precarious existence, one that can shatter under the weight of its own flimsy fantasy. And when it does, we can all share in the satisfaction that comes from witnessing the fall of one more unfortunate who thought he/she had wings.

These wings feature obliquely in the series of paintings based on the expensive silk underwear of various female stars. Like butterflies pinned to a board, these garments appear as trophies next to the catalogued details of their owners. Dunn almost invites the viewer to ‘collect the whole set’ in a business where one is only as useful as one’s last good film. ‘Show business’ is here taken literally.

Dunn understands the human condition. He knows that it is both tragic and comic at the same moment and he is able to see the beauty in the squalour. The American photographer Diane Arbus once said that, when she looked at the people around her it was like watching ‘slow motion smash-ups’. This exhibition is a mini catalogue of such ‘smash ups’. The subjects are not gods, but human beings, being human.

Steve Cox
April, 2008